Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When You’re Treated Unjustly

Dannah Gresh: If a movie plot wrapped up in just a few minutes, you probably wouldn’t be too interested in watching it, would you? The best stories require a process, and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, so does your life story.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When you say you can trust God to write your story, that doesn’t mean you can trust that God’s going to turn this thing around tomorrow or even in this lifetime.

Leslie Basham: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 26, 2019.

Dannah: Humans love stories. I mean, we rush to buy books, tickets to the theater, and to watch movies because we’re inspired and entranced by the plot and the characters and everything in the story. It was that love of stories that inspired our host, Nancy, and her husband Robert to write the new book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

It’s full of true stories that will inspire your heart, and it’s the inspiration behind the current series we’re in here on Revive Our Hearts. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Well, over these weeks we’re talking about “Trusting God to Write Your Story.” And that’s not hard when the story’s, like, this perfect fairy tale—all’s well, all ends well, they live happily ever after. Except, life isn’t that way, right?

So the hard part is trusting God when the plot line goes in a way that you would not have scripted yourself. You say, “Who would have thought of that?” Well, God thought of that, and God has made provision by His providence to care for us even when those plot lines seem like they’re crazy.

Being followers of Christ doesn’t make us immune to pain and heartache. We need to remember that. Listen, there’s great joy in being a Christian and following Christ, but most of the joy is yet to come. In-between now and then, in Creation/Fall/Redemption—that’s the period we’re living in, between the Fall and the New Creation (we’ve talked about this in this series), between now and then there’s heartache, there’s pain.

In fact, some of the godliest men and women in Scripture suffered greatly. And that’s not a coincidence. In fact, that’s part of how God made them godly and used them greatly because of the things they suffered. God usually doesn’t write the story in the way that we would if we had the pen. God uses trouble to change us and to reveal Himself to our world as others see His grace in us.

One of the couples we interviewed for this book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story . . . There are a lot of different friends of ours that we interviewed about different subjects, but one of them said to us at the end of the interview, “Our story says a lot about our God.”

I love that line! And isn’t that the point of each of our stories? Our story should say a lot about our God, that we would trust Him, in the good times and the hard times, when we’re materially blessed and when we’re not so, when we have loss. Our story should be in such a way that those around us would say, “Look at their God! He’s so good! He’s so faithful! He’s so amazing!”

The way we respond to our story tells others what we think God is like. That’s one of the most powerful witnessing tools there is. Now, that’s not saying, “Just suck it up and act like nothing’s wrong.” No, people need to see that we grieve, that we mourn, that we hurt, that we ache, but that we have grace in the midst of that, and that we trust that God is good and wise and that what He is doing is for our good and for His glory.

In the Old Testament there was a woman named Naomi—you’ve probably heard of her. She had to leave her homeland in a famine, so she’s a refugee. She goes to Moab with her husband and two sons. While she’s there, her husband and her two sons all die. So she’s bereft. She’s widowed. She’s lost these two adult sons. And she ends up moving back home to Judah with Ruth, who is the widowed wife of one of her sons. So Ruth was married to one of Naomi’s sons, and now they’re widows.

Both of these women have had a hard life. Both of them are outcasts and stigmatized. They have no means of provision, no future, no hope. To be a widow today is hard, but not like it was in that era. When there was no male to provide, you would have your land taken away. Naomi had likely already lost her land through leaving her homeland, and she had no way of making a living.

So as their story unfolds, Naomi and Ruth, these two women demonstrate two very different views of God. Naomi sees God as her Antagonist. The antagonist in a story is the bad guy, right? We have the protagonist, the hero, and then we have the antagonist, the one who causes the trouble. Naomi saw God as her Antagonist, the source of her misery.

Listen to a few of these verses in Ruth. She says, 

The hand of the Lord has gone out against me. The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back home empty. The Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me.

She knows that He’s the Almighty God, but she, in a way, is saying, “I feel like God hasn’t lived up to His name. He hasn’t done what I know He can do, what I thought He would do, what I thought He should do, so my misfortune is the result of God being hard on me.”

Ruth, on the other hand—who wasn’t even from the Jewish faith, she was a foreigner brought into the people of Israel—she saw God as her Protector, someone who could be trusted, even when she couldn’t see or understand what He was doing.

You remember Boaz, the wealthy landowner who lived nearby—who ultimately became Ruth’s husband and provider—but Boaz had heard of what Ruth had done for her mother-in-law, Naomi. He praises Ruth for her kindness, and he says in chapter 2, verse 12, of Ruth, “A full reward be given you by the Lord, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Naomi is saying, “God has been hard on me.”

Ruth communicates a view of God as someone under whose wings she could take refuge. He was her protector. He was her defender.

Now, Ruth’s trust was not in Boaz, as generous and kind a man as he was. She looked beyond her benefactor to God Himself for shelter, safety, protection, and provision. And God did not fail her, nor did He fail her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Think about the problems and pains in your life and say, “What does your response to those situations tell people about God?”

Do people looking at you think that God is your Antagonist? Or do they know that you see Him as a Protector and a Provider?

This kind of grace-enabled faith that God is good, that no matter what you can rest in His providence, that He is faithful, that you can trust Him to write your story . . . When you have that kind of faith that God gives you by His grace, when you’re in the middle of a dark situation or deep valley, that kind of faith is stunning to our world. When God’s children offer up that kind of costly worship, His Story is proclaimed to those who might not otherwise would have ever heard it.

How many people have heard the gospel because of Joni Eareckson Tada, who has spent over fifty years of her life as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair? It’s stunning, right? She makes the gospel believable—not because her life is easy. It’s hard. None of us would want that life, but wouldn’t we love to have the fruit that’s come out of it?

His story is proclaimed, and heaven applauds as His loved ones on earth acknowledge that He is worthy to be praised—no matter what.

We see this often in the Scripture and in our own experiences . . . sometimes the pain and the hurt is because of ways that other people sin against us. The ways people sin against others are almost limitless.

You might have experienced financial betrayal—an addicted child stealing from you or a sibling cheating you out of an inheritance.

Maybe you know what it’s like to be falsely accused or wrongfully fired from your job after years of faithful service.

Or you may have become disillusioned by a pastor who abused his authority and left his flock wounded and floundering.

Or you may have been slandered by a jealous friend and your reputation left in tatters.

Deception, sexual abuse, violence, oppression, systemic injustice—these are just a few of the ways that human beings sin again one another. And sometimes those sins of others hit our lives (or the lives of those that we love) with the force of a wrecking ball. It may take us years to regain our equilibrium, and in some cases, the perpetrator may never be brought to justice or repentance in this life.

I have a friend who has been through decades of various kinds of abuse—horrific—during her upbringing as a child, her teenage years, her adult years. When she first came to faith, a “trusted spiritual leader” manipulated and abused her for years—it’s a horrible story.

I was with her recently. She was going through a hard spot. She knows God’s Word. She knows God’s ways. But she says, in the middle of this pretty intense conversation, “What has God done for me? My abuser (she named him) got off scot-free—no consequences, yet. I’m left with a life that is wrecked with a lot of deep pain and scars and wounds.”

And in those moments, we can feel that someone other than God is writing our story, that that person, that perpetrator, that person who sinned against us or against someone we love, is writing the story. We can wonder whether God really can be trusted in the face of those kinds of atrocities. And yet, our faithful, loving God has the power to redeem the unredeemable and to turn ashes to beauty, not just in spite of the injuries we have suffered, but sometimes actually throughthose very wounds.

So what does it mean to trust God to write your story when others have sinned against you, perhaps grievously, and perhaps with no evidence of remorse or repentance? Well, it means trusting that God has purposes for you—as well as for others who are part of your story—and that those purposes will be fulfilled in spite of (or perhaps even through) the wrongdoing that you have endured.

It means trusting Him to provide for you and to protect you, though others have failed to do so.

It means trusting that, in His way and time, He will deal with your offenders.

It means trusting Him to protect your heart from becoming bitter or holding hostage those who have sinned against you.

It means trusting Him for grace to forgive that which seems unforgivable.

It means trusting Him, in His way and His time, to redeem and overrule the losses caused by those who have sinned against you.

Now, all of those responses might seem impossible, even ludicrous, if it weren’t for the fact that we have a Savior who knows what it is to be sinned against through no fault of His own and who suffered for us—“the righteous for the unrighteous.” And as He did, He “continued entrusting himself to God who judges justly.”

I want to take just the remaining moments we have here and look at an Old Testament character—another one. We’ve looked at Ruth and Naomi here briefly, but I want to look at the just some moments from the life of Joseph. And when you’re struggling with having been sinned against or wronged by others, how to trust God to write your story in those moments, Joseph is a great story to get to.

We’re going to just skim the surface of this, but you can read that whole story in Genesis, chapters 37 through 50. Those last dozen or so chapters of Genesis are the story, primarily, of Joseph.

Joseph, you may be aware, was the eleventh son of Jacob. He was favored by his father, but he was taunted and rejected by his brothers, his older brothers. His brothers were jealous. They wanted to get rid of him. They threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, at the age of seventeen. So here’s a teenage boy whose life has been turned upside-down, topsy-turvy.

His father doesn’t know what has happened. The brothers concocted a lie saying, “An animal must have destroyed him.” So his father has no idea what has happened, and it’s a long time before the dad knows. There are a lot of stories being written here—the brothers’ stories, the dad’s story, Joseph’s story.

But Joseph is taken into Egypt, and he goes to work for Potiphar, who was captain of Pharaoh’s guard. And in time, Joseph, was a faithful employee—everything he touched turned to gold. His bosses were always blessed because of his work ethic and his wisdom. But Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape, and as a result, Joseph was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit—and Scripture makes it clear that he didn’t. To the contrary, he had protested. He said, “No. I can’t sin against God. I can’t sin against you.”

We know what happened in this case—unlike some cases that hit the news or we don’t really know who did what. In this case, we know that Joseph did not do what he was accused of. He was falsely accused, and he was thrown in the slammer.

We don’t know how long he was in prison, but we know that it was, from the time he was seventeen until the time he was thirty, so thirteen years between the time he worked for Potiphar and the time he served in prison. So the time in prison was at least two years, we know that because of other parts of the story.

While he was in prison, he helped a couple of the inmates, who were also employees of Pharaoh. They promised when they got out that they would put in a good word for him. But they got out, and they totally forgot about Joseph who continued to languish in prison—unseen, unknown. 

You just think, End of story. Right? “This is hopeless. This is helpless.” God had given him promises when he was a young man, but it looked like there was no way those promises would ever be fulfilled. It looked like the end of the story—and it’s a bad story and a bad ending.

Now, looking back from our vantage point, we can see the purposes of God being brought to pass in and through Joseph’s life. But from his perspective, rotting away in that prison, he faced mostly unanswered questions and unjust circumstances over which he had no control, that continued year after year.

So when we say, “You can trust God to write your story,” that doesn’t mean you can trust that God’s going to turn this thing around tomorrow or even in this lifetime.

As I was talking with my friend who’s been abused and had been so wronged, she said one of the things she’s learning is, yes, God’s going to end this story well (we’re going to talk about that before this series is over), but that doesn’t mean that in this lifetime this man is going to receive what he deserves, or that she’s going to be relieved from the pressure and the problems that are associated with her past. Now, God will give blessings along the way, but the end is not necessarily now or soon. It may not be until eternity that we see those questions answered and those circumstances addressed justly.

We know something important about Joseph’s situation that made all the difference in the world. Even though nothing was turning around, even though it looked horrific from all measurements, Genesis chapter 39, verse 2, the Scripture tells us, “The Lord was with Joseph.” Everywhere he went, the Lord was with Joseph.

As we reflect on this story, in the midst of hardship and pain and injustice, we see God’s unmistakable hand, His sovereign pen. And we see that this story is not simply about one man. As with each story that God writes, as with your story and mine, Joseph’s story is part of the unfolding of a grander plot.

It involves his brothers, his father, the rescue of his extended family from starvation, what God did in Egypt in overcoming and judging the Egyptian gods and saving the people of Israel. It’s a lesson in forgiveness and reconciliation, and eventually, the salvation of a nation from 400 years of slavery and abuse. The story is so much bigger, grander, greater than what Joseph could see in that moment.

So I’ve been trying to help us see through this series that we need the perspective, that what we see now is not the whole of the story, and it’s not the end of the story.

I love that quote of Dr. John Piper. I’ve used it many times, and I go back to it again and again. He said, 

In every situation you face, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.

Now, if we think hard, we might be able to discern a few things that God is doing in the midst of the mess around us. “Oh, I can see God . . . Yes, He’s doing this. He’s working in this person’s life.” And when we look back—that rearview mirror—we might be able to see a few more. But unseen and unknown to us, God is doing, in fact doing a thousandor more things that we cannot see, that we do not know, things that, one day, will become clear to us, whether in this world or the next. They are things that will cause us some day to exclaim in worship, “You have done all things well!” We just can’t see them now, but we will.

So, perhaps from where you sit today, you can see only miscellaneous, frayed, disconnected strands that make no sense at all, no matter how hard you try to figure it all out. All you can see is injustice and pain. And Joseph would surely have identified with you.

But as Joseph would one day learn, on the flip side of the tapestry that God is weaving in and through our lives—the tangle of threads that we can see on the underside of that tapestry—on the flipside, God is creating a picture of great beauty, of great value for those who will trust Him to write their story.

Now, doubtless, if he had been given the opportunity, Joseph would have written a different story, a different script—and so would you, and so would I. But with each twist and turn of this story, this young man was being shaped and transformed by God. And that’s what I want to point us to at the end here.

It’s not a verse in Genesis, but it’s a verse about Joseph in Psalm 105. You might want to just jot down that reference—Psalm 105, verses 17 through 19. It describes this remarkable progression of how God used Joseph’s circumstances to transform him. It says, 

The Lord had sent a man ahead of them [ahead of His people] into Egypt. The Lord sent Joseph, [not his brothers, ultimately. His brothers were the ones who sold him into slavery. So, in the human level, they sent him, but in the big picture, the truest picture, it was God who sent Joseph into Egypt] who was sold as a slave.His feet were hurt with fetters;his neck was put in a collar of iron;until what he had said came to pass,the word of the Lord tested him.

This young man whose father loved him so dearly, this young man who dreamed that he would one day be exalted as the ruler of a nation, was “sent ahead” by God to a foreign land where, unknown to anyone, including Joseph himself, God intended to use him to provide for His people.

And once there, in what seemed like a failure of God’s story, God’s plan, Joseph was sold and shackled as a slave. And there, in those horrendous circumstances, “the word of the Lord tested him.” It shaped him. It honed him. It changed him. It transformed him—the Word of the Lord—because the Lord was with Joseph.

Taking this message to heart can make a huge difference as you navigate your own challenges and disappointments and pains, the ways people sin against you, the ways they wreck your life. Listen, the hardest parts of the story that God is writing in your life are not random or meaningless. They are full of purpose.

Many of the good things that God has planned for us will never happen apart from seasons of suffering and hardship and trials. You can read that all through the Scripture, and you can see it in the lives of those who have suffered but have trusted God in the midst of suffering.

In due time, all that God has intended for you and for this world will come true. In the meantime—just as God was with Joseph—so God will be with you—even in the prison, even in the foreign land, even rejected, even separated from his family, even not seeing his father for all those years. God will be with you. And God will be sending His Word to test you, to change you, to hone you, to refine you, until the promises of God one day are fulfilled. And that’s a God you can always trust.

How have you been hurt? How have you been wounded? What are you holding in your heart, and your heart’s become hardened rather than softened by maybe the sin of someone else against you? Listen, I’m not minimizing the pain. I’m not minimizing the offense.

I’m thinking of my sweet friend that I had this recent conversation with. It is so, so hard. But I’m telling you that God is faithful, and God is good. Even if your eyes are filled with tears, as I see right here on the front row in front of me. I don’t know what’s in her heart or your heart. I don’t know what’s in your story. But I know that God is there. I know you can trust Him. And I know that in the end all will be well, and you will thank Him, and you will bless Him, and you will worship Him. And you will say, “Why didn’t I trust Him more?”

You can trust God to write your story.

I’m going to pray for someone listening today who’s in the throes of that woundedness, that injustice, being sinned against, being wounded so deeply. 

I pray that You would assure that woman of Your presence, that You are with her, that You are there in her home, in her work place, in that family dealing with the chaos caused by other people who sinned against her or against someone that she loves. And give grace, oh Lord. Give grace to trust when she cannot see, to lift her eyes up and to worship even in the midst of the pain.

The day is coming when there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, when all wrongs will be made right and Your children, those You’ve trusted to write their story, will be with You for an eternity of nothing but beauty and glory, happily ever after. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: When life is really hard, you can still trust God to write your story.

We’ve been listening to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She was praying for us to see that God’s purposes for His children are always good, even when we can’t understand why He’s allowing something to happen.

Maybe you’ve been encouraged today—encouraged to begin to trust God to write your story. Would you consider sharing that on social media? Maybe just get real and share what you’ve been going through and make a declaration that you’re going to begin right now to trust God no matter how hard it gets. Be sure to use the #TrustGodToWriteYourStory so that we can find it.

If you need encouragement to continue to trust God to write your story, I want to get a new book into your hands. It’s written by our host, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and her dear husband Robert. It’s title is, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence.

I’m going to send it to you when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts to help us help people like you when they’re in difficult times. You can make that gift by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask for your copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

The difficult chapter you’re facing right now won’t be nearly as hard to face when you remember where the story is going, and tomorrow Nancy is going to take us in the Bible to the final chapter of history—the end! And you’re going to be so encouraged. I hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow. I’m Dannah Gresh. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to show you the God who makes beauty from ashes. The podcast is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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