Dec 172013 0 Responses

3 Words Which Gave Joseph Comfort

When did the doubts of Joseph cease? At what point was the skeptical voice in his head drowned out by the spirit of faith?

Joseph’s story is one of quiet obedience. Scripture says little about him, but what it does say is a description which any believer would desire.

It’s easy to assume from the moment the angel left him, Joseph never doubted again. But I think that would be a false assumption. God has told us many things, but we still doubt.

While the visit from the angel clearly changed Joseph’s game plan—he was going to quietly leave Mary—it couldn’t have completely silenced every voice in his head.

The final chapter of his story is one of obedience, but like all of us, the book of his life likely contained many other chapters. Any of them could have been the defining chapter had he chosen not to obey.

Anger. We know Joseph felt anger. Show me a man who hasn’t slept with his girlfriend but finds out she is pregnant who doesn’t feel anger. Betrayal breeds anger. He felt the role of the fool. It was probably a sense of double betrayal—not only is she pregnant with someone else’s child, she claims she has done nothing wrong. His princess had become a prostitute. It had to infuriate him.

Isolation. Anger often gives way to isolation. Sexual sin was punishable by death. No one would be believe her story. Everyone would assume they had given way to passion. Her sin would be seen as their sin. There was no one to whom he could turn. Even if they believed him, what would they do to her? The event which was supposed to place them in the center of family and community would now isolate them from both.

Shame. It’s hard to hear that you’ve been betrayed, but even harder to tell others. I wonder if Joseph’s mom said, “I always knew she wasn’t right for you.” I wonder if his father couldn’t look him in the eye. Days earlier they couldn’t hide their excitement, but now their disappointment was written on their faces. He probably walked into their house as their son, but walked out a disgrace.

The visit from the angel would’ve put an end to many of these emotions. He gave Joseph comfort that Mary wasn’t lying. He told what the future would hold. The anger, isolation, and shame would have diminished, but there was one emotion which even the visit from the angel wouldn’t have completely extinguished.

Doubt. I wonder how many times he asked, “God, how could you have allowed this to happen” or “God, how could you have done this to me?” We assume Joseph was like many in his day—he obeyed assuming that God would take care of him. He hadn’t let God down, but now it felt like God was letting him down. Even after the angel, the doubt had to persist.

So what gave him comfort? As Mary’s belly grew, did his faith grow as well?

When my wife delivered our first child, the doctor accepted our daughter into her hands and said, “It’s a girl.” It wasn’t shocking news. We had known the sex of the baby for months. The pronouncement was nothing more than confirmation of what had been long known.

Yet when Joseph looked at his mucus-covered little child and either said the words or heard the words, “It’s a boy,” I can’t help but think that his heart leapt with joy in realizing, “It’s a boy, just like the angel said it would be.”

Imagine, “It’s a girl” and Christianity never happens. “It’s a girl,” and Mary is a liar. “It’s a girl,” and the angel was just an illusion. “It’s a girl,” and someone else is the dad. Yet “It’s a boy,” confirmed everything.

Those three little words had to bring tremendous comfort to Joseph. With little mention of Joseph after the birth of Jesus, his life is forever defined by his trustful obedience through the pregnancy and birth. Without his obedience, Jesus would have lost his connection with the line of David which formed the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

It’s hard to imagine the life of Joseph turning out any other way, but it’s easy to see in our lives. Any of these chapters could be the defining chapter if we allow it to be. Yet the good news is that whatever we are feeling in the moment does not have to have the final say. Whatever we are experiencing in the moment can be experienced, processed, and put behind us as we obey and God moves.

Faith is not the absence of anger, isolation, shame or doubt. Faith is the continuation of obedience in the midst of those emotions. As we continue to obey, our feelings change and chapters which could define our lives simply become chapters of a much larger story.

If you obey long enough, eventually your whole life will be defined by obedience.


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