Text: Genesis 37:12-13; 17b-28; 31-35; II Corinthians 9:8 Theme: God’s grace enables us to cope with the shocks of life and move forward.
I miss snow around Christmas. But there’s one thing I don’t miss about winter up north. As the air gets cold and dry, things get charged with static electricity. When you touch them, you get a little shock: from a sweater or a blanket. I’ve even gotten a shock from giving Ruth a kiss. That doesn’t qualify as a romantic spark.
Shocks. Just a month ago Anchorage, Alaska was hit by a massive 7.0 earthquake. Buildings shook and cracked. Items in stores crashed to the ground. Roads buckled. These powerful shock waves did millions of dollars of damage in a minute.
Life can be shocking. Along with physical shocks there are emotional shocks. My older son is a captain in the Marines. Paul is assigned at a base in Illinois. One responsibility in his region is to inform next of kin if a Marine is killed.
Recently two Marine aircraft collided off Japan; one Marine was killed, five never found. One was from Illinois. So Paul had to drive to the family home and break the news. He said they considered calling an ambulance: the mother nearly went into shock.
Life can be shocking. That’s been true ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Imagine the shock of being banished from the garden, the only home they ever knew! Imagine the shock of feeling alienated from God, their Creator and Friend! Imagine the shock when they learned that their son Cain murdered their son Abel.
Or think of Jacob. He loved Rachel. He worked seven years to be able to marry her. Imagine the shock after his wedding night to discover not Rachel, but Leah in his bed! Imagine if a picture had captured the look on his face.
Now Genesis 37. It was an ordinary day doing ordinary tasks, like tending their flocks. Probably with little thought, Jacob sends young Joseph to check on his brothers. Think of the shock when they come back without Joseph but with his bloodied coat. Jacob cries: Some ferocious animal has devoured him. He has surely been torn to pieces.
Life is full of shocks. William Shakespeare eloquently captured this reality. Listen to this famous quote from Hamlet: To die: to sleep: No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to.
Now, when a shock is minor we may quickly shake it off and move on. But sometimes the loss and pain is hard to get over; sometimes people don’t move on. Sometimes they are paralyzed by their loss and grief.
Take Jacob. He tore his clothes; he put on sackcloth; he mourned for Joseph many days. When his remaining sons and daughters tried to comfort him, he refused to be comforted. He bleakly said: I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.
Just as tectonic plates grind against each other and create massive physical shocks, so the forces of sin and misery grind against us and create emotional shocks. In this sin-broken world we get shocked; we get blind-sided; we suffer great pain + loss.
So here’s some biblical counsel. Don’t be surprised by it. Don’t get fixated on why. Why did this happen? There may be no answer other than: we live in a sin-broken world. The wages of sin is brokenness, misery and death. That will be true till Christ returns.
But thanks be to God, that isn’t the last word. Listen again to II Corinthians 9:8- And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
God is able to make all grace abound to you. The word grace is wide and deep. It means undeserved favor, goodwill, and blessing. God is able to make his favor and care abound to you in all things at all times. That includes the shocks of life.
You could say that God’s grace is a shock-absorber. Oh, God’s grace doesn’t mean shocks will no longer happen to you. They do. But God’s grace helps us cope with shocks. His grace helps us overcome shocks. Despite the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, grace helps us carry on.
When Adam + Eve sinned, they were shocked by their shame + nakedness. So they hid. But in that moment there wasn’t just the shock; there was also grace. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. God is able to make all grace abound to you.
When Jacob saw Joseph’s bloodied coat, he was shocked by the loss of his beloved son. But in that moment there wasn’t just shock; there was also grace. Jacob’s remaining sons and daughters came to comfort him. Benjamin, Rachel’s only other son, remained a special joy and comfort to Jacob. And all along God protected and prospered Joseph. Years later there came news that Joseph was alive. He hadn’t been torn to pieces. Joseph had risen to be the right hand man to Pharaoh himself. Soon they were reunited. God is able to make all grace abound to you in all things at all times.
Now let’s fast forward 1500 years to the coming of Jesus. To Jesus’ disciples, his crucifixion must have been the greatest shock. They thought he was the long-awaited Messiah. They thought he would free them from Rome + restore the golden age of King David. Instead they witnessed his gruesome death. Afterwards they huddled in shock.
But then came wave after wave of God’s grace. Jesus was raised. Jesus appeared to them. They learned that Jesus crucifixion was part of God’s plan to save the world. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. 3,000 people believed and joined their ranks. Miracles continued. Soon the gospel spread over the whole world. God is able to make all grace abound to you in all things at all times.
Looking back on a year, we can all identify shocks we’ve faced, whether small or large. On Old Year’s 2007 there was a shock my whole family reflected on. That year my Mom and Dad spent the month of March in Arizona. During their last week my Mom started experiencing some discomfort and pain. They went to a clinic. Couldn’t find anything. So they drove home- to Wisconsin.
Once back they went straight to their doctor. He sent her straight to the hospital. By then her condition was so serious they sedated her. She never woke up. It turned out her liver was riddled with cancer; so it shut down. A few days later she died. She was enjoying the sunshine in Arizona. Two weeks later she was dead. What a shock!
But in that moment there wasn’t just shock; there was also grace. When she died my two younger brothers were there at dad’s side. Soon all of us converged from around the country. The love and support that flowed between us was something I’ll never forget.
Then there was the support from extended family and the church community. Wave after wave of sympathy cards only reinforced their care and support. God is able to make all grace abound to you in all things at all times.
Here we are at the end of 2018. It has contained its share of shocks. A hurricane in Florida; flooding in the Carolinas; Hollywood sexual harassment revealed; news about Russian meddling in our election; both Tennessee senators choosing to retire. Now there’s the shock of our government shutting down with no end in sight. Then there the personal shocks of 2018. I think of Alice Rivers- with the shock of a cancer diagnosis and chemo treatments. For others it may be getting cut from a team, a relationship breaking up, the loss of a job, adult children moving away, the sudden death of a loved one. The year 2019 will have its share of shocks as well.
Friends, here’s the good news: no matter what the shock, God’s grace will abound to you. That was true for Adam and Eve in the garden. That was true for Jacob after he recoiled at Joseph’s bloody coat. That was true for Jesus’ disciples after they witnessed his crucifixion.
You and I can reflect on the past and face the future with this confidence: God’s grace is more than a match for any shock. God’s grace is the great shock-absorber. Let these words ring in your mind: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.