Never Undone - The Greatest Gift
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.
One day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him. . . .
The brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” . . .
But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.
So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Genesis 37:3-4, 31-33; 50:15-20
There’s a storming mess this side of heaven.
There’s this rising muck, and there’s all of us.
And still there’s this simultaneous global choreography that unfolds on the world stage anyway. . . .
String up a tangle of lights. Set a musty angel atop the tree. Deck the front porch and the back streets and the whole tilted world in this twinkling robe, this tinseled robe. Watch how it all spins in these lit colors.
Yet there is the robe’s hem. There’s always the bloodied, dirty dragging; there’s always the ripped underside of things, the dreams and bits of us and unspoken hopes torn to pieces.
You can feel this—in a torn-up world, being torn apart.
When you are brave, you give yourself the gift of facing and touching the torn places. The places where we’re torn to pieces can be thin places where we touch the peace of God.
Joseph touches his thin place. He feels along the edges of the torn places, and he sees through: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart.
What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory.
Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels, you can never be undone.
You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone.
No matter what intends to harm you . . .
God is never absent,
You can never be undone.
In the middle of all our collective mess stands the most monstrous evil. The wood of the crèche lies torn apart behind the wood of the Cross. The cries of the innocent Babe under the stars of Bethlehem twist into the agonized cries of the innocent Victim atop the injustice of Calvary. The holy dark over the manger gives way to the heinous dark over the Messiah and the slamming hammer and the tearing vein and the piercing thorn—the created murdering the Creator.
The Cross stands as the epitome of evil.
And God takes the greatest evil ever known to humanity and turns it into the greatest Gift you have ever known.
“If the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things?” writes Puritan Thomas Watson. “Nothing hurts the godly . . . all things . . . shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.”a
If God can transfigure the greatest evil into the greatest Gift, then He intends to turn whatever you’re experiencing now into a gift. You cannot be undone.
Somewhere, Advent can storm and howl. And the world robed for Christmas can spin on.
You, there on the edge, whispering it, defiant through the torn places: “All is grace.”
Unwrapping More of His Love in the World
Just as Joseph forgave his brothers, think of one person you can forgive today. Write down that person’s name on a piece of paper. Then write out your thanks to God for taking that evil and making it good, for His promise that no matter what is done to you, He will not let you be undone.
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes . . . and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
A Moment for Reflection
When have you seen God take what was torn and turn it into a gift?
What evils are you experiencing now that you need God to transform into something good?
In what areas of your life do you feel like you’re coming unraveled? What would it feel like to have your heavenly Father slip a robe of righteousness over your shoulders?
a Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; the Saint’s Spiritual Delight; the Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises (The Religious Tract Society, 1846), 68.