This Sunday, as we get ready to talk about the story of Joseph, I want to share this excerpt from Matt Woodley’s book, The Folly of Prayer...
Shortly after I moved from Minnesota to Long Island, I met David, a Jewish follower of Jesus who constantly challenged me to view the Bible through Jewish eyes…For the first two years of my ministry on Long Island, David would often approach me after a worship service and begin with something like, "Hey, nice sermon…but I think you also missed something crucial in that passage…then he'd launch into his weekly five-minute rebuttal-argument…I thought he was trying to pick a fight with me, but I politely listened and thanked him for his "insights." But after listening to his rebuttals…I finally blurted out, "David, what is the deal? Don't you get anything out of my sermons? Doesn't God tell you something? Why must you always nitpick about some minor point of theology?" My face flushed with anger and David stood there frozen in shock.
Finally, David broke the icy silence. First, he laughed. Then he said, "Maybe I should explain my cultural background, which is probably different than your ethnic background. When New York Jews like me argue about Scripture, we're asking for a dialogue. When I tell you that I disagree with something you've said, I'm expecting you to fire back and say, 'O, yeah, well I think that you're wrong too and let me tell you why.' You see, Jewish people sometimes get close by working through unpleasant feelings, even by arguing if necessary. Confronting each other is a sign of intimacy in the relationship. So when I dish it out, I want you to dish it right back. That's how trust and intimacy grows in the relationship."
This concept of achieving trust and intimacy with God through intense dialogue, and even a rousing argument, was certainly new to me. But through my friendship with David, God has started to teach me an important lesson about prayer: sometimes prayer involves being completely honest with God. Sometimes we grow closer to God by bringing God all of the "unpleasant" things about our relationship: our sadness, disappointments, laments, complaints, and even our anger. Based on the numerous God-given prayers of complaint and lamentation, it's obvious that God can handle our honesty.
This week we’ll read about a man who must have had a lot of questions for God. There must have been times when he wondered what on earth God was up to. His life was not an easy one. And when things get hard, it’s easy to rush to judgment about what God is doing. I think the Joseph story helps us see another way.