Just a few days ago I wrote another post that included a excerpt from a book by Max Lucaco where he used imaginative contemplation to ask Joseph some questions and then attempt to read his mind to learn of his thoughts on the night of Jesus’ birth. in considering prayer that Joseph may have prayed on the night of Jesus’ birth (Joseph’s Prayer). Today I’m still thinking about Joseph. We talk a lot about Mary, the Magi, even the shepherds, but we don’t talk much about Joseph.
Until I read “Joseph's Heartbreak: When God Speaks Into Sorrow “ by Bo Stern, from her book When Holidays Hurt, I never really considered how much it must have hurt Joseph when he learned that Mary was pregnant. His heart must have broken into pieces. Even with his broken heart he was obedient because of his faith in God.
Joseph's Heartbreak: When God Speaks Into Sorrow
But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20-21
Every time I read this part of the story, my heart aches for Joseph. I wonder what his dreams looked like before his life took such a hairpin turn. Had he dreamt of the love he would share with Mary or about the night he would make her his own? Had he imagined their children, their home, or the secrets they would whisper in the dark? Joseph was a real man with real dreams, and I would imagine that at this moment in his life, those long-held desires lay in ruins around his feet. Nothing was going the way he had imagined it would go. Can you relate?
It’s beautiful to me that God doesn’t speak to awake, alert, and conscious Joseph, He speaks into his dreams. He sends angelic comfort to his broken heart, and we can get a clue as to Joseph’s emotional condition from the very first words the angel speaks: “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.” God steps into Joseph’s story to tell him that the problem they are facing contains divine possibilities. The problem is painful, yes, and there’s no denying it, but it is also filled with purpose.
Perhaps you’re way ahead of me and you know that I’m going to suggest that the Holy Spirit might also want to speak into your broken dreams and broken heart this Christmas. And maybe you’ve already decided why that’s impossible. You’ve looked at the landscape of your sorrow and sifted through the soil of your battlefield, and you are certain there is no possible redemptive purpose lurking there. But… what if?
He is more beautiful to me than He has ever been because I need Him more than I ever have.
What if God has a word to speak into your pain that might give light and courage to the way you face it? I’m not suggesting that His purpose will invalidate your pain, because so many of the things we suffer in this fallen world are not the perfect will of God — our enemy is rotten and relentless in his determination to steal, kill, and destroy. So it’s not that we are asking God to remove the sting of sorrow, but rather to help us see how He can use it to produce eternal beauty in us.
The beauty that has come from my sorrow (so far) includes a whole new level of compassion, a deeper and more unshakable trust in God’s character, a fresh credibility with a dying world, and a fiercely intentional strategy for living life with no regrets.... But I will rejoice in the comfort I have experienced through the turmoil and in the way our Father is being glorified because of it.
Bottom line: I know Him better now than I did before. He is my God. He is my friend. He is more beautiful to me than He has ever been because I need Him more than I ever have.
Today, as we head deeper into the heart of Christmas, consider the ways God is speaking into your broken dreams. Ask Him for truth that will silence lies and for comfort that will surround your sorrow. Let’s join with Joseph, facing the battle with courage and strength, knowing that He makes beautiful things out of messy material.
Read Revelation 21:3-5 out loud.
Revelation 21:3-5 (HCSB)3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (Scripture mine)
One of the reasons Jesus came to dwell with us — and is coming again — is to wipe away every tear. Every single tear. Have you put off crying this season? Trying to hold in the tears and keep it together? Maybe now is a good time to let them flow and let Him meet you in your sorrow and dwell with you there for a bit.
God of my deepest, dearest dreams, thank You for letting me be honest with You. It is astounding that our tears are treasured by You, stored up in Your bottle, perhaps for that glorious day in eternity when we’ll have to be reminded that we ever cried at all. In the name of Your Son, who understands our sorrow, amen.
Excerpted with permission from When Holidays Hurt: Finding Hidden Hope Amid Pain And Loss by Bo Stern, published by Thomas Nelson.