Do you ever feel discouraged after reading the Bible?
Again and again, I see how far I fall short of who I think the Bible says a Christian should be. The emotional weight of that failure crushes me.
I feel despair, not joy.
Take the story of Joseph for example in Genesis 37: 39-45. He remains faithful and loyal to God even after being betrayed and sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. If you keep reading, you see Joseph even saving his brothers’ lives and forgiving them.
In this story can you see his radical trust in God? Do we display Joseph’s trust in God in that way?
But maybe the problem lies in how you read the Bible.
If you read it primarily as a “How To Live” manual, then you will see Joseph’s success is the result of his great trust — the story is all about what Joseph did right.
Are we like Joseph when we compare ourselves? Are we more like or unlike him?
When you read the Bible comparing yourself to Joseph you’ll either “become smug and self-righteous or you’ll be absolutely crushed with despair.”
My tendency is toward despair.
The key is to realize that the Bible is primarily a story about God.
It’s a witness to God’s work in and through sinful people. And this work always points to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s faithfulness is always the most important part of Joseph’s story.
That means you don’t have to pretend to be better than you are or sink into despair over your failures.
Now, that’s encouraging.
If you want to learn more about reading the Bible in this way check out these resources:
writes for Cru's publications as a missionary journalist. He earned a master’s degree in Christian studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Philip balances family life along with bike riding, drawing and whittling toy cars. Contact him at Philip.Long@cru.org.
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