There’s a clever artist performing at various events lately. He’ll begin with a blank canvas, and for the length of a short song, he’ll furiously paint what seems to be an absolute mess, leaving the entire audience in confusion. With just a few seconds remaining, and to everyone’s astonishment, the artist flips the entire canvas upside down and reveals a beautiful mural. All the spectators gasp in amazement, regretting and renouncing the doubt they had moments earlier.
This artist’s work is a nice reminder that if you’re a child of God, a messy life doesn’t signify God’s absence, but His presence. We see this principle demonstrated in Genesis 39 when Joseph is in the messy predicament of being a slave in Egypt. He’s not just any slave, but the head slave in Potiphar’s house, who happens to be captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. The Bible says the entire house was blessed because of Joseph’s favor with God. (vv. 5-6) In all honesty, though a slave, things were going well for Joseph, that is, until God decided to sling some more paint on this canvas.
Potiphar’s wife takes a sexual interest in Joseph, to which he appropriately and faithfully replies, “How can I do this great wickedness against God?” (v. 9) Rejected and scorned, Potiphar’s wife tries to get even with Joseph and pin all the inappropriate advances on him. Surely God will rectify this situation and show Potiphar’s wife as the unfaithful woman she is, right? No, that’s not what happened at all. Verse 20 of Genesis 39 tells us, “And Joseph’s master took him and put him into prison…” Prison? We may ask, “Where is God in all that unfair treatment?” “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (v. 21) Where was God? Right in the middle of the mess.
God was so present with Joseph, though in prison, he once again became second in command because “whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” (v. 23) Look at your life right now. Is something an absolute, indiscernible mess? Many seem to think if their life is messy, it means that, somehow, God has abandoned them; this story of Joseph says the opposite, as does Psalm 46:1, which declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Of course, we know Joseph’s life went through even more messes, but God used all that to make him second in command to Pharaoh and ultimately save his entire family and the Hebrew nation from famine. That’s right, after a lot of chaotic painting through slavery and imprisonment, God flipped Joseph’s canvas right-side up, revealing his beautiful plan to redeem an entire nation. For that story, read the last ten chapters of Genesis.
If we look at the messes of our life and merely see random events unfolding, we’re going to struggle, but when we see God as the sovereign artist of our life, the mess becomes a mural. When we put absolute trust in the Master Artist’s creative hand, in the face of the messiest situations we’re able to confidently say with Job, “Though he slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)