It is not uncommon for people to look at their lives and think; if only my circumstances were better, I would have a better life. People often blame “bad luck” for lack of success in life. Yet, there are other people who face similar circumstances, but their lives seem to be doing just fine. How can this be?
Jim Collins, in his book Great by Choice, addresses the issue of “bad luck.” He studied a number of companies who faced the same circumstances, but produced very different outcomes. He determined that the real issue is not whether or not a company or a person has “bad luck.” The real issue is what a person or company does with their “bad luck.” The way a person chooses to respond to their circumstances spells the difference between success and failure.
In Genesis 37, we read the story of Joseph. If anyone had “bad luck” it was Joseph. He was a gifted young man, loved by his father and hated by his brothers. When the opportunity arose for his brothers to do something about Joseph, they grabbed it. They sold Joseph into slavery and tricked their father into believing that a wild animal had killed him. Joseph was hauled off to Egypt where he was bought by a wealthy man to be a house servant. Joseph chose to honor God even in his negative circumstances, and so he succeeded in everything that he did. His master saw this and promoted him to the highest level. You would think that maybe Joseph’s fortunes had turned around, but you would be wrong.
The wife of Joseph’s master began to desire Joseph. She tried to entice Joseph to have sex with her, but Joseph refused. He remained true to his values and to God. In anger, she turned against Joseph and unjustly accused him of seeking to seduce her. Potiphar, his master, had Joseph thrown into the king’s prison. There Joseph continued to honor God and he again prospered. Soon Joseph was put in charge of all of the other prisoners, yet he was still not free.
Then God orchestrated a series of events that brought Joseph to the attention of Pharaoh himself. Joseph was able to interpret a dream for Pharaoh that no one else could understand. This led to still another promotion for Joseph, which put him in the position of second in command of all of Egypt. From this position he was eventually able to save his father and brothers in a time of great crisis. Joseph summarized his whole life experience in Genesis 50:20. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Most of us will never face the extreme negative circumstances that Joseph faced. We will face our share of “bad luck”; circumstances that are less than desirable. The question for each of us is how we will respond. Joseph could have sunk into self-pity and depression, but he chose to trust God instead. We can choose to focus on the negative circumstances or we can choose to focus on the God who can redeem them.
Paul addressed our “bad luck” in Colossians 3. First he laid down the foundation upon which we can build a positive approach to life. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
Paul tells us to find our sense of wholeness and well-being in Christ. Our sense of well-being does not have to be dictated by our circumstances. He tells us to listen to Christ above all the other voices that seek to influence us. And he tells us to act in ways that reflect Christ in our world.
Then Paul gets very practical. He applies these principles to the specific circumstances of life. Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24 (NIV)
All of us will face our share of “bad luck” in life. What we do with those situations is up to us. We can give in to them and be defeated, or we can turn them over to Christ and redeem them. Who knows what amazing things God may want to accomplish through your “bad luck.” Just ask Joseph.