You see, it seems to me that when we read the stories we usually know the outcome. But how did Joseph feel when he found out that Mary was pregnant? Would you have believed her story? Jeremiah in the mud-hole, Daniel in exile, Moses in the wilderness, Joseph in prison. What they have in common is that they only experienced life in the present. They could not see the future.
All of these people faced the same challenge we do: To see God's hand at work in our lives. How many times have you heard someone ask where was God in this or that circumstance. Perhaps the real challenge is to trust him even when we don't see any evidence of his involvement.
Perhaps the real test of faith comes when we have to apply our knowledge of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness when we can't see clear, unequivocal evidence that he is at work.
I recently read the story of Ruth and at the moment I'm just finishing off the story of Esther. In the first of these God gets mentioned, but only in the context of expectation. There is no, "and God..." moment to speak of as I recall. Esther of course is best known for not mentioning God at all! But as you read both these stories, you cannot escape the conclusion that he was clearly at work in the detail of all the lives described.
On my bookshelf I have a baseball. Unusual for an Englishman, but this is a special baseball.
In 2001 we visited America as a family. We spent about a week of our time visiting some friends in Florida and while we were there we went to a baseball game. I thought taking home a baseball would be a nice memento of the trip but only one came in our direction and someone else caught that one. The following evening we were out near the ground when I sat down on a bench and prayed. We were about to return to the UK to face a time of uncertainty. We knew we were leaving the church we had served for three years and that meant leaving our home too. But we also needed a school for our daughter and my wife's job was also uncertain. So, no long-term home, no school place, no ministry, uncertain employment.
So I did the logical thing, I prayed for a baseball.
I said something along the lines of: "God, it's not really important, but it would be nice if a baseball would come over the corner of the stadium and land down here." Now I've prayed a lot of prayers like this in my life and I've gone away empty-handed a fair number of those times, but this time God was gracious and before I finished praying over the wall came a baseball.
As I sat there somewhat stunned and amazed, holding my new prize, I sensed God speak to me: If you can trust me in this small thing, what can't you trust me with?
I have my days when all I need to do is hold that baseball. Days, if I'm honest, when all I can do is hold onto the baseball. It's all I need as a reminder that God is faithful and trustworthy. And if I can't see him at work, that doesn't mean he isn't at work, because he is always at work.
If you don't have an equivalent of my baseball, then you can share mine with me, even if only vicariously!