- Religion and Philosophy
Perfect Storm of a Spiritual Kind
In a hushed voice, barely containing his excitement, the weatherman speaks: "Look, look at this. We got Hurricane Grace moving north off the Atlantic seaboard. Huge... getting massive. Two, this low south of Sable Island, ready to explode. Look at this. Three, a fresh cold front swooping down from Canada. But it's caught a ride on the jet stream... and is motoring hell-bent towards the Atlantic. What if Hurricane Grace runs smack into it? Add to the scenario this baby off Sable Island, scrounging for energy. She'll start feeding off both the Canadian cold front... and Hurricane Grace. You could be a meteorologist all your life... and never see something like this. It would be a disaster of epic proportions. It would be... the perfect storm."
This from the movie, The Perfect Storm, based in the 1991 storm that did over $200 million in damage, destroying hundreds of homes and taking 16 lives. Six of those were the crew of the Andrea Gail, a fishing vessel lost at sea.
The perfect storm! All the meteorological components combined to produce a storm that would sweep away all that was in its path.
Joseph Accused by Potiphar's Wife
Rembrandt produced this painting in 1655. It now hangs at the State Museums, Berlin-Dahlem. "The hand with its fleshy colors that points to Joseph stands out against the white bed, and it is so deliberately placed in the light that it immediately attracts the beholder's attention. Potiphar's lustful wife is dressed in a bright shimmering red which is set off against the deeper red of the chair. All the other colors are subordinated to this main figure, and the color of each figure has its own special character - the garment of the good-natured husband, in brown-olive shot through with yellow; and the deep blue drapery isolating one of the glittering bed posts, which in turn sets off the innocent Joseph despite the dark tones of his garment. If colors can be said to establish the mood of a painting by their polyphony, they utterly do so in this work." Rembrandt by Ludwig Munz and Bob Haak, p.96
of a Spiritual Kind
Temptation is an everyday occurrence which offers us the opportunity to flex our spiritual muscles against an enemy intent on demonstrating that God is a myth and that those who believe in Him are woefully misguided, to put it mildly. It often comes in the form of an internal suggestion; sometimes at the invitation from another person unwittingly an instrument of evil. Consider Jesus' response to Peter's objection to his death: "Get behind me, Satan!"
Sometimes circumstances combine to bring about the perfect storm of a spiritual kind. Joseph experienced such a storm in the house of Potiphar to whom he'd been sold as a slave. You can read about in it Genesis 39. A perfect spiritual storm occurs when three elements combine to bring unbearable pressure on the human soul, pressure to do wrong: isolation from others of like mind and heart, opportunity to do wrong and unsatisfied longings.
Certainly Joseph found himself isolated. He's a slave in a foreign country. The opportunity presented itself not once but repeatedly. "Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. After a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, 'Lie with me.'" This took place day after day until finally Potiphar's wife "caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me.'" (vs.12) Opportunity, you think? As for unsatisfied longings, Joseph is a normal red-blooded young man in his twenties. Like other young men, Joseph longs for the intimacy that can be enjoyed only with a woman. That longing would not be satisfied for some years yet. At around 30 he married Asenath who bore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
Joseph should have gone down like the Andrea Gail. Why didn't he?
God was his friend
Three times in Genesis 39 we read that the Lord was with Joseph. This friendship with God was so obvious that even Potiphar noticed it and put him in charge of his entire household. That internal bond of love with the Almighty enabled Joseph to withstand the perfect spiritual storm. Notice how Joseph reasoned. "Because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he as put everything that he has in my charge...How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (vs.8-10) Notice that he regards adultery not only as a betrayal of his master's trust, but as a sin against God.
Perfect storms are sure to come your way
In a crowded world isolation abounds. Opportunities flood us. Our longings are often unfulfilled. Is it any wonder that millions are sinking into self-destruction in this life and in the next? Our longings fall into two broad categories: intimacy and impact. They aren't wrong in themselves. In fact, they are embedded in us as part of God's image. God intends that we feel loved and that we have an impact for good on our surroundings. Unlike other animals, human beings are able to defer to a later time the satisfaction of their longings. That's the difference between a longing and an instinct. In other words, while we have valid longings, we are not at their mercy. Instead, we focus on that friendship which alone can stiffen us against temptation.
Though sinners, believers in Jesus are ushered into the presence of the Almighty as his friends. There we find ultimate satisfaction and recognize all this life's joys as derivative of our friendship with God. I can enjoy loving intimacy with my wife without demanding of her what only God can give. I can experience significant impact in the world without leaning on that impact for my worth.
Let perfect storms come. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)