I have 4 kids, all of them the age of Joseph (the 11th son of Jacob) in his prison years in Egypt. Now if I were Joseph’s mom, I think I’d feel pretty slighted. I’d probably be gaunt from prayers and worry and yearning. I’d cringe at the unfairness, while trying to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the cruelty of man.
Deep into the narrative we find the word, “kindness…” Well, it seemed a little late. It would’ve been nice to have some of that kindness at the pit where his brothers were brutally throwing him away, or when they were selling him or when Potifer’s wife dramatically lied about him.
However it appeared to him, Joseph didn’t waste his suffering. It’s hard to believe an abandoned young man in his early 20’s would steward his suffering so well. Maybe out of a survival instinct, or a real sense that those dreams he had, would somehow come true (Gen. 37:7-9). But he neither focused on his traumatic past nor on a hoped-for future in a way that immobilized his present. Surely he had moments of grief, agony and worry about the future. How could he not? And surely he looked for ways out of his present situation.
“Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. “ Gen. 40:14
But the realities of the past and uncertainty of the future didn’t hold him, or keep him from being “all in” in the present. This wasn’t a natural thing. He had the Divine presence. How that looked, we don’t know, but we do know it made a huge difference in the midst of intense suffering.
There was this underlying partnership:
- Whatever Joseph DID,
- God MADE to prosper. (Gen. 39:3, 23)
“His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.”
But it didn’t always end up the way Joseph would have wanted.
After getting his hopes up to get out of prison and asking the cupbearer to mention his skill to Pharaoh, he was again let down and spent 2 more years in the prime of his life, “wasting” his time.
God could’ve kept him from having to go to jail, or from being sold as a slave in a foreign land, or from such cruel rejection from his brothers. God could’ve made it a lot smoother for him. But His ways are deeper, higher, wider and they bring about good in the midst of chaos and other people’s stupidity. So he “prospered” in prison!
“He who has suffered in the flesh is done with sin.” 1 Pet. 4:1
Joseph was in jail for honoring God, for his integrity, for doing right for his boss. This was classic character testing using temptation and injustice. This was God’s intimate orchestration to move him further along in his journey as well as in His greater plan; the little story within the big story.
How easily self-pity, loneliness, complaining, entitlement, or despair could’ve taken over and probably tried to! But Joseph was lifted above it, and he rose to it. He and God were in it together. His trust was way beyond his circumstances. I want to be like that!
What circumstantial tests stare you in the face?
What has God intimately orchestrated for you?
We have God’s presence! Are we in the mess with Him or are we just trying to get out of it?