Lately I’ve been studying the life of Joseph found in Genesis 37-50. Joseph’s story begins when he is 17-years old. He was the youngest of several brothers, all of whom hated him for various reasons. First of all, their father Jacob loved him more than all the other brothers. Secondly, along with that love came a show of outward favoritism from their father. In fact, Jacob made Joseph a beautiful robe. Scripture makes no mention of Jacob making the others a robe. And lastly, Joseph had told his brothers and father about a couple of dreams he had, which had his father and brothers bowing down to him. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well with their already hatred of him. Although Joseph’s brothers hated him for mentioning this dream, his father kept it in the back of his mind.
In a turn of events, Joseph was asked by his father to check on his brothers who were out shepherding the flock. Joseph found them around 60 miles away. When his brothers saw him coming they decided to kill him. But one of his brothers, Rueben, persuaded them not to kill Joseph, so they threw him into a pit. In discussing what they should do with Joseph, they decided to sell him to some traveling merchants for the price of an average slave, fake his death by dipping his robe in blood, and showing it to their father. This was no doubt a shot of their hatred and anger not only at Joseph, but at Jacob their father. Jacob was unconsolable, understandably. But the hatred, bitterness, and anger was so deeply rooted in the brothers that no matter how bad their father was hurting, they would not admit to what they had done.
So Joseph was sold to some traveling Midianites, who in turn sold him to an Egyptian named Potipher. Potipher was the Captain of the Guard. Joseph was so effective and efficient at his work, Potipher promoted him to be in charge of all his possessions. Actually, the Scripture says that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed (Genesis 39:3). Soon after his promotion Potipher’s wife began tempting Joseph day after day to have sex with her, but Joseph refused each time. The last time she tempted him, he actually ran away from her, leaving his coat behind (she had a hold of him). Angered by Joseph’s continual rejection, Potipher’s wife screamed and told the servants and her husband that Joseph had attempted to rape her and that she had his coat to prove it.
Potipher had Joseph thrown into prison where he would spend at minimum of two year because of a crime he didn’t commit. And while in prison, the same thing happened as when he was at Potipher’s house; he grew in favor with the warden of the prison because of the Lord showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the warden. In fact, God gave him so much favor with the warden that the warden paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed (Genesis 39:22-23).
Long story short, the Pharaoh of Egypt had a bad dream and needed it interpreted. The Chief Cupbearer for Pharaoh remembered how Joseph had interpreted his dream and the Chief Baker’s dream while they were all in prison together. This was two years ago. So Pharaoh has the warden bring Joseph to him and God tells Joseph the interpretation of the dream and Pharaoh is so impressed that he changed Joseph’s name to Zaphenath-paneah and put him second in charge of all Egypt (Genesis 41:45)! Joseph was thirty years old when this happened (13-years after being thrown in a pit and sold as a slave).
There is so much that I find interesting about this story (and I only hit the high points), but right now there’s one thing that stares me right in the face. It’s the thing that got me through spending a year in jail as an innocent man. It’s the one thing that drug me through the endless mental anguish caused by “the system” and their irreputable few who have an insatiable appetite for the pride of power and control (and perhaps the drive to win, regardless of unethical biases and regardless of truth). That one thing that pulled me through and is barely pulling me through today is this: God is with me.
God was with me when I was mistreated after being arrested. God was with me when I was ripped from my family unjustly. God was with me through the threats and violence around me in jail. God was with me when inmates were yelling at my four year old through the phone. God was with me when I couldn’t hug my wife or children for a year. God was with me when, for the first time in my life, I considered killing myself because I couldn’t take the pain of injustice anymore. God was with me as I stared over the edge of the second floor railing of the jail just microseconds away from taking a head dive to end all the unjust pain. God was with me when I was put on trial for 5-weeks for heinous acts that I did not do. God was with me. God was with me. God was with me…I could go on and on. I bet you could too.
My journey was filled with anguish. I use the word “anguish” because I am not aware of another word in the English language that can come close to communicating the mental, emotional, and spiritual pain I experience (and still experience to this day). My journey isn’t over and there will be plenty of anguish in the aftermath to deal with. Nonetheless, my mental and emotional self, if they were put into a physical object before you today, would look like the city landfill. A whole lot of everything, it stinks, and has the appearance of never being put back together again, certainly never to be restored in this lifetime. That sounds grim, I know, but I’m just being truthful with you.
While anguish filled Joseph’s life, although he and I have somewhat different details, I have felt and still feel that anguish. But God is with me just as God was with Joseph. How do I know that? Because although I’ve been through hell (my family, church, and friends too), I still have my faith, hope, and trust in God. Period. Sometimes it was all I had and sometimes it feels like it’s all I still have, but it’s enough to sustain me for today. The pain in no way relents, make no mistake about that, but the hope and trust in my God who is with me navigates me through it. You know, I used to always think that if I ever went through hell God would ease my pain and guide me through it. I was wrong, way wrong. He did not remove any pain whatsoever. I felt the fullness of it, the full substance of everything pain had to offer. I would pray (like Jesus prayed), Father, if there’s any way possible, take this cup (circumstance of suffering) away from me. God answered my prayer loud and clear. No.
If this post sounds a bit grim, please let me assure you that pain is grim and anguish is dark. It’s the place where you come to the end of you. It’s no fun, but I want to assure you of one wonderful thing. God is with you. He is. And He will guide you through the stormy waters, most likely not the direction you would go, but He will guide you through. Trust His sense of direction because He will guide you to His destination, where He knows you need to be. Life isn’t fair. The system is flawed. Cancer and other diseases stink. Pain is a part of life. But pain will create something inside of you that nothing else can: perspective and courage.
Because of pain you will see others differently. You will help others differently. You will speak to others differently. You will see yourself differently. And in time you will live your life differently. On top of that, you’ll have the courage to act on these newfound perspectives. If you continue to trust the God who is with you through it all, then you will live a purposeful life unlike most others and unlike most of your previous life. There is hope. Only in Jesus is there hope. God is with you. Don’t forget that. So keep on trusting and keep on stepping. God can’t steer a boat that isn’t moving. So bow your head each morning, pray for strength, and then get to steppin’.
#Perseverance #anguish #pain #Jesus #faith #hope #Joseph #accused #falseaccusations #God