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Joseph’s brothers… sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. - Genesis 37:28 (NLT)
In our first year of marriage, Sara and I bought our very first washer and dryer. They were pre-owned. Translation: very well used. We weren’t really shocked to discover the dryer didn’t get our clothes completely dry. We’d have to run it two or three times and the clothes were still damp. Then one day I noticed writing on the back of the dryer’s drum. It gave instructions on how to access the lint trap which was cleverly hidden in the center of the drum. I pulled off the cover to find enough dryer-lint to fill a dumpster. After removing the massive hairball from the filter, the dryer worked spectacularly for a few months... until it conked out for good and we had to buy a new one. You get what you pay for, right? Ha!
Everything that happens in our life passes through a filter: God either causes it or allows it. That filter can get clogged up sometimes, because there are lots of really hard things that can happen in life. But, more often than not, the filter is encouraging to me - because it means there’s literally nothing that happens to me which escapes His notice. He’s aware and involved. If He caused it, awesome. God is in control and I’m grateful. If He allowed it, then He also must know when and how to intervene, stepping in to turn it to good like He promised He would.
Things may look bleak sometimes… like with Joseph’s story. His brothers sold him into slavery. But God was up to something. Just wait. His fingerprints will always start to show up eventually. Whatever the source of the stuff we experience or the struggles we walk through, when God is directing and providing, things happen in perfect order and with perfect timing. I’m grateful God sees the bigger picture. When He causes or allows circumstances in our lives, we can rest in the knowledge He’s involved, He sees, He knows. And He cares.
The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. - Genesis 39:2 (NLT)
Ever feel like life is a really high speed ping-pong match? Me too. Joseph gets it, as well. His story is one of ricocheting between freedom and captivity. Check this out:
Finally, after bouncing back and forth his entire life, he finally found himself completely free - under Pharaoh and with his family. The secret sauce? He’d lived through hard experiences, spent years in reflection, grew in humility, honored God all along the way, and threw in a huge dose of forgiveness. In the end, Joseph’s life demonstrated he was completely free all along. Because God never abandoned him. The Lord was doing something all along.
And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. - Genesis 40:14 (NLT)
I recently read about a Muslim girl who ran across a tiny book containing the good news about Jesus. When she prayed to acknowledge Jesus as her savior, she was so excited. However, she knew it would be tough when she told her dad. It turned out to be much worse than expected. He had her stripped naked and tied her to a metal chair which was attached to a steel plate. Her father and brothers proceeded to connect it to the electric outlet... only to find they couldn’t get power to flow through their electric chair. After several failed attempts to execute her, she was tossed out naked and told she was dead to them. She ran, weeping, through the crowded streets to the home of a friend who took her in. She was mortified by the experience of being exposed in such an embarrassing way, but grateful to be alive. Later, however, when her friend spoke with people who had seen her running through the streets, they commented on the beautiful, expensive white dress they saw her wearing, and wondered why someone so richly ornamented would be running through the streets weeping.
God has an eye on His kids. He is in charge. And no matter what happens to us... or around us... or in us; whether it’s cumbersome and heavy, or easy and light; whether we think it’s good or bad… God is right here. RIght now. Caring for us. Sometimes it’s hard to trust that God is present and powerful in the midst of scary circumstances. LIke the girl in today’s story. Or Joseph, sitting there in prison, the hours trudging by monotonously. He wasn’t alone for even one second. And neither are we.
Like the Good Father that He is, God listens for our cries and shows up to help, encourage, support, and sustain us when we need Him. Good fathers do that kind of thing.
God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! - Genesis 45:7-8 (NLT)
“I was wrong. You were right.” Scale of one to ten, how hard is it for you to say those words? Sadly, I’ve gotten really good at it. To become an expert at apology, you first have to make a lot of mistakes. And then practice owning them. That’s me! I say the wrong thing. I use a harsh tone. I’m not fully present in the conversation. My actions, reactions, and words give me plenty of opportunities to own my missteps.
But what about when it’s not our mistake in question? What about when someone else seems to be doing the messing up? It’s really easy to start casting blame and feel like we’re owed an apology. If you’re like me, from a position of short-sighted humanity, we do this all the time to God. We see a limited perspective on what’s happening and we start going, “You’re wrong God. I’m right. I think You might have messed up here.”
When something really blows up in our lives, when something really hard happens, it takes a ton of trust to cling to the perspective that under God’s control we have hope that things will work together to morph into good in the end. We will always discover God is faithful to care for us. He’s true to His word. In the midst of the painful, depressing, rock-bottom places in life, He knows how to step right down into it and begin to bring about change that leads to good. When we trust His faithfulness, even if we’re trembling, He shows up every time. Haven’t seen His movement yet? He’s not done yet. The story isn’t over yet. Keep going. Keep trusting. Keep following. Keep waiting. He will show up. And it will be well.
Joseph realized after all he’d been through that God was up to something bigger and more beautiful than he could have imagined. What if the stuff you’re dealing with today were the same? Do you dare to entertain that possibility for a moment? If it were true about your difficulties, how might that change the way you are walking through this season right now?Share Tweet
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. - Genesis 50:20 (NLT)
I’ve taken some real hits over the years. My best friend knocked out half my front tooth with his lunch pail in the fifth grade. Five years later, a flag football collision with a classmate in gym class led to stitches over my right eye a few hours before sophomore pictures were taken. Nowadays, if my six year old accidentally throws a wild punch when we’re playing, it lands below the belt. People can really hurt us sometimes.
Joseph had been hurt. Really hurt. Abused at the hands of his brothers, held captive under Potiphar, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and subsequently imprisoned for those charges. Did God cause these circumstances or allow them? Tough for us to say for certain. But Joseph sums it up by saying his brothers may have had it out for him, but God used it to save all their skins.
How did Joseph keep this perspective after all those years? He entrusted every detail of his life to the direction and care of His God. And he lived a life of integrity, faithful because his God was faithful. That’s why he kept being elevated to leadership and influential positions. Integrity cultivates favor. We trust people we can count on to be authentic and vulnerable; people who do what they say and say what they mean.
Joseph’s integrity was rooted in a trust in God’s ability to see from a point of view that takes in the entirety of life, wrapping up causes and effects, with an eye on ultimately turning it all into overwhelming good. We simply aren’t in a position to judge the sum value of our own life until it’s all over. But God says that it will all be turned to the good for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purpose for our lives.
Joseph went from youngest Hebrew son to second in command in Egypt. It was a long, winding route filled with moments of God-timing that could only be the Lord’s hand moving to show the way. Think about your life for a moment. How might your past, present, and future possibilities be shaping up under God’s direction?Share Tweet