I attended a church in Houston on Sunday morning where the pastor was teaching Joseph’s story (Genesis 37-50). You know the gist – teenaged kid, probably a little too proud of his rainbow windbreaker, is tossed into a pit and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers only to make his way up in the system until he’s basically the CEO of Egypt with a seemingly increasing amount of favor from God and approval from those around him. It’s a story, ultimately, of forgiveness and of making things right.
Delving a little deeper, though, I read about the trials Joseph went through (besides being sold into slavery by his own family, which is sort of dysfunctional) such as: he was set up by his boss’s wife to look like an attacker because he wouldn’t take her on a date. He spent years in a disgusting prison for this accusation until he interpreted the dream of a fellow prisoner. Said prisoner was allowed out, promised to put in a good word for Joseph on the outside, and promptly forgot about him. Joseph spent another long stint imprisoned until the Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted as well and he was finally released. He went on to save the land from a terrible drought.
Every time there was trauma in this narrative, however, we see the words “but God was with him.” I think sometimes we wonder, for one reason or another, whether God drops us in the midst of our troubles to navigate them on our own and then picks us back up on the other side. We might begin to suspect He’s a waiting God – waiting to see how we react to things or how we’ll praise Him in our latest trauma. I think sometimes we forget that our God is a DOING God – an active, present, moving God whose compassion is unmatched and awe-inspiring. We forget that He’s in our trenches with us, wiping the mud from our face. We forget that He’s beside a parent’s deathbed with us, piecing together a tattered relationship with us, grimacing through the pain of a grueling illness with us. He didn’t send us into a war with plans to wait in the wings.
His promise is this in Deuteronomy 20:4 – “For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Coming back to Joseph’s story, when he finally sees his siblings again, they don’t recognize him in all his finery. They’re starving and they’ve come to beg him for food. He could have laughed in their faces, turned them away and left them to starve, given them a taste of their own medicine. Instead he feeds them, and tells them this: “So it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and over all the land of Egypt.” (Gen 45:8)
Had Joseph’s family not betrayed him, he wouldn’t be in a position so powerful as to lead all of Egypt through a season of drought so severe they most certainly would have died. He was positioned to suffer so that he could be positioned to save. And make no mistake, he didn’t suffer alone. The God of all creation was in Joseph’s trenches with him. He made the ultimate sacrifice because he knew what we would walk through for Him. He is with us in our pits and prisons.
By: Hannah Follis