When Things Get Worse: A Reflection from Joseph

So grateful for this narrative from Jon Bloom based on the life of Joseph from Genesis 37-51:

Darkness had swallowed the light again. Joseph dreaded the night in this foul Egyptian hellhole. It was hard to fight off the relentless hopelessness as he waited the escape of sleep.

Day after monotonous day passed with no sign of change. The familiar desperation surged hot in his chest. His youth was seeping out the cracks of his cage. He was pacing in his soul. Joseph wanted to scream.

Fists to his forehead he pleaded again with God in the dark for deliverance.

And he remembered. It was the remembering that kept his hope alive and bitterness at bay.

He rehearsed the stories of God that had filled him with awe as a child. God had promised Great-grandfather Abraham, a child by his barren wife. But he made them wait an agonizing 25 years before giving them Grandfather Isaac. And God had promised Grandmother Rebekah that her older twin, Uncle Esau, would serve the younger twin, Father Jacob. But God had mysteriously woven human deception and immorality into his plan to make that happen.

Jacob’s smile filled Joseph’s mind. Oh Father! He covered his mouth to choke back his sobs. It had been nine years since he last saw that dear face. Would he ever see it again? Was Father still alive?

He felt something crawl across his leg. Leaping up, he brushed himself off. He shook out the mat. A shiver ran down his spine. Joseph hated spiders.

Lying back down, he remembered how Father Jacob had been caught in his Uncle Laban’s manipulative web for 20 long years. Yet God was faithful to his word and eventually delivered Jacob and brought him back to the Promised Land a wealthy man.

And then there were those strange dreams he had had. They had been unusually powerful, unlike any other dreams before or since. He felt ambivalent about them. They likely were the reason he was now in an Egyptian jail. His brothers’ envy of his father’s favor turned homicidal when he inferred that he had God’s favor as well.

Distant screams let Joseph know another fight had broken out in the barracks. It made him grateful for his private cell, the favor bestowed on the chief scribe to the warden.

He smiled at the irony of this “favor.” Favor in a prison. His brothers would love this if they only knew. He seemed about as far away from what those dreams foretold as he could be.

Yet, as foolish as it seemed right now, Joseph could not shake the deep conviction that God meant to bring those dreams to pass. And he could not deny the strange pattern he saw in God’s dealings with his forebears. God made stunning promises and then ordained time and circumstances to work in such ways as to make the promises seem impossible to fulfill. And then God moved.

The common thread Joseph traced through all the stories, the one thing God seemed to honor and bless more than anything else, was faith. Great-grandfather Abraham believed God’s word. Grandfather Isaac believed God’s word. Grandmother Rebekah believed God’s word. Father Jacob believed God’s word. They all believed even when it didn’t look like God’s word was going to come true. And all of them ultimately saw God’s faithfulness to his promises, despite circumstances and their own failings.

Faith-fueled peace doused the anxious fire in Joseph’s chest. “I believe you, my God,” he whispered. “Like my forefathers, I will wait for you. I have no idea what my being in an Egyptian prison has to do with your purposes. But I will keep honoring you here where you have placed me. Bring your word to pass as it seems best to you. I am yours. Use me!”

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