If I told you about a poor fellow who was hated by his siblings, taken captive and forced to work as a slave, falsely accused and thrown into prison, helped restore another prisoner but was forgotten by the man he helped, you might ask what he did to deserve such treatment.
When disaster, tragedy or illness strikes in our own lives we are often quick to ask, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “This isn’t fair!”
Quite a few of our church family have had unusual hardships lately. We are all prone to ask, “Why?” or “Why me?” when we are faced with very hard circumstances.
God is magnified and self diminished
Yet the truth for believers is God has a purpose in all that goes on in our lives. Every single thing. And the fact is we may never know why. God ordains everything for our good and His glory. This process of sanctification, or changing to become more like Christ, may bring difficulties to the end that God is magnified in our lives and self is diminished.
The next few posts will deal with biblical characters who endured what we consider to be unfair treatment. We have the advantage of seeing the results in their lives from going through the painful things they encountered. My prayer is that as we might see the end as well as the beginning and that we would choose to trust God and rest in Him even in the middle of our most difficult experiences.
The story of Joseph is found in Genesis 39 – 50. I encourage you to read those few chapters. Things went from bad to worse to, “Can things get any worse than this?” But we can lose sight of the fact that God was at work in Joseph’s life the entire time.
Joseph got on his brother’s nerves
Joseph was a well-loved son of Jacob, but Joseph got on his older brothers’ nerves. He told his father the wrong things they were doing when they were all away from home. God brought dreams to Joseph showing that he would rule over his brothers one day and Joseph shared all the details with his brothers. Joseph’s older brothers soon began to hate the very sight of him.
Sold into slavery
Jacob sent Joseph to check up on the brothers. They saw him and his brightly-colored coat coming toward their camp. Their hatred boiled up and they plotted to kill Joseph, throwing him into a pit while they worked out the details. When a caravan of traders passed by they changed their minds and sold him into slavery.
Joseph worked as a slave in the home of a prominent Egyptian named Potiphar. God blessed Potiphar’s business because of Joseph. But Potiphar’s wife tried repeatedly to seduce Joseph to be immoral with her. As she grabbed at him, Joseph pulled away, but his coat remained in her hands. She was angry that this lowly servant would refuse her so used the coat to make false accusations against Joseph to her husband.
Forgotten, then finally remembered
So Joseph was thrown into prison, but God gave him favor in the sight of the warden. Two fellow prisoners, servants in Pharaoh’s household, had dreams that God allowed Joseph to interpret. When Pharaoh’s cupbearer was restored to his position he forgot all about the help that Joseph gave him until two years later when Pharaoh dreamed troubling dreams. Joseph was called for and God allowed him to correctly interpret the dream.
Suddenly Joseph was elevated to second in the land and was the most powerful person in Egypt behind Pharaoh. God gave him wisdom to save up during the years of plenty and portion out food to the Egyptians during the years of drought.
Recognizing his brothers
Jacob heard there was grain for sale in Egypt and sent his sons to buy some. Joseph recognized his brothers right away, but they had no idea this powerful leader was their long-lost younger brother. Joseph put them through several tests over a period of time to see what kind of men they were.
Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers as Joseph and the brothers were afraid. This was the brother they had hated and sold into slavery. Now he is a very powerful person and his dreams had been accurate. This powerful man could make them pay for their hatred and evil deeds.
God meant it for good
But Joseph by now understood the bigger picture. In Genesis 50:20 he tells his brothers “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” The hatred of his brothers had begun a chain of events to put Joseph in a place of honor.
Do we believe in God’s goodness?
We need to remember this when our family or employers or friends bitterly oppose us and it seems so unfair to us. We usually cannot immediately understand God’s greater purpose in difficult events. Sometimes we never understand God’s purpose. We need to remember Romans 8:28-29. All things do work together for good for believers, even when we can’t see how that is true. It’s God’s promise. Do we believe Him?