If you’ve ever experienced a devastating appointment that made you question everything you thought you knew, you’re in good company. We want our lives to play out like a fairy tale, but it’s not the accurate picture. Life will give us chapters of joy followed by sudden changes that tend to foreshadow a roller coaster of themes. Life is filled with subheadings and scenes we never saw coming. Does this sound familiar?
When our dreams are crushed, we’re immediately discouraged and start to think that God has either given up on us or forgotten us. However, when we look through the Bible, we repeatedly see how God uses unthinkable situations for His good, and our faith is restored.
One story is in Genesis and tells the struggles of Joseph, son of Jacob. Like some of our lives, Joseph’s life had plenty of plot twists and painful situations. Still, within this story, we see a new and powerful perspective.
What happened to Joseph?
Joseph’s story starts in Genesis chapter 37 and goes on for 12 chapters. Genesis 37:2 describes Joseph as his father’s beloved son, and this favoritism caused fighting within the family. To make things worse, God gave Joseph the gift of dreams, predicting his power over his family, causing even more trouble. Joseph’s brothers immediately rejected him and sold him into slavery.
In Genesis 39, Joseph’s troubles continued. His Egyptian master’s wife tried to seduce him. He turned down her advances, but he was still charged and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. While in prison, Joseph helped other prisoners interpret their dreams during his two-year sentence. One of the prisoners was eventually released, and Joseph made him swear that he would tell Pharaoh of his gift.
One day, Joseph’s luck improved when Pharaoh was distressed by dreams he didn’t understand. The former inmate recalled Joseph’s gift for dream interpretation, and Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, as described in Genesis 41:14-36. These verses explain that after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh appointed him to his team. The other nine chapters illustrate Joseph’s family’s redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. This continual theme invites us to look at our hardships and struggles with new strength.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers that they meant evil against him, but God meant it for good. These words resemble Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8, reminding us that God works all things for our good. So how do we start to endure hardships like Joseph and find the strength to embrace the hurtful parts of our stories?
While reading Joseph’s story, reflecting on what gave him the perseverance to push forward into the painful parts of his voyage is essential. This story, as with all of Scripture, shows the power and promises of God. We can see our problems differently by learning to look for God’s role in our lives. Here are some lessons we can learn from Joseph on persevering.
In our problems, God is with us.
We see this first lesson in Joseph’s story through God’s constant presence. When Joseph was first sold into slavery in Genesis 39, God’s presence is mentioned in multiple verses. Although God’s presence didn’t change Joseph’s circumstances, it encouraged Joseph to stay faithful and patient throughout his situation. He was separated from his family, wrongfully accused of a crime, and forced into slavery, but God’s presence kept Joseph going.
This theme continues through Joseph’s imprisonment. Genesis 39:21 tells us, “The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” God’s presence is constantly given to man as a promise of God’s faithfulness in hard times throughout the Old and New Testaments. We see examples of God’s devotion in Psalm 23 and Isaiah 43:2. Whatever problem we face, God is with us and remains faithful.
God prepares us.
We can also see God at work in the process in addition to God’s presence. We can call this the waiting ground for God’s goodness. If anyone could relate to the waiting season, it’s Joseph. Imagine if you had to wait 12 years, from being put into slavery by your brothers to imprisonment. Most people would look at waiting seasons as wasted time, but in those times, we can better see how God uses our waiting time to prepare us.
A considerable amount of time passes between Genesis 40 and 42. Within the two years of Joseph’s wait, God prepared him. Joseph interprets the dreams of two fellow prisoners. This story may seem unimportant, but God uses this interaction to strengthen Joseph’s gifts and prepare him for the moment with Pharaoh years later. As we learn to accept the waiting process, we start to see small experiences as stepping stones to God’s perfect position for us.
God repurposes our pain.
We also learn that God can repurpose our pain through His presence and preparation in our lives. There are several mentions of Joseph’s strong emotions related to the reunification of his family in the final chapters of Joseph’s story. These intense emotions described in the last chapters evoke the depth of Joseph’s pain. In chapter 45, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, giving them a powerful perspective.
Genesis 45:5 says, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” What a compelling way to see your painful experiences. Joseph was judged, rejected, and forgotten like so many of us. However, God’s sovereignty and sufficiency repurposed Joseph’s story by using him as a faithful servant.
God will never give up on us.
There must have been many times in Joseph’s story when he felt that God wasn’t listening to him or that He gave up on him. However, it’s quite the opposite. Even when we can’t see God in our lives, He’s always working behind the scenes. This idea may be frustrating, but it’s a necessary evil. When Joseph voyaged to Egypt from Caanan, he must’ve felt like God didn’t know or care about his circumstances. However, no matter the circumstances, God is always watching and will never give up on His children. We should always treasure Joseph’s story and reflect on the lessons we can learn from it. We are never alone in our problems. Instead, God prepares us for what’s coming next in our stories.