A Plan In The Suffering
Have you ever had an epiphany? I love it when that happens. I had one while I was reading the story of Joseph in Genesis. We all know the story, right? Joseph was a dreamer who was favored by his father, Jacob. Jacob made Joseph a very beautiful robe that Joseph proudly wore. This angered his brothers. To make things worse, Joseph had two dreams whereby his father, mother and brothers would one day bow down to him. By this time, Joseph’s brothers had enough. They led Joseph away from his home, and they decided they were going to kill him. That seemed very harsh to his brother, Judah, so the brothers agreed instead to sell him to some traders who took Joseph off to Egypt. Joseph’s father, Jacob, was devastated when the brothers came home with Joseph’s robe dipped in blood (to show that clearly a wild animal tore Joseph to pieces). I can’t imagine the pain this father felt in his heart to lose one of his children - his favorite child.
But the story of pain and suffering doesn’t end here.
Joseph was sold to an Egyptian officer named Potiphar. Since the Lord was with Joseph, he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. It seems as if Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife decided she had to have him; But Joseph wanted no part of her seduction. He refused to sleep with his master’s wife, and that made her very angry. She tried one more time, pestering him and demanding that he come sleep with her. At this point, Joseph had enough and he ran away from her. On his way out, she grabbed his cloak and began screaming and accusing Joseph of trying to rape her. When she told her husband, she showed him the cloak Joseph had left behind. He became furious and threw Joseph into prison.
Now, if you know the story as well as I do, you know that Joseph had the opportunity to interpret some dreams while he was there in prison. Both of those dreams came true because it was God who interpreted the dreams for Joseph. Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream and no one could help him figure out the meaning of it, so he summoned Joseph to interpret his dream. Pharaoh was so impressed that Joseph’s God was with him, and that he was filled with such wisdom, that he put Joseph in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Now this included guarding and managing the storehouses where all the food was kept in order to feed the land of Egypt. During the following seven years of famine, if anyone in Egypt needed food, then they would have to go to Joseph. Joseph would then decide if they were given food and how much.
So here we are, my favorite place in this story!
Joseph’s father and brothers needed food. Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, and he sent some of his sons to see if they could buy any. Otherwise, they would die from the famine. Of course, it is their brother Joseph who is in charge of the grain. For a while, Joseph did not reveal who he was to them. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for Joseph to keep his identity a secret for as long as he did, but eventually Joseph revealed who he was to them. Now, here comes the part that hit me dead on. I have read this story so many times, but this time God showed me something completely new! If I were Joseph, I would have been so mad at my brothers: not only for not believing me, for throwing me down a cistern, for wanting to kill me, for selling me as a slave, but also for the torture they put my father through. But that’s not how Joseph reacts.
Genesis 45:4-5: “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, ‘I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.’”
What? He told them not to be upset or angry with themselves because it wasn’t them, but God, who made all of those things happen. And then it dawned on me – the epiphany. God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to make Abraham the father of many, many descendants, and they would occupy a land, the land of Israel. Abraham’s blessing was passed on to his son Isaac, and from Isaac to Jacob. If Jacob would have died during the famine along with his sons (who by the way are the tribes of Israel), then the covenant could not have been fulfilled. God had a plan: of one man to become a nation, and God knew what lay ahead. If not for the mighty hand and Spirit of the Lord, the plan that God had would not have become so.
God has a plan. He has a plan for each one of his children. God also knows what lies ahead of us and how he may need to intervene in ways that many would see as suffering, in order to establish his plan in our lives. I have had much suffering and heartache in my time here on this earth; But I know that God’s plan for me is still good, and He is a good God. I may not be able to see the full picture of his plan and why I was allowed to go through the sufferings in my life, but the story of Joseph reminds me of how much I can trust that God will complete the good work that he started in me.