“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
He was far from home, surrounded by a culture that worshiped false gods, a slave who had no rights, no freedom, subject to the whims of his master, Potiphar. He was only seventeen. Yet Joseph was exactly where God wanted him.
Potiphar’s house seemed like the most unlikely place for a teenage boy to grow into spiritual maturity, but that’s the high school God chose for Joseph. And then He sent Joseph to college in a prison.
I’m sure there were days when Joseph questioned the love of God and the sovereignty of God. Homesick days when he longed for the lush fields of his homeland and the smell of roast lamb.
But Genesis tells us repeatedly that God was with Joseph. In both Potiphar’s house and the prison, God used Joseph to proclaim His truth and glorify His name. In Loving God, Charles Colson (founder of Prison Fellowship) wrote, “My greatest humiliation—being sent to prison—was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.” *
Joseph could have written those words. God turned the 13 years of Joseph’s shame as a slave and a prisoner into 80 years of prosperity and service in Pharaoh’s government. More importantly, God used Joseph’s lofty position to preserve Abraham’s descendants who grew into a nation of two million during their Egyptian sojourn.
Through the prophet Isaiah God said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (55:8). They certainly aren’t. But that’s a good thing because God’s ways always lead us toward eternal reward and eternal life. Our own GPS often leads us to failure and disappointment.
In Genesis 45:5, Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Joseph saw God’s sovereignty, not his brothers’ treachery, at work in his life.
Am I willing to view my trials through eternal lenses as Joseph did? Are you?
Jeremiah watched the Babylonian army destroy Jerusalem and take hundreds of prisoners into exile. In the midst of all this horror he spoke words of hope, like Jeremiah 29:10-14. What enabled him to do that? Read Lamentations 3:21-26.
Romans 8:28 says, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” The Greek phrase translated “ for the good” means “to the advantage.” How did Joseph’s trials work both to his advantage and to the advantage of his family? Have you recognized yet how your trials are working to your advantage or the advantage of others?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. What was Paul’s attitude about the hardships he encountered?
You might also want to read Joseph: Part Two.
Denise K. Loock
*Charles Colson. Loving God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983, p. 24