Here we are, firmly entrenched in this new year of 2021. Last year is definitely in the rear view mirror. My hope and optimism for this new year are still fairly strong!
Last week we talked about how our definition of “good” is subjective. For us, saying, “life is good” usually means we’re happy and don’t have any troubles. And that’s a nice place to be!
But going through hard or “bad” things is a part of life. Another person says hurtful things to or about us. A loved one passes away. We lose a job or struggle to pay our bills. Maybe we or one of our children develops a health need. These are all serious issues that are difficult to deal with and we have no control over many of them. But one part of them we can control is our perspective.
As I reflected on how we can properly view the bad times in life, I was reminded of the story of Joseph. The patterns in his life remind me of ours.
He’s the favorite child of Jacob, his dad. Life is good.
His jealous brothers throw him in a pit, then sell him to traveling merchants. Life is bad.
He’s taken in as a slave in a prominent man’s house and, through hard work and God’s blessing, he’s put in charge of everything the man owns. Life is good.
The man’s wife falsely accuses Joseph and he’s thrown into prison. Life is bad.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Joseph’s life was just like ours is – full of seasons that change, full of “bad” times and “good” ones.
But what’s convicting to me is that Joseph didn’t change. As far as we can tell, no matter whether his circumstances appeared good or bad, he continued to trust God.
So what kept him going through the hard seasons? Here are three things that gave him a proper perspective of good and bad events in his life.
Remember when Joseph interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker? After telling the butler that he’d be restored to his former position, Joseph asked him to tell his story to Pharaoh.
Once the butler, as predicted, left prison, I wonder how long it took for Joseph’s hope to fade. Did he spend that first week listening for the outer door to open? Every time the keeper of the prison called his name, did he think there was a messenger sent to get him out? After a month of nothing changing, was he discouraged?
We don’t know what was happening in his mind, but we do know exactly how long Joseph had to wait.
“And it came to pass at the end of two full years…” ~Genesis 41:1
Joseph waited on God for two years to get out of prison. But did Joseph learn lessons during those two years that he wouldn’t have learned if he’d been pulled out of prison and returned to his family? We can’t know for sure. Yet I believe that God puts us in specific places for a particular time period to teach us lessons like trusting Him. (Know that this is easy to write but much harder to remember when we’re actually in one of these times!)
Faithfulness to his duties.
Whether in Potiphar’s house or in prison, Joseph didn’t give in and sit around having a pity party. I have to believe that he had hard days when the difficulty or unjustness of his situation overwhelmed him.
But everywhere he went, we see Joseph working hard and prospering.
“And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.” ~Genesis 39:3-4
“But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” ~Genesis 39:21-11
When it seems like we’re in the midst of a bad time, let’s keep being faithful. Let’s continue doing our best in service to the Lord.
So when the baker and the butler ended up in the prison where Joseph was, he helped them. I might have been tempted to say, “Listen, I realize this is bad for you, but let me tell you all I’ve been through.”
Instead, he noticed they were sad, and reached out to them. “And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly today?” ~Genesis 40:7
I think we all know that we can gain a better perspective on our own problems when we look for someone else in need and try to help them. It’s like the old acronym for JOY – Jesus, Others, You.
You and I don’t stress when we see Joseph thrown into a pit by his brothers. We’re not overly concerned when the merchants drag him off to Egypt. We don’t wonder what’s going to happen because we know how it all turns out just a few pages later. We know that Joseph will say to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.“
But Joseph didn’t have any of that information in real-time. And right now, you and I don’t know the end of our story. But God does. Even the parts we see as bad, He’s in control of those, too.
So we have a choice. Our perspective can make all the difference. Let’s be patient, be faithful, and serve those around us. And as we trust Him, let’s believe that when our last chapter is finished, God will have written the just-right ending to our story.