NOW WHAT?!?! What on earth do I do when I find myself where I absolutely do not want to be?! In a scenario I never expected? And stuck there ?
It could be in a toxic work environment or marriage . It could be in a phase of life that I can’t get through fast enough, as in being single or in college. It could be in a job that is anything but fulfilling. Or finding myself single and needing a job when all I had planned was to be a stay-at-home mom. It could be in a blended family with baggage that is not going away. Or maybe held captive to the decisions a rebellious teenager is making. It could be in a body that will not cooperate with health. Or even in a home by myself after my beloved spouse passed away much too soon.
There are times where I will feel abandoned, and trapped. No power to change my present situation. Very far from where I thought I would be, from where I want to be. Then what?! What could I possibly do with myself, for myself, when all I feel like doing is giving up in despair, yet knowing that is not as option?
That is what I can learn from Joseph in Genesis 39-40. He is such a shining example of how to handle injustice and adversity. If I want to know what to do with myself in a practical, positive way, when all I feel is negative and bitter about a situation I am helpless to end, Joseph is my man!
What makes him one of my heroes of the Old Testament is that he experienced betrayal, injustice and abandonment, and yet responded to it all in such an upright manner that it is like a “how to” book on practical steps through adversity. God knew I, we, needed to know what it looks like to live life through adversity beyond what could be imagined. Because Joseph was wronged not just once or twice, but six times by my count, he is perfect for knowing how to respond righteously so that good triumphs over evil.
Isn’t that what we want? To overcome and prevail? But what does that actually look like in the midst of helplessness? Well, Joseph has much to teach us and hopefully, we have much to learn.
First, I see him accept his circumstances. This is not to be overlooked. I think it is crucial that he was not fighting against what kept happening, but he yielded himself to the inevitable. And why was he able to do that? Because he trusted in and knew God was ultimately in control of all of it. In the midst of all that was happening, God could stop it and change it at any time. It was not sinful, wicked man in control of him but a loving God. (Genesis 45:4-11 gives insight into this) Not to say that Joseph could understand at the time and agree with what God was allowing, but he yielded and rested in God’s sovereignty. I think this helped him prevail against bitterness taking hold of his heart.
Secondly, I see him look to and wait upon God to redeem his circumstances. He did not blame others but committed himself to his God for help and waited patiently. I don’t see Joseph scheming to free himself or trying to right his wrongs on his own. He does not seem to stew and scheme his time away as he is held captive to circumstances not of his choosing. He seems to busy himself with more positive and productive matters as he is stuck.
Thirdly, I see him try and make the most out of his situation by “blooming where he was planted”. He did his best where he was. He busied himself with the task at hand, even while he was stuck doing what he probably didn’t want to do in the first place. He served others in excellence. He did not pout and sulk. He did not refuse to work. He did not instigate trouble. He did not harm others or those in charge of him. He blessed them! It says over and over in chapter 39 and 40 that God was with Joseph and gave him success in his work for those in authority.
Fourthly, I see him speak freely of God as seen while he was in prison. Though he was held against his will and enslaved, he used the opportunity to share his faith with others. So in all of his excellent work for others, and his admirable attitude, and his testimony of who his God was, this reflected a worthy testimony of God Almighty to a lost people, the Egyptians.
Lastly, Joseph not only continued in his faith even though he was suffering an incomprehensible injustice, he seemed to grow in his faith and character in spite of it all. This is evidenced by how he treated those around him and sought to benefit them while he was there. It is also seen later in Genesis when he is reunited with his family and how he explains the providential hand of God that led him to Egypt and enabled him to prepare for the famine. The Joseph we see at seventeen boasting to his family and tattling on his brothers is not the same Joseph we see in Egypt and in chapters 39-50.
It appears that Joseph did not waste his time in the wasteland. I heard a youth pastor say recently that one cannot skip a season, but one can sure waste it. Joseph made the most of his!
I have seen my time in “captivity ” as well. I was not near the example Joseph is. I was impatient, desperate, anything but yielded to my circumstances, and sometimes I felt like a angry child before the Lord, trying anything to fight my way free from my circumstances.
Yet I was continually inspired and encouraged by my hero Joseph, and eventually, I began to incorporate his life-saving, hope-filled lessons. And little by little, I began to make the most of my wasteland, until one day I realized, I was not in it anymore. I was free, and like Joseph, so much better off for having been there.