Hang in There, Believer!

When the Bible presents a particular character's life we sometimes get the impression that the lives of these people were filled with one super-natural event after another. Look at the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, in Genesis. Try to put yourself in his place. Joseph was forced to deal with many injustices, fears, sorrows, rejection, and down right hatred. Surely the questions of "where is God when I'm hurting so badly and need to hear from Him?" and "what am I to do in the meantime until I hear from God?" must have come to him.

His troubles started when he was 10 years old. His mother died, and he and a newborn brother were left with their aging father. Next, when he was 17 he was his father's favorite and that didn't set well with his 10 older brothers. His oldest brother surely thought that he deserved to be given the favored place in his father's eyes. His brothers were jealous and that turned to hatred. Genesis 37:4. "And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him."

If that wasn't enough, Joseph had a series of dreams that he would one day be ruler over his brothers and father. Joseph was young and didn't use any discretion when he told them he would someday rule over them.

Now the story we know so well. Genesis 37:13-25a. "And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
14: And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
15: And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
16: And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
17: And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
18: And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19: And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20: Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
21: And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22: And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
23: And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24: And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
25: And they sat down to eat bread:"

His own brothers plotted to kill him and they stripped him naked and threw him into a pit in the ground, and sat down to eat supper just like nothing mattered.

Now here we might expect God to intervene or perform some kind of a miracle and everything would work out fine. Nothing happened. Joseph sat alone in the pit, no guarantee that he would live through the night, and no word from God. He knew his brothers wanted to kill him. I wonder if he didn't think about what led up to this scene. He was obedient to his father. To find his brothers he had traveled 25 miles farther than his father had asked. He could have gone back home and been safe but he wanted to do what his father wanted. Now he was in this fix and it didn't make any sense. It wasn't his fault that his father loved him more than the others. This whole ordeal just wasn't fair, and still God didn't seem to know or care what was happening to Joseph.

Have you ever felt like this? I think we all have. Three times I've stood beside the grave of someone who, in my mind, died too young and I wondered why, and each time this scripture came to me. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." Proverbs 3:5 Even if we don't understand it, God is in complete control.

What makes Joseph's faith more amazing is that he had no printed word, only stories his father had told of God's faithfulness to those who put their trust in Him. Maybe the reason his father loved him so much was that Joseph believed the stories of God's grace and faithfulness and he wanted to be faithful, too.

Genesis 37:25a-28. "and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26: And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27: Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
28: Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt."

Genesis 37:29-35. "29: And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30: And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
31: And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
32: And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.
33: And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
34: And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
35: And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
36: And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and the captain of the guard."

Now he was a slave. No doubt he lay each night, tied or chained so he wouldn't run away, and wondered why all this was happening to him. He knew all the stories how God had spoken to his great-grandfather, Abraham at different times. Why didn't God speak to Joseph now?

This is hardly a promotion, being sold by these Arabs to the Egyptians. Things did get better. Potiphar saw that Joseph was very talented so he made him overseer of his whole house.

Genesis 39:1-6. "And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
2: And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
3: And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
4: 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.
5: And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
6: And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured."

Now this is how we expect a Bible story to work out, but what about real life? Joseph didn't go from slave to overseer in one day.

We don't know what work he had to do until then. Regardless of the conditions, even after he was moved up to overseer he was still a slave, alone and far away from home and family, and all through this, God was silent. No word from God since his dreams years before.

In the next episode of Joseph's life we see that his good looks told of in verse 6 were also against him.

Genesis 39:7-23." And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8: But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9: There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
10: And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
11: And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
12: And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
13: And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,
14: That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:
15: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.
16: And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.
17: And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:
18: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.
19: And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
20: And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
21: But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22: 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.
23: The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper."

She lied to Potiphar, and now Joseph was in prison. Here we see God giving Joseph some comfort, but remember, he's still a slave in prison in a foreign land. And, as a slave he has no right of appeal.

Once again we see Joseph doing the right thing, but the right thing had gotten him in trouble. Seems difficult to understand, but you and I know this happens to us, and we can only trust God. There's always a blessing for us, but it won't always come on this earth.

Think about Christ on the cross. That was no blessing to Him but He counted it a joy to die for me so He could have me with Him in heaven. My troubles and trials are small compared to what Jesus went through for me.

Just when things began to be reasonably good for Joseph, bang, he was in prison. Sounds like our lives today when we have troubles and don't understand why. There is nothing more bewildering than doing what is right and then the wheels all fall off. Sometimes we're the victims of circumstances we can't control. Lost jobs, sickness or cancer, family troubles, money troubles, disobedient children, any number of things may tempt us to question God, and sooner or later Satan will coax us to question God.

"Where is God when I need Him so much?" Some will even think "If there is a God in heaven He wouldn't let this happen to me." That is just what Satan wants. He wants us to question God. God has a plan for each one of us and it's perfect. If we trust Him to lead us, even though we can't for the life of us see what it is, we'll be blessed and rewarded.

I'm sure Joseph felt forsaken. We don't know how long he was in prison before he was put in charge. It could have been 8 or 9 years. From 41:1 we know it was at least two years. No rights of appeal, no trial, no family visits, just sent to prison to rot. Joseph had been outspoken of his faith in 39:9, but no immediate blessing came. In fact, things had gotten worse.

In prison, Joseph met two of the kings servants who had also been imprisoned, and they each had a dream and asked Joseph to interpret them. Again he showed his unshakable faith in God.

Gen. 40:7-8 "And he asked Pharaoh's officers that were with him in the ward of his lord's house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?
8: And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you."

After all Joseph had been through, he was still trusting all things to God. With God's help, he told each what their dream meant, and then he asked a favor.

Genesis 40:14-15. "But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:15: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon."

Joseph had faith in God but he wanted out of prison as badly as you or I would. But, once again, it seemed like God had forgotten him. 40:.23: "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him."

Do you ever feel as if God has forgotten you? Maybe you have begged God to change something in someone, but you don't see a change. Maybe it was for a child that was living worldly. Sometimes it seems like our prayers get no higher than the ceiling and you feel like God is too busy to hear and answer. God is there and hears you, but we have to wait on His answer. His timing is perfect. Many times He uses adversity to strengthen us.

Joseph must have felt pretty lonely in that Egyptian prison. The cupbearer may not have reminded Potiphar about Joseph at all. Once again Joseph suffered as the result of doing the right thing. For two years he was a prisoner wondering why God was allowing men to treat him like this. Thinking about his betrayal by his brothers, Potiphar's wife, the butler.

In chapter 41, Pharoah had a dream and that's when the butler remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams. Put yourself in Joseph's place. I probably would have said, "just one minure, let's make a deal here."

Joseph showed no bitterness or anger. He didn't even mention the wrongful imprisonment. He just trusted God to give Pharoah the answer and God did. Pharoah was so impressed that he made Joseph second in command. In one minute Joseph went from prisoner to prime minister of the mightiest nation on earth at that time! After thirteen years of no apparent hope and much misery, something good finally happened. God was there all the time, it was just for Joseph to trust and wait.

All this time God was setting the stage for a far more spectacular thing than any of this and He was using Joseph to set it up. God was setting the stage for a key move in His plan to bring salvation to the world. God had decided to have His chosen people come to reality in a foreign nation as slaves. From these people would come the Messiah. By miraculously freeing them from a world power, He would demonstrate that He was the true God. Along with that His people would have a heritage of faith and a picture of what the Messiah would one day do for every individual- That Messiah is Jesus Christ.

God used a famine to get His chosen people out of the land He had given them through Abraham and into a foreign nation. God had made a promise to Abraham that He would multiply his seed as the sands of the sea. God chose to accomplish all this using one man, Joseph in Egypt.

Once Joseph was appointed second in command there was almost nothing that he couldn't do, including inviting his family of 75 people to live in that land. And, as long as he lived he could guarantee their safety and freedom. Joseph was one of the key players in one of the most important episodes in the story of salvation.

It is clear from Joseph's story, that God's silence is in no way an indication that He isn't doing anything or that He isn't involved in our lives. We just assume that if we don't hear anything that He isn't doing anything. We judge God's involvement by our human standards and that doesn't work.

We judge God's involvement in our lives by how favorable or unfavorable our circumstances are. As long as things are going great we think "how great God is." But, let a little adversity come along and we ask, "Lord, where are you? How can You let this happen? What did I do wrong? Aren't You paying attention?"

God's involvement and interest in our lives can't be judged by the nature of our circumstances. His involvement is measured by two things; the development of our faith and thereby our character, and the fulfillment of His plan. Joseph spent 13 years facing one adversity after another and God was involved in every step of the way. It was through his adversities that God accomplished His will.

And, God will use adversity at times in our lives too, to accomplish His will. What are we to do when adversity comes? The answer is simple but it's not easy. Trust God. That may seem too simple for the size of your problems but consider the options. If you are not going to trust God what are you going to do? Take things into your own hands? Every time I do, I regret it. Look at Jonah, he tried to find his own solution to his problem. When did you or anyone else turn your back on God's plan and win?

You might say that I don't understand your circumstances and you may be right, but God understands. He's the important One. Think about Joseph. No family, no friends, no church, no money, no Bible, and apparently no answers from God. Yet, he remained faithful, and so did his Heavenly Father. That's the same Heavenly Father that you and I have, and He's still faithful.

Genesis 50:19-20. "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
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."

When God is silent you have only one option, trust Him, wait on Him, hang in there. He may be quiet but He is there and He won't quit on you. One thing more that Joseph demonstrated for us. When you are angry toward someone or hold a grudge, or daydream about getting back at somebody, you're telling God "I just don't trust You to bring them to judgment in this matter. You need my help."

God doesn't need your help nor mine. He has appointed Christ to judge the wicked and defend the innocent in His Own time. If you store up hatred and animosity toward those who have hurt you, you only deepen the injury. Leave it to God. Ask Him in prayer how to put the pieces of your life back together. It won't happen over night but He is faithful. All it requires is that you be faithful, too.

We want justice now, we don't want to wait for the Lord's return. Do you realize that the murder of our Lord has never been avenged? God has chosen to wait for Christ's return to exact judgment on those who crucified his Son. If God has chosen to delay justice so long for that case, who are we to demand that our case take precedence? God hasn't abandoned us, He knows the things that befall us. In due time, He will reckon with it. All He asks of us is to trust Him. God has it all recorded. He knows. He cares.

Many years after Joseph died, God used Solomon to write the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; lean not unto thine own understanding."
Verse 6 - In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

These verses have not only been the verses that led me to salvation, they have been my comfort in a lifetime of trials.

Circumstances don't alter what we are, they reveal what we are. It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Things can hurt us physically or economically and cause sorrow, but our character, our basic identity, doesn't have to be hurt at all.

Our most difficult experiences are the ones that make our character, and develop power and freedom in us to handle future difficult situations, and just as importantly to inspire others.

God doesn't bless great talent, He blesses a holy life.

God doesn't bless us to make us happy alone, He blesses us to make us a blessing. Look ahead in life. We don't drive very well with our eyes on the rear view mirror!