You may be doing everything right, and something very wrong might happen. How’s that for a dose of encouragement today?!?! It goes against everything we want to believe about life and about God, doesn’t it? It’s not fair. In fact, by our thinking, it’s downright unacceptable. Proper behavior should result in blessings. Wicked, rebellious behavior should result in curses. That’s what it says in Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight, so that’s what we should be able to take to the bank, right? It leads to the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people and vice versa? For the child of God, we can be encouraged!
Reading in Genesis this week, I slowed at the wonder of the story of Joseph. We’ve probably all heard it countless times. Made famous in Sunday school rooms around the world and throughout the ages, the adventurous saga of jealous brothers, a coat of many colors, and a slave who rises to power in a prison cell establishes a core certainty on which we must hang our faith. Our hope. Our ability to move forward when life is dragging us down and there’s no reasonable explanation to “Why me?”
Jealous of daddy’s favorite and made about his dreams, Joseph’s brothers fake his murder and sell him into slavery. Betrayed, abandoned, and now in bondage, Joseph ends up in Egypt where Potipher buys him. Life is not good. But Genesis 39:2-3 tells us, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did prosper into his hand.” So Potipher sets Joseph over his house and all he has. Being a handsome fellow, Joseph catches the eye of Potipher’s wife, who proceeds to throw herself at him. When he acts honorably and declines her solicitations, saying it would be a “great wickedness, and sin against God” (verse nine), she puts on the drama and essentially accuses him of attempted rape.
Joseph does the right thing, is wrongly accused, and ends up in prison. Isn’t that breaking the rules for the way it should be? Once again, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (verse twenty-one). “Whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (verse twenty-three).
Keep in mind, Joseph has no idea why this is happening. We don’t see into the details of his heart or attitude during his many trials, but nothing in scripture indicates heated debates with the Lord about why. We don’t see any evidence of a bitter heart because life’s not fair. All we see is the Lord’s hand upon him. Given the character of God and what the word tells us about blessings for the righteous, I believe it’s safe to assume Joseph kept his heart right before God, his attitude pleasing Him, and his behavior virtuous.
While Joseph is in prison for the crime he didn’t commit, Pharaoh has a dream his magicians can’t interpret and is told about Joseph’s ability to understand and explain dreams. He summons Joseph to interpret, and Joseph clarifies, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16). Joseph describes the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams, and Pharaoh says to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you” (verses thirty-nine through forty).
In this powerful position, Joseph is able to store up provision during famine and eventually provide for his own family. When he later reveals himself to his bewildered brothers who unknowingly come to him for food, he assures them, “Do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5), “to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God” (verses seven and eight). After his father Jacob dies and his brothers panic that he will turn on them, he again assures them, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
The thing is, Joseph did not know this BEFORE when everything wrong was happening to him. He had to trust God and continue to do the right thing, even as wrong things happened again and again. By faith, not by sight, he served God, and God gave him favor.
As in Joseph’s case, God may not right our wrongs right away, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t working all things to good, even when wrong things happen. That’s why we walk by faith not by sight.
Perhaps God is allowing, and maybe even causing, certain events that are sad or uncomfortable, trying and difficult for another person’s deliverance or because He wants someone else to know He is God. It’s easy to let God demonstrate Himself in our lives through abundant blessings, provision and deliverance! But what about when He demonstrates Himself by allowing us to go through extremely trying times? Times when we fear for our families or even our very lives? Are we willing then? Will we praise Him by faith and not allow what we see to deter our love and devotion to Him?
Lord, help us to trust You in all things as we become more wholly Yours today.