Thursday, December 4, 2014



I wonder if any other Old Testament figure endured the personal anguish that he did.

The favorite son of Jacob, he was hated by his 10 jealous older brothers who conspired against him and sold him to slave traders, then lied to Jacob, saying that Joseph had been mauled by a stray animal.

Betrayed by his own brothers. Thrown into a pit and then sold as an animal would be. I can’t imagine the pain of that familial betrayal.

He was then sold again by those traders to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph served well under Potiphar, but his master’s wife wrongly accused him of rape one day. A man of impeccable integrity, I cannot imagine how he coped with the pain of false accusation. On top of his personal angst, he was thrown into prison for the alleged crime.

Each time I read Joseph’s story, I am newly amazed at this man’s tenacity, his confidence in God’s providence over his life, and his boundless determination to see good evolve from evil.

His life ended well, as we know. The prison keeper befriended him and learned of Joseph’s divine ability to interpret dreams. After Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh, he was elevated to a place of prominence and given governance over the land and crops of Egypt, eventually saving his entire extended family from starvation during 7 years of famine that he himself foresaw. 

Joseph’s struggles and burdens have shaped him. His pain has taught him lessons. How do we know this?

Baby names. 

In Genesis 41:51 we see that Joseph names his first son Manasseh, which means “God has made me forget all my troubles.” And then he has a second son and names him Ephraim, which means “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

He forgot the pain and found meaning in it all. Wow.

So profound were those two lessons that Joseph wove them into the names of his first two children.

As I wallow in the land of uncertainty with cancer, wondering if it is still growing, being off all medical treatment, wondering what my real diagnosis is, wondering if I will have to endure more horrible side effects……. I am brought to my knees with thoughts of Joseph.

He teaches me that God will bring enough healing to me someday that I will forget all of the emotional and physical pain of the past 4 years, and he teaches me that God will bring something fruitful, something of value, from this vast and dark expanse called cancer.

On days when I have a hard time believing that, I only need to flip back to that 41st chapter of Genesis and take my cues from one whose adversity more than rivaled my own. Joseph pressed His soul into His Lord and trusted His sovereignty. He endured his pain. He put one foot in front of the other and kept moving two steps forward, one step back. He walked straight through several hells on earth before God showed His hand.

And then Joseph sees the larger picture. He sees how the path of his pain has brought a blessing to his family.

"What you meant for evil, God turned into good." (Gen 50:20)

Joseph’s finest words to his brothers. 

His verbal magnum opus.

His realization that beauty comes from ashes when you trust that the last chapter in a book of suffering and adversity will always be written by the One who makes the ending one of boundless worth.

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