What does it take to walk through life’s hardships, injustices and heartaches and come out triumphant on the other side? The story of Joseph in the Bible is highly relevant to today and clearly illustrates what is required – and (spoiler alert!) it’s not creating a checklist of grievances, hating a certain gender or color, or ruminating constantly over past wrongs.
Let’s recap what Joseph legitimately had to complain about: His own siblings hated him, threw him into a pit, let him get taken into slavery, and faked his death to cover their wrongs. In captivity, he seemed to do well initially in his master’s house until his master’s wife got the hots for him, tried to seduce him, and when he resisted her charms, she falsely accused him, getting him thrown into prison. Once in prison, he helped one of the kings servants interpret a dream and asked him to put in a good word for him - but the man immediately forgot after he was released. Joseph had a LOT of unfair, unjust things happen to him. But his mental attitude and his resulting actions were completely God-focused and he didn’t deviate, regardless of the situation.
Looking at all the qualities that Joseph embodied, we see how actively living in communion with God, listening for his direction, attributing every little good thing back to God, governs, guides, protects and blesses – and not just the person but everyone that person comes in contact with as well. Let’s examine a few of these qualities that bless:
Principle – Joseph spoke and acted as he was directed by God, and he didn’t worry if what he said was going to rock the boat, humanly. He knew his brothers didn’t’ like him but that didn’t stop him from sharing his dreams about the sheaves of wheat bowing to one particular sheaf. Nor did it stop him from addressing his brothers faults or disobediences.
Humility – he saw God alone as the source of all good, all intelligence. He didn’t take credit for himself but gave all credit to God. “And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
Morality – he would not sin against God. When Potiphar’s wife repeatedly threw herself at Joseph, he didn’t take advantage of the situation but consistently denied her. In today’s TV and movies, how many people don’t give in to that kind of temptation and indulgence, especially when the other partner is so willing??
Love – Joseph never indulged in hatred, never let his circumstances stop him from reflecting Love. He did this in captivity, in prison, and it culminated in him eventually becoming Pharoah’s right hand man, allowing him to save his family from starvation (along with the rest of the nation that had originally taken him in as a slave.)
Was Joseph a “natural?” Did this trust and obedience just come naturally to him? What if it did, to some extent? It didn’t mean that he never had to flex any spiritual muscle. Even the best athletes of our day, who have loads of natural talent, can’t succeed unless they push and hone and train their talent. The Bible speaks to this in the parable of the talents: the master gave his talents unequally, some got more than others – but even the servant who had only one talent was expected to put it to work and to make it grow. And so are we – even if what we get seems to be unequal to that of someone else. When we put the talents we are given to work, we are blessed!
Joseph put his talents to work in his day to day life, and they continued to expand and grow to the point where he was able to save a family and a nation. He couldn’t have done that if he indulged in a victim mentality, always blaming others for his woes. Of profound importance, too, is the fact that if his life had just been smooth sailing and if he’d never experienced the adversity that honed him to a higher level, think of the suffering that would’ve occurred. Just goes to show that the Bible has an undeniable relevance to the issues of today and clear guidance on the best way to navigate them!
RLM - Atlanta, GA