Right now I'm reading about Joseph, in Genesis 39. Jacob, Joseph's father is rich. Very rich. He amassed a lot of wealth working for his father-in-law (because God was with him). So Joseph has grown up fairly cushty (comfortably). We don't read anywhere before the slave situation about Joseph doing any kind of manual labour, and in fact, when he was out in the desert in his specially made coat (Jacob, his father, had commissioned a special coat for him because he was his favourite) he was only there to check on his brothers and report back, he wasn't even out there helping them!
And then all of a sudden Joseph finds himself working as a slave. Riches to rags. Everything he has ever known is gone...except God. (The following verses I am translating from my Svensk Folkbibeln Translation into English)
Genesis 39.1-2 - 'Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, one of Pharoah's officals and the commander of the guards had bought him (Joseph) from the Ishmaelites who had brought him. The Lord was with Joseph and in everything he did he succeeded. He was in the house of his Egyptian Lord...'
And then as if Joseph hadn't been humiliated enough, going from a wealthy, luxurious lifestyle to one where he was a slave, he gets accused of attempted rape and finds himself in prison.
Genesis 39.19-20 (Summation) - 'When Joseph's master heard..he became furious and put Joseph in jail...'
Genesis 39.21 - 'But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him grace and let the prison manager respond well to him.'
Genesis 39.23 - '...because the Lord was with him and let him succeed in all he did.'
I always think Joseph's is such an amazing story. He starts off like a big shot, gets dumped in a well, sold as a slave, accused of attempted rape and thrown in jail...but he ends in triumphant fashion. He ends up saving his entire family from famine...not to mention all of Egypt.
I like his story for a number of reasons:
- God just seems to be with him all the time. And not only that, it says continually that he succeeds irregardless of where he is physically because God is with him. That's pretty cool. To be a slave, and be a success. To be in prison, but to still be a success and have special kindness given to you.
- His prison background didn't stand in the way of God's plan for his life. God is so much bigger than our pasts. He is in the business of shaping big futures for people whose lives at one point looked hopeless.
- No time is wasted time with God. Later in the story when Joseph explains the dreams of the two court officials in jail and they forget him when they come out, it seems like it was a waste. But God is always true to His promises, and when He says that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him, He means it.
- His great beginning was only a shadow of his extraordinary ending. Yes, Joseph's life started fairly comfortably, growing up in a wealthy family, nice coat and so on, but at the end of his life he is governor in a land, second only to the king. In Christ our futures are so much richer than our humble beginnings. As CS Lewis once said 'There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.'
God has such great things planned for each of our lives that go way beyond our own needs, happiness and comfort and touch the lives of others. Sometimes we can be on our way somewhere great and it doesn't quite go how we thought it would...but it goes as He knew it would...and the best thing is that in those 'hopeless', 'wasted' seasons, He is most at work in the things we can't see preparing us for the futures He sees for us.