Are tragedies actually blessings in disguise?
To answer that question, let’s consider these two snapshots from the life of Joseph:
Snapshot #1: “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight…” Genesis 39:2-4
Snapshot #2: “The LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. … And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” Genesis 39:21-23
Each of these passages describes a time when Joseph was thriving. Professionally, spiritually, relationally… These were some of the best moments in his life!
But that’s not at all the whole story. In fact, both of those excerpts come right after stunning setbacks in Joseph’s biography.
Snapshot #1 comes right after Joseph was brazenly betrayed by his own brothers and sold to slave labour in a country far away from home. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? Think of the bitterness and despair Joseph could have easily allowed himself to succumb to.
Snapshot #2 describes Joseph’s imprisonment, which happened because he was falsely accused of assaulting his boss’s wife. According to one Jewish tradition, he was in prison for 12 years. Twelve years! Locked in jail for so long, during the prime of your life, all because of something you didn’t even do.
According to one Jewish tradition, Joseph was in prison for 12 years
Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have handled setbacks like that. I can’t imagine the feelings of anger, doubt, or even all the “why?” and “what if” questions that could have haunted Joseph in the wake of such stunning strokes of bad fortune.
But do you know how Joseph responded to those trials? Read the passages above again.
My grandpa likes to say: “It’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s what you do with it.” I like that reminder. We aren’t defined by our circumstances. But how we respond to our circumstances does define us.
And we see that so clearly with Joseph. After each setback, each betrayal, each unexpected misfortune, Joseph chose to grow. To overcome. To thrive.
Not once do we read about him snapping or lashing out in anger. Not once do we see him reacting poorly to his circumstances. Not once does he descend into pity and despair.
The story of Joseph suggests that it is possible to suffer extraordinary disappointments without losing hope. Without walking away from the Lord. Without growing bitter and hopeless. Do our lives bear witness to that too?
The story of Joseph suggests that it is possible to suffer extraordinary disappointments without losing hope
Friends, 2020 has been an awfully hard year in so many ways. I’m not sure what difficulties you are facing right now, or what losses you’ve already experienced. I don’t know what the rest of this year or this decade will hold, or what future trials still loom large in front of us.
But clearly, as we see in the life of Joseph, it is possible to respond well to our trials.
Not only that, God is most glorified when we choose hope and trust — instead of vengeance and anger.
I’m not saying we should never grieve or cry out to God in moments of frustration and pain. We see many examples in Scripture of raw emotion and real anger — and, sometimes, those are the best responses, given the circumstances.
Even still, think of how inspiring someone’s life becomes when they encounter some huge trial and emerge even stronger and better from it.
That’s the story of Joseph’s life. Incredibly hard things happened to him, and he still flourished beyond everyone’s expectations. His faith only grew stronger through it all.
I hope that’s the story we’re writing too.
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