The Favor of Suffering.

4/27
((from Brittany))

I love the story of Joseph. LOVE it.  Ok, I’ll be honest, there were a few seasons in life where I dreaded it, but I’ve come to love it. I’ll share why in a second – but first, here’s a quick refresher on Joseph’s story (also you can read the whole beautiful passage here in Gen. 37-50):

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son (thus the fabulous coat of colors). His brothers hated him for it so they tried to kill him, but one of his brothers intervened and they decided to sell him into slavery instead. The brothers returned to their father with the bloody coat of colors and the lie of his death. Jacob was devastated and Joseph was purchased as a slave in Potiphar’s house. The Lord blessed Joseph, so Potiphar made Joseph head of his whole household.

Things were going great, Joseph was a looker, God was blessing his work, and things seemed to be on the rise for a guy who just almost lost his life at the hands of his brothers. But his luck was about to run out as Potiphar’s wife took notice of Joseph. She wanted him, couldn’t have him, and even though Joseph did the upright and holy thing, he was still accused and tossed in jail for something he didn’t do.

Anyone noticing a trend here?

While in jail, Scripture says this: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” And as a result Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and again whatever Joseph did, the Lord made it succeed. Through a turn of God-ordained events and favor, Joseph shows his ability to understand dreams to Pharoah’s cupbearer and this guy ends up getting out of jail, just as Joseph had interpreted from his dream. The cupbearer promises to tell Pharaoh all about Joseph when he is set free, but sadly Joseph is forgotten by the cupbearer. Two whole years passed by before Joseph was needed and the cupbearer remembered him.

I’m fast-forwarding through a lot, but the end of the story is a beautiful one. Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dreams, gets out of jail and God again blesses Joseph. He is made Pharoah’s right hand man and is able to predict and provide for the entire nation during famine. His brothers come for food, they reunite, and Joseph forgives them with the famous phrase, “What you meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” 

Y’all, that is a quick and insufficient recap of thirteen chapters in Scripture, but I need you to see the whole story so we can go back and have context for one tiny storyline in Joseph’s life: Suffering.

If you read through the passages you’ll notice a trend. Joseph is always favored, especially in seasons of suffering. His father favored him in chapter 37 and then God gives him favor with everyone else he comes in contact with. Throughout his story, we see phrases like “The Lord was with Joseph,” and “The Lord blest Joseph,” and “The Lord gave him favor.”  Everything Joseph’s hand touched experienced success. And yet, we see these phrases mostly in chapter 39, during both his servitude and his imprisonment.

How can someone with so much favor experience that much suffering? 

Why would God clearly ordain these circumstances in one of his children’s lives?

This is what I wrestled with during my own season of suffering. I feared being a Joseph. I was afraid that after one season of suffering ended, another wave would come crashing in despite the Lord’s steadfast love for me. My doubt wasn’t in His love, rather it rested in wondering if God’s favor and love would lead me into continual seasons of suffering. Because contrary to what my American Christianity has taught me, suffering and God’s favor aren’t incompatible. If anything, it’s quite the opposite.

So when life’s skies turned grey, I didn’t like the story of Joseph. I didn’t like having to wonder how I would respond if my life’s story mirrored Joseph’s life story.

Could I acknowledge that God’s divine hand brought me to my greatest low and be content with the reality that my suffering was used for a greater good (whether seen or unseen)? Could I stand at the end of my days and proclaim the same as what Joseph said in Genesis 50? Could my heart ever believe that what life meant for evil, Abba Father meant for good?

I realized when pain was at it’s greatest, that wasn’t the time to answer those large questions. Rather, I learned during the day-in and day-out of suffering that it was enough to be honest, “I’m not sure, but what I know to be true in this moment is that God is good and that’s enough.” 

As time passed and the wound of suffering became a scar, I noticed that my scar no longer pointed to the pain I had endured but rather it pointed to a good and faithful Father. And with that perspective I now can honestly profess that if I had the choice between living a life without immense suffering and living a wounded life full of scars that point to our redeeming Father, I’d choose the latter.

The Brittany pre-suffering wouldn’t have said that, but today I stand before you having endured some of life’s greatest heartaches with arms raised in worship, and tears streaming down my face testifying that whatever God ordains is good.

And this is why I love the story of Joseph. You see, Genesis 37-50 isn’t about Joseph and it’s not about you and me. All stories in the Old Testament are pointing to one BIGGER story.  So the story of Joseph is about a Greater Joseph who came to save His people and is coming again, JESUS. And on the cross he proclaimed, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” What we meant for evil, God used for good. And because of that work on the cross and in the grave, we can endure any trial and any suffering and proclaim that He is good. He is enough. He is better than your comfort and He is at His best in your pain.

Hold onto Hope my friends, our greater Joseph has come once and He is coming again.

Hoping with you,

Brittany

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