“It was God who sent me”

Daily Readings: Genesis 41-46

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

-Genesis 45:4-8

I absolutely the love the climax of the Joseph story that we read in Genesis today. I try to put myself in Joseph’s shoes and imagine how I would respond when my brothers show up all of those years later. It would be incredibly easy to be angry, resentful, and bitter towards the people that first tried to kill you and then sold you into slavery. These were the brothers that turned your life upside down for 13 years. How natural would it be to want to return the favor and use your current position of power to throw them into prison? How easy would it be to have the posture of your heart be, “You tried to harm me, but look at what I have accomplished in spite of your best efforts!” and be puffed up with pride and arrogance?

Instead Joseph wept. Joseph forgave instantly. Joseph gave all of the glory to God.

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Joseph was sent ahead to save lives.

In our own lives, there are many challenges that we are faced with. There are many circumstances we endure throughout the course of our lives that naturally have the opportunity to cause anger, frustration, heartache, and bitterness; towards other people and towards God. In these moments, do we respond like Joseph?

At two months old, after a twelve-day hospital stay, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and we embarked on a year of chemotherapy. It was a heartbreaking ordeal, but one of the very first conversations my wife and I had after receiving the diagnosis was about how we were going to choose to view this next phase of our journey. We made the decision early on to trust God with Sophie and to trust that he would use our story for his glory if we would allow it. There were still lots of challenges throughout that year, but it was so much more peaceful after turning it over to God.

Since then I have seen time and time again how that set of circumstances have allowed me to minister to others in a way I would not have been able to without them. I have seen God work through Sophie’s cancer to move in a powerful way in other people’s lives.

I don’t know if God caused Sophie’s cancer as a part of his larger story because it had a very specific purpose or whether Sophie went through cancer because we live in a fallen and broken world. There are circumstances in life that fall into both of those categories. Some trials are God ordained and some are a result of the sin in the world, choices that we make, and active attacks by the enemy. However, on one point the Bible is crystal clear.

Regardless of whether those challenges are God ordained, God will redeem those trials in your life and “send you ahead”, just like Joseph, if you are willing.

I look forward to asking God in heaven one day about various challenges I faced and whether he put them there for a purpose or if they were the result of choices I made that were not in line with his will or the result of living in a fallen and broken world. In the meantime, I have found a much greater sense of peace in accepting that I may not know for sure until that day, but that, in this moment, I do have the ability to trust that the God of the universe is going to use those trials to advance his story. I have a much higher degree of peace and thankfulness when asking God to use these challenges to “send me ahead”.

Thought to ponder

What trials have you faced in your own life that God can redeem to send you ahead?

Five short chapters later…

Daily Readings: Genesis 37-41, Psalm 16

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

-Psalm 16:7-8

Keeping our eyes always on the Lord can be easier said than done at times in our lives. Declaring that we will not be shaken regardless of what comes, knowing that God is always there at our right hand to counsel us, can be incredibly challenging!

One of the best stories throughout the entire Bible that illustrates this is found in Genesis today when looking at the life of Joseph. Talk about a rollercoaster!

Throughout the course of five chapters we see some amazing drama unfold. Joseph is his father’s favorite son. Then, out of jealousy, his brothers sell him into slavery. God has a different plan, however, and Potiphar puts Joseph in charge over his entire household. This doesn’t last long. Soon Potiphar’s wife is trying to seduce Joseph. When he refuses, she lies about Joseph attempting to rape her and has him thrown in prison. God is still with Joseph and the warden eventually puts Joseph in charge of the prison. After miraculous dream interpretations from God, Joseph is let out of prison and put in charge of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh!

Joseph’s story truly is the stuff that movies are made from. Challenges, high points, devastating plot twists, and eventually redemption. There is an inspiring theme throughout the story of Joseph that applies to our life as well.

God wants to use your story, no matter how bad it looks, to further his plan for your life. Whether the adversity you face was God ordained for a specific purpose, or simply self-inflicted based on our own choices; God will use those challenges to advance his story and serve others if we allow him to.

The hard part is remaining patient as God does his miraculous work of redeeming our story. It is easy to read the story of Joseph for 10-15 minutes, over the course of 5 chapters, and say, “Wow. Look at the faithfulness of God!”

It is easy to scan over the following verses without even thinking about them:

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers

Some time later 

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…

This entire short story for us was anything but short for Joseph. As soon as things began looking up, immediately the next shoe fell. Over and over and over again. This wasn’t 13 days or even 13 months; it was 13 years!

I try to put myself in Joseph’s shoes. I think about the last time we see him made to wait in this story. Joseph gives the cupbearer good news about his dream and simply asks that he talk to Pharaoh on his behalf once the cupbearer is restored to his former position. Joseph must have been sitting there that day when the cupbearer was restored, eagerly awaiting the call for him to be released from prison. Finally! After years in slavery and then prison, I am going to get out!

That day passes, and the next one, and the next one…

Eventually the cupbearer remembers Joseph and, only a chapter later, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream, is released from prison, and in charge of all of Egypt!

One chapter for us was a two-year wait for Joseph.

How patient are we with God’s story? How do we respond when we are in the midst of the slavery chapter in our lives? Where do we fix our eyes when waiting in our own personal prison for longer than we would like?

Often in my own life when going through challenges I try to maintain the perspective that God is going to use this for his glory in some way. This trial will allow me to minister to others in the future who are dealing with similar challenges as I am facing right now.

It is a comforting thought. However, more often that not, I want to pass quickly through the prison phase and get the part where I am in charge of all of Egypt! I want to fast forward God’s plan. I want to skip ahead.

Whatever you are facing right now or whatever trials you face in the future, God can use them to advance his plan. He can use them to have a powerful impact in the lives of others. He can redeem them for his glory. Our job is to release control, trust in his timing, and keep our eyes fixed firmly on him.

Thought to ponder

How could God use previous challenges in my life to advance his kingdom and to serve others?

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