Everyone has been in a dark place at some point in their life. We live in a world where there exists unspeakable large-scale and personal tragedies that bring pain, suffering and heartache. It’s hard – sometimes unbelievably hard – to find any good coming from such things. But, however hard it is, we need to realize that God has a plan that is unfolding behind the scenes for good.
It’s understandable if you don’t believe that. Being persecuted for your faith or rejected by your family isn’t good. Being sick isn’t good. Friends turning their back on you isn’t good. Having all your possessions destroyed in a flood isn’t good. Losing a child isn’t remotely good.
Fill in whatever terrible scenario you can think of and it isn’t good in our eyes.
Why we experience these dark times is another topic entirely. For today, we are simply trying to draw encouragement from knowing that God has a plan even through our darkest times. You may not feel it, but you can know and be reassured of it.
God knows what will come on the other side of your pain. And we can see that in the life of Joseph, someone who went through some of the darkest times of anyone in the Bible. Here is his story and what we can learn from it.
Joseph: The Hated Family Member
We are told in Genesis 37 that Joseph had it good – at least with his father Jacob. For whatever reason, Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons. To show his love and affection, he fashioned special, expensive clothing for Joseph to wear around. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with his brothers.
Joseph also had some special revelations given to him by God through dreams. They were confusing at the time but did suggest that, at some point in the future, all of Joseph’s brothers and even his father would bow down to him in worship and submission. The older family members submit to the child? No way his brothers said when they were told about this.
It probably wasn’t easy for Joseph growing up as a child. Think how that must have been like, feeling the tension from your brothers every time you turned around. He knew they envied him and all the privilege he received from his father (Gen. 37:11). But it went much deeper than that as Joseph would soon find out.
One day when Joseph went to check on his brothers in the field, they hatched a plan to murder him. Only through the intervention of the eldest brother Reuben did Joseph escape this fate. Instead, his brothers stripped him down and sold him to some slave traders on a passing caravan headed to Egypt. And to top it all off, they took his favorite clothing back home and told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Lies. Betrayal. Abandonment. Joseph faced it all by those closest to him – his family. Doesn’t seem like at this point God has a plan for good for Joseph. In fact, this was just the beginning of his dark times.
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Joseph: The Slave
The traders that bought Joseph from his brothers ended up in Egypt. There Joseph was placed on the slave market. A strong, young man would have been very enticing to a rich household in need of workers. And so it was that Joseph ended up becoming the property of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the ruler of the land.
God still had a plan for Joseph and was with him during his time serving Potiphar. God blessed the work of Joseph’s hand so that Potiphar looked kindly on him. In fact, Potiphar made him overseer of his entire household.
But still, Joseph was a slave.
You don’t have freedom as a slave. He probably didn’t believe he would ever get out of that position. No future to pursue his own life. Just day in and day out of serving, at the beck and call of your master. His slavery was a picture of hopelessness.
And then, some time later while serving Potiphar, came another problem.
Potiphar’s wife took an interest in Joseph – a REAL interest. Genesis 39:6 says that Joseph was handsome in appearance. Potiphar’s wife saw it and wanted Joseph for herself. She pestered Joseph to have intimate relations with her. Each time Joseph refused. But the seducing persisted, day in and day out.
Finally, one day she went all out. When they were alone, she grabbed Joseph by his garment, physically forcing herself on him. When Joseph broke free and fled, she cried out to the other servants, claiming that Joseph had tried to rape her. So Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.
Joseph: The Prisoner
Just like God blessed Joseph in Potiphar’s house, he blessed him in prison. Joseph again stood out among all the other prisoners. So much so that the chief guard made Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners (Gen. 39:22).
Joseph has some interesting interactions while in prison with some former workers of Pharaoh that themselves had gotten into trouble. God actually ends up helping him correctly interpret some dreams these individuals have. When one of them is restored to Pharaoh’s service, Joseph asks him to remember him and speak a kind word to Pharaoh about him.
Wouldn’t you know it – the guy forgets. Talk about a lack of gratitude.
So Joseph remained in prison, rotting away for two full years.
We don’t get a clear indication from the Bible but this had to be the low point of Joseph’s life. He had to have had doubts. There must have been despair. Surely a time or two he questioned why God allowed him to go through this. He had to wonder if the downward spiral of his life would ever end.
Life could not have been any darker.
God Has a Plan for Joseph’s Redemption
It had been about 13 years since Joseph had been sold by his brothers into Egypt. Life hadn’t turned out the way he thought. But God, through all the pain and suffering, did have a plan. And in Genesis 41 it begins to unfold.
Pharaoh has some disturbing dreams. He announces them to all his workers in the hopes someone can interpret them. This triggers the memory of the worker who Joseph had helped in prison. He tells Pharaoh about Joseph.
And just like that, within a few moments, Joseph is brought from prison, bathed, groomed and headed to Pharaoh’s court.
God again helps Joseph interpret a dream, one that pointed to a coming crisis – a famine in the land. Pharaoh is impressed. And wouldn’t you know it, he put Joseph in charge of all the land of Egypt, second only in authority to Pharaoh himself. Talk about redemption!
In time, through careful and wise planning, Joseph would save Egypt from severe famine. The famine was so bad it impacted the entire region and would lead Joseph’s brothers to find their way to Egypt to find food. And in a twist of fate that only the best screenwriter could pen for a movie, they have a run-in with Joseph while in Egypt.
The families interaction and reunion with Joseph is a beautiful story of forgiveness and restoration. Joseph’s dad Jacob and all his household would end up in Egypt living under Joseph’s protection. In this way, God allowed Joseph to save His people from certain starvation due to the famine.
God Has a Plan for You
Joseph didn’t know what God had in store for him. We wouldn’t wish the tragedy he faced on anyone. But in the end, he witnessed God’s plan unfold in a way he couldn’t have imagined. He even expressed this to his brothers one day when they got worried that Joseph might take revenge on them for what they had done to him.
In a beautifully eloquent statement he says to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? [to take revenge]…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many lives” (Genesis 50:19-20).
God has a plan for you. It’s probably really hard for you to see it in the face of your dark time. For what it’s worth, other people, like Joseph, have dealt with similar pain and come out OK on the other side. Knowing God has a plan – some kind of plan – should give you the strength and courage to face whatever comes your way.
Share a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Is it hard for you to believe that God has a plan when you are going through a difficult time? How do you handle it? What is your big takeaway from what Joseph went through? How else can his story be an encouragement to us?
Image courtesy of Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
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