Life would be a lot easier for most of us if there were not so many ups and downs, sharp turns, and unexpected obstacles. You know how sweet that feeling is when you reach a great open stretch of interstate and you can set the cruise control and relax as the car speeds down the highway. It’s even sweeter when you have just passed through a construction area or several miles of backed up traffic for which there appeared to be no reason.
In our area it seems this summer has provided more than a few challenges for those behind the wheel. There has been so much road construction that sometimes my husband and I have wondered if we would at some point be unable to get to any of our usual destinations. Ramp closings, lane changes, construction zones, and detours have been the norm.
Life can be like that more often than we wish as well. You may feel as if you have just overcome one challenge when another pops up. There are some seasons that seem to be especially rough and it can be tempting to wonder if the Lord is paying attention to what’s going on down here.
Sometimes prayers seem to go unanswered.
Will we ever get to the other side of where we are now?
One place we can find great encouragement is to check out some of the other flawed human beings trying to journey through life that we see in the Bible.
One of my favorite Old Testament characters is Joseph. His early story as his daddy’s favorite gives us plenty of reasons not to envy anyone who seems to be a parent’s favorite child. Despite the great looking brightly colored coat his daddy gave him, it couldn’t protect him from his brothers when they grew weary of his special status and dreams of great success at their expense
His story gives a whole new meaning to the despair of being in a pit. And if that weren’t bad enough, getting sold into slavery and hauled off to Egypt would make you wonder if the pit would have been better.
But things start to look up when his new owner thinks he is tops and gives him more freedom than he could ever have expected. Being apart from his family isn’t his preference, but the master of the house where he works is making it a bit more bearable.
Just about the time Joseph thinks his life is settling down into his new routine, his master’s wife tries to seduce him. And when he rebuffs her and flees, she grabs his tunic and accuses him of assault. He had been the model servant and now on top of all he has endured, he gets pulled out of his job and thrown into prison. Things are grim for sure.
Somehow in the depths of the prison, the captain of the guard sees his leadership and puts him in charge. He’s in a dank, dark, moldy prison, but oversight of the other prisoners gives him a little better situation. He can’t help but wonder where God was and what all those grand dreams were about.
Joseph couldn’t imagine he had been so bad that he deserved this. What were his brothers thinking? Their dad was wealthy and they were all going to end up well off if the livestock herds grew and the crops were prosperous.
Prison life looks a bit more hopeful when two of Pharaoh’s servants get thrown into prison and each has a troubling dream. Joseph tells them God will reveal the meaning of the dream to him and both the cup bearer and the baker are eager to hear what he has to say.
Once he gives them the news, he asks them a favor. He wants them to tell Pharaoh about him when the interpretation he’s given comes true. Sounds like a glimpse of light to Joseph.
Sure enough the interpretation comes true three days later and one servant regains his position and the other gets hanged. What a relief for the cup bearer! He goes along watching every aspect of his position so he doesn’t land back in prison again, but he forgets about Joseph until Pharaoh is troubled by a dream. Then he remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh. By now Joseph knew his request was forgotten so what a surprise when Pharaoh now sends for him.
He gets a new tunic, a good bath, and a fresh shave and off he goes to Pharaoh. That God-given gift of interpretation gets a chance to be used and suddenly Joseph is given great favor again.
You know how the story turns out. Joseph is used by God to save his entire family from destruction. More importantly, Joseph’s heart is changed and humbled so that God can entrust him with His purposes.
When our lives feel like we are in a construction zone on an interstate highway and we have nowhere to go, it might be good to remember Joseph and what his life revealed.
Felt or unfelt, seen or unseen, in sin or success, God is with us.