We cannot always control our circumstances, but we can control our response.
Joseph had a pretty rough time. He was hated by his brothers because his dad loved him best. They sold him into slavery and told his dad he had died.
Then he was taken to another country and worked as a slave.
I sit here thinking, "Holy cow, God. Why would you do that? Why would Jacob live his whole life thinking his favorite son, Joseph, was dead? How awful for Joseph to be away from his family, living among a strange culture, a strange language, alone."
But if Joseph had never gone in the first place, millions of Egyptians and his own family would have died from starvation because of the famine that came.
The famine that Joseph foresaw.
The famine that Joseph ultimately saved Egypt... and his family... from.
And I think, "Ooookaaaaayyy, God. You knew all that. You knew that was going to happen. You let Joseph be taken so he could be in just that place for just that time. You gave him the ability to interpret dreams and the leadership skills to command a nation, and then placed him where he would do exactly that and save not only the Egyptians, but also rescue the beginnings of the nation of Israel.
Okay, God. I get it."
But, still the whole thing seems so harsh.
And then I wonder what if Joseph had given in to Potiphar's wife? No one was around. He was lonely and away from his family and working hard. What if he would have given in and slept with her? If he would have thought, "I'm lonely. I'm work hard. I'm at least due this."
It would have changed the course of everything else.
But, he could have just gone along with her, and she wouldn't have said anything and Potiphar wouldn't have been the wiser.
And Joseph wouldn't have wound up in prison, falsely accused.
(Which, come on. I'm sure he wasn't the first one she'd said, "Hey, baby..." to. I'm pretty sure everyone was fully aware of Potiphar's wife's reputation, saw Joseph's character, and knew the truth. On the other hand, I'm sure the other servants just knew it was a matter of time 'til she tried to seduce Joseph. Are you going to be talked about for giving in to temptation? Or for standing against it and facing persecution?)
If Joseph wouldn't have wound up in prison, he wouldn't have been able to interpret the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker.
Now, he could have just shrugged the guys off. "Idiots. How'd they wind up in prison? They sure squandered their position. If I was in that position..."
But, Joseph showed kindness.
If Joseph never would have interpreted their dreams (using his gift to bless others), the cupbearer wouldn't have been able to tell Pharaoh about "this guy who got the meaning of my dream right, so maybe he can tell you yours."
Now, the cupbearer didn't exactly follow through on his word to remember Joseph and get him out of prison. It took a while. Joseph could have grown bitter, because that would be frustrating! "Dude, you said you'd vouch for me, and I don't even come up in casual conversation until two years later?"
I mean, Joseph would have had every right to be mad, bitter, etc...
he could have sunk into depression and squandered his place of leadership the chief jailer had given him.
But he didn't.
And when called before Pharaoh, Joseph interpreted his dream (funny how God puts us in places to use the gifts He has placed in us) and was immediately promoted to a position where his gifts and abilities would save the nation of Egypt AND the forming nation of Israel.
It all looks like a bummer of a ride...
except the result...
the part where he saves countless people...
including two entire nations.
And I think of Jacob (Israel), when he's finally reunited with Joseph after thinking of all these years that he was dead.
What complete sorrow he endured. What depths of misery his soul carried every day.
"Man, God. What a bummer. Why would you allow a father to face such pain, such agony?"
Yet, the very son that he grieved for wound up saving his entire family.
And God told Jacob as he journeyed to Egypt to reunite with a son he thought was dead, "Don't be afraid. I will make you a great nation. I'll go down with you, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes." (Be with you when you die.)
God reunited this grieving father with his son, and Joseph was with Jacob when he died.
Now, I realize I'm a bit dramatic. I haven't been sold as a slave and shipped off to another country.
But, sometimes don't circumstances feel that way?
We feel falsely accused, trapped, forgotten.
None of it is fair.
We wonder why in the world God would place us where we are, allow us to walk through the circumstances we're in.
Because, it's not like Joseph had a choice about his circumstances!
But, he did have a choice about his response.
So, what's your response amidst your circumstances?
Are you going to give in to the call of Potiphar's wife? So many others have. So, what's the big deal if you do, too?
Or are you going to run away from the temptation?
Are you going to become bitter and angry at being falsely accused?
Are you going to act akin to where you're at (prison) and who you're surrounded by (prisoners, criminals)?
Or are you going to become a trusted, favored leader in the middle of it?
Are you going to become bitter and angry at being forgotten?
Surely, no one would blame you for lashing out sometimes with words and/or passive-aggressive actions. "Yeah, she's bitter. She's gone through some tough stuff."
Or are you going to keep faithfully serving where you're at, so when you are remembered and called upon, you can step forward with God's wisdom and favor fresh upon you?
Go read Joseph's story for yourself. It starts in Genesis 37.
Pretty crazy stuff. And pretty crazy results.
May we never doubt that God is the God of the smaller picture AND the bigger picture.
One is not independent of the other.
How are you responding to your smaller picture? Because it's going to affect your bigger picture.
I want to be one who saves nations.