And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8
Most people know the story of Joseph–if not from reading it, then from watching the popular musical based on it. The favorite son of his father Israel, rejected by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, subjected to false accusations, forgotten in prison for years, suddenly becomes an example of a classic rags to riches story as the Pharaoh not only calls Joseph out of prison but then proceeds to make him a powerful leader. The one sold to slavery by his brothers, and thought by his father to be dead, ends up being the key to the preservation of God’s chosen people.
God used the rejected one to save a nation.
Most often the verse quoted in relation to the events of Joseph’s rollercoaster life is from Genesis 50: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (verse 20). Basically, many people tend to take Joseph’s story as an example of God using the bad things in our life for His glory. At least I always have. I kind of viewed Him as a Bounty paper towel: He was the “quicker picker-upper” able to clean up all the apparent messes of our lives to make them clean again. That is, if we are wronged by others, we can be hopeful knowing God has a plan. If things don’t seem to be going our way, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, we should trust God. We should hold on to hope, which according to a CD cover I read this morning for one of our church ministries, “is believing that something good can come out of something bad.”
And this is all well and good. God does indeed always have a plan. We should always have hope and be encouraged knowing all things will work out because God promises this in His Word. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Yet this morning, God opened my eyes to a different aspect of this story and of the idea of God working all things for our good and for His glory by highlighting another verse five chapters before the most famous passage: Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God (Genesis 45:8a). It is one I never really contemplated before, but the more I have meditated on the latter verse throughout the day, the more God has spoken to my heart.
Think about it for a moment. Nothing on this earth happens without God knowing about it first. Nothing. Whatever happens in our lives passes through our Heavenly Father’s hands first. Regarding Joseph, Psalm 105 declares God “had sent a man ahead of them” (vs. 17) and “until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (vs. 19). This means all the events of Joseph’s life were part of God’s plan. Not just some of them. Not just the good parts. All of them. Man didn’t choose Joseph’s journey, but God did.
Now in no way I am saying God causes bad things to happen. God is holy. He cannot cause or dwell with evil. Psalm 5:4 states God is “not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with” Him. James 1:13-14 reminds us to “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Deuteronomy 32:4 proclaims “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
What I am saying is everything in our lives has been allowed by God for our well-being and for His ultimate glory. Nothing happens by chance. Before the foundation of the world, before we were ever conceived, all the days of our lives were already written in His book (Psalm 139:14). All of them. Nothing in our lives comes as a surprise to God. Nothing.
Now if you peruse through previous posts, you’ll know the past several months of my life have been a bit crazy. My family and I went through the process of preparing to move to a new state–a process which included resigning from a job I held dear, withdrawing my kids from their schools, resigning from the positions I held at those schools, putting the house up for sale, and trying to figure out how to say goodbye to friends. Yet within one week’s time of my letting go of the last thing I was holding onto, my husband chose to return to our current location; he chose not to move.
At the time, I was devastated. I was devastated because while my husband went right back to the job he had before our almost move as if nothing had happened, I could not get my job back and only one of my kids could get back into the school we had withdrawn them from only 4 days prior. I felt like I’d lost everything. Of course, the key word is “felt” because I didn’t really lose everything, and I also should have known even then that if I truly wanted to find my life, I would have to lose it first anyway (Matthew 16:24-26).
But alas, I am a slow learner at times, so during the months since our “return” from our almost move, I would comfort myself with the famous Joseph passage. I didn’t agree with the choices others were making which affected me and I couldn’t understand why everything was happening in the manner it was, but I trusted God would use the negative things happening for His good. I trusted God would “fix” it. When talking to people, I’d often say something like “Although I do not think this is God’s choice, He is using it.” This morning, however, God showed me that by saying the events of my life were not God’s choice, I was not only blaming people for what happened to me, but also I was implying God is not in control, that He has just been working to fix the problem–that He has just been being the great “quicker picker upper” instead of the sovereign God He is. God showed me I’ve been subconsciously doubting His sovereignty.
Furthermore, if I am completely honest, although God has done mighty things in my heart and my life since those first devastating days of our “return” to our current location, I have still harbored some hurt. A few days ago I met a friend at a coffee shop for some fellowship. In the midst of our conversation, I commented that I try not to think too much about the events of my “return” and my inability to get everything back because of the little bit of hurt still present. Yes, God has done truly amazing things, and yes, He has used what I perceived as evil for good, but nevertheless there has still been a part of me that believed those with the earthly power to give me my earthly treasures back rejected me. When I found out I wasn’t moving, I fully believed those who had sent me off with glowing comments of how much they’d miss me would welcome me back, but they didn’t–at least not in the way I had expected. And it hurt. And although I have come a long way, I realized the other day, it still hurt. I still couldn’t look back without a bit of “what if” or “why” crossing my mind. I just still couldn’t fully understand how and why it all went down the way it did.
But God. God used two words this morning to begin transforming my way of thinking. I’ve been viewing the events of this summer and fall through human eyes and human understanding, not spiritual eyes and spiritual understanding. It was not any particular person or group of people who sent me to this current place I am in. It was not a rejection of me. It was God’s plan all along. God, who knows my heart more than I know my heart (1 Kings 8:39) has a plan for my life. This season has indeed been part of His plan all along. Or if I could personalize Genesis 45:8 for my situation, it would be, “Therefore it was not people who cost me the things I held dear, but God.” God knew what I needed and what He wanted. God knew I needed to lose the earthly things in order to gain the spiritual.
Man didn’t choose this path for me; God did.
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord for choosing this path for me! Would I have chosen it for myself? Nope. But I’m glad God did. I believe He did because He knew what would come if it. Let me take a moment to highlight some of the results of this unexpected journey:
- Better marriage
- Better mother
- Better relationships in general
- Defined personal boundaries
- Inner emotional balance
- Less anxiety
- Freedom from addiction to work
- More confidence in who God created me to be
- This blog
- More intimate relationship with God (by far the best part!)
I will say it again: Hallelujah! Praise be to the One Who holds my past, present, and future in His hands.
He holds yours as well.
The story of Joseph, the story of my life, and the story of your life, are not stories about God fixing things that go wrong and miraculously using them for His glory. No. Rather, it is a story of God sending each of us on a journey pre-ordained by Him for His glory (Psalm 105:17).
God is sovereign, and He never makes mistakes. Never. God chose this path for my life. He chose the path for your life. He alone chose it, and He chose it because He foreknew the current path each of us is traveling–good or bad by human standards–is the path able to bring Him the most glory. So should we waste time and energy focusing on what we once had or what we thought should be? No! Should we be anxious about people and events for which we have no control and cannot change? No! God alone is in control. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3).
As for my story, people didn’t hurt me. I chose to be hurt by them. People didn’t determine my current situation. God did. And my future? Well, it is in God’s hands–solely His hands.
So what about your story? Have you been hurt? Are you feeling rejected? Are things in your life right now difficult to understand? Are you asking why? Or maybe why not? Regardless of what you may be seeing or have seen with your physical eyes, I encourage you, to ask God for spiritual eyes and spiritual understanding. As Paul prayed, may God “…give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power to us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19).
Please don’t choose to be hurt by others. Please don’t look at your life as a series of messes God is trying to fix. Please don’t spend time fearing what the future holds. Rather, trust in Him. Trust in His sovereignty. Rest in the knowledge your current situation is not man’s plan, but God’s. And knowing this, knowing God is control, may you also see your life as God sees it: unique, special, and chosen. Yes, chosen. Chosen by God–the only wise God (Romans 16:27).
” Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3:20-21