Family functions—and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, at the hands of family, we find ourselves, without warning, in spiritual, emotional, intensive care units not within hospitals but within wells and prison cells. Such is what happened to Joseph.
The most favored son in his family, Joseph relished his position and, either from naiveté or pride, unwisely revealed his dreams of grandeur to some family members. Ah, family! The ones with whom we want to share our most intimate selves are often the ones who actively gang up on us, selling us out. Or, they passively sit there, watching us hurt—and do nothing. The Biblical account does not tell us how Joseph felt or thought after his family trauma, but since he was human like us, I can imagine a couple possibilities.
First, we have Joseph the ultimate positive thinker. I wonder if Joseph thanked the Lord, and his brothers, when he suddenly found himself on his hind end at the bottom of the pit after his family decided they were better off without him. Would he have said something like:
“Hey! Y’all up there! Thanks, dudes, for throwing me in here! I really like dark, damp, and small spaces! And, by the way, I’ve really been wanting some time alone. How did you know? You guys are sooooo AWESOME! Thanks God, for giving me such a great family!”
After a few minutes, he probably got busy planning for life-after-pit. I’m guessing he probably yelled up to his bros one more time adding:
“Yo! Guys! Y’all still up there? I’ve decided that when I get out of this pit, I’d really like to travel. So if you don’t mind, could you communicate my wish to the next southbound camel caravan? I’ve been dreaming of Egypt for some reason. A tour of Pharaoh’s palace would be GREAT! Could you make arrangements? I won’t forget you for it and, I promise, I’ll return the favor some day!”
Right. I’m sure he was thinking that, because, after all, that’s what WE would think if our family had thrown us in a pit, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Well, maybe YOU would, but my power of positive thinking isn’t quite that powerful yet.
Now let’s shift to the other extreme scenario. Perhaps Joseph’s reaction was similar to Eeyore’s:
“Why, what’s the matter?” Pooh asked Eeyore. (I can imagine some of Joseph’s brothers looking down at him asking the same thing, completely oblivious to the emotional consequences of their behavior.)
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.” (Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne)
And consider the advice Eeyore would have given to Joseph in his pitiful predicament:
“No Give and Take. No Exchange of Thought. It gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person’s tail is only just in sight for the second half of the conversation.” (The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne)
Poor Joseph. Ganged up on, thrown into an isolated pit, sold, never to be seen again, or so they thought. Not exactly healthy conflict resolution, to say the least!
So here we find Joseph, fresh out of the pit and on his way to Egypt via the Camel Express. From favored son to sold slave in less than a day! Now if that doesn’t knock one to their senses, if not off their camel, I don’t know what would! I suspect, Joseph probably had mixed emotions like most us of us would if we were in his situation. It hurts to be betrayed by those you love and trust, especially family. But once in the pit, knowing that family is not going to reconsider their actions and throw you a support line, we have to consider our options.
I suspect Joseph came to terms with his reality fairly quickly and sought God, knowing that God was his only source of comfort and salvation. Perhaps Joseph had invested too much in his favored position and in his self-confidence. With both suddenly removed, he was in a perfect position to discover God’s sovereignty and power. The same is true for us. When we find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control, when we are unexpectedly broadsided by those we love and thrown into a deep pit, we are in a prime position to see God’s sovereignty and power at work. What seems like a low spot in life becomes a springboard to something greater because it is of God, not us.
Joseph could have remembered his adolescent dreams and relished the revenge he could have on his family when they came to him, begging for food years later when Joseph was second in command to the Egyptian Pharaoh. But his years in confinement and exile—in God’s spiritual ICU—transformed his heart causing Joseph to relinquish his pride and seek God’s will in all things. Joseph became intimately acquainted with God’s sovereignty and provision, realizing that God permitted his family to do the unspeakable to bring about good for all involved. Jacob and sons were saved from the devastating famine, Joseph received a heart transplant, and a unloving family related by blood became a loving family connected by God.
Can we trust in God’s sovereignty and provision during times of trial even while licking our family-imposed emotional wounds? God will heal in due time. God is the great I AM—the same today as He was in Joseph’s day. Families haven’t changed one bit in the way they function over the centuries. But God is still sovereign. He ALWAYS gets His way!
The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11
Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! Revelation 19:6-7