by Steve DuPlessie
You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help, you’ll get through this.”
The story of Joseph gives us such a powerful portrayal of how God can take that which is evil and he can use it to accomplish the Upper Story, to accomplish something good. You remember what happened? Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery in Egypt. He actually flourished as a slave, becoming the head butler in the house of the Commander of the Pharaoh’s Guard Unit.
But Pharaoh’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual assault. Unfortunately the accusation was as good as a conviction and he was sent to prison. But he flourished there and was made head Trustee over all the prison. When he correctly interpreted the dream of a fellow prisoner. And when that guy was released back to his old job as Pharaoh’s cup bearer, he promised to put in a good word for Joe.
But Joseph languished in prison for two more years. two years. He could have become bitter and angry. He could have stopped believing God cared about him. But two years later his buddy finally remembered he was supposed to put in a good word for Joseph with Pharaoh.
Does anybody remember what prompted him to remember Joseph? Pharaoh had a dream! A dream! He came in one day with a dream hangover. It bothered him. He said, “Somebody tell me what this dream means.” Nobody could. Finally, Joseph’s buddy remembered Joseph, the dreamer and dream interpreter. He said, “I know a guy, he’s in prison…”
And as fast as you can say divine providence Joseph went from prison to palace. They cleaned him up, got him smelling good, and brought him into the throne room to meet Pharaoh. Joseph heard the dream. He said, “I get it. That’s first grade math. We’re heading for some tough times. Seven years of good, but then there’s going to be seven years of famine. Pharaoh, you’d be wise to prepare.”
Pharaoh was wise and said “You’re in charge now, Joe.” And suddenly the ex-prisoner was the Prime Minister of Egypt. And the story of Joseph is now about Joe navigating a nation through a crisis. It’s not hyperbole to say Joseph saved the world, because other nations, neighboring nations, came to Egypt during the famine asking for help. And because Egypt had saved up during the seven years of plenty, when the seven years of famine came, guess who had full grain silos?
And guess who showed up, needing help? The same brothers who had thrown him into a pit. Did they recognize Joseph? No. Joseph now speaking perfect Egyptian. Now dressed as a ruler. Head shaved. Wearing a regal robe. They didn’t recognize Joseph. But boy he could smell them, sheep herders, he recognized them, he understood everything they were saying in Hebrew. Right in front of him, his brothers. He had to step out of the room to weep, overwhelmed with emotion.
And he had to wrestle with what his response was going to be, now that their future was in his hands. And Joseph, rather than get bitter, rather than get even, rather than hold onto a grudge, and rather than hold their past bad decisions against them now, he did something wonderful and gracious, didn’t he. He chose to filter their betrayal … through the divine providence of God. What they did was evil. He called it evil. He didn’t minimize it or excuse it. He didn’t sugar coat it. It was wrong. It was evil. But when he revealed his identity to his brothers, he said…
Genesis 50: 20, 21 – ‘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. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
Notice how the word intend shows up twice here. You intended but God intended. You came with your intent, but God took your intent and else turned it into something else. The Hebrew word translated as “intended” here means “to weave;” to carefully and intentionally weave together multiple threads. “You came weaving a tapestry of heartache and hurt, you came and you wanted to weave evil and destruction into my life. But God—but God who is not sometimes sovereign but he’s always sovereign; who did not ordain your evil but can use your evil—God took those very same threads that you meant for evil, and he rewove those threads into something beautiful and good.”
I’m sorry. I’m really sorry that evil has come into your world. Evil exists. I don’t know anyone who has entirely escaped it. Every family. And every individual. And some of you have had what seems to be more than your share. I know. It’s like life dealt you cards from the bottom of the deck. Always got the short straw.
Like life came weaving evil. The dad who promised to be a dad just disappeared. The one who said “I do” on your wedding day said “I don’t” every day after. Health and strength, once assumed, taken for granted, were suddenly gone. The one you trusted, disappointed you. People can be cruel. Or just thoughtless and uncaring.
But if the story of Joseph teaches us anything, it teaches us this. Every day, we can either choose to clothe ourselves in our hurt, or we can choose to clothe ourselves in our hope. That’s our choice. We can either cave in to the pandemonium and the pain, or we can stand firm on the peace and the promise of divine providence that God is somehow at work.
It seems to me that whenever there is a life that has become a train wreck, you can trace it back to the belief that nobody’s in charge. It seems to me that whenever you find a person whose life is not pain free, but is victorious in the pain, you can trace it back to the belief that there is a good God, whose ways I don’t understand, but…
…every day I choose, everyday I’m going to trust his heart, even when I can’t see his hand. I trust God will take my mess and make it a message, a testimony of his power, love, and grace.