Sometimes the Lord needs to remove us from what is most known and most comfortable. The break may feel like a severing. The patterns, behaviors and expectations of our communities and culture, our family, and even those we have become self-dependent are withdrawn. Our departure from the familiar could be voluntary. However, in many cases, a situation may arise that is not of our doing. We may be stripped away from a place of security and discover that we are in a foreign land with foreign people and experiencing foreign norms and expectations that truly discombobulate, bewilder, discourage, and perhaps even frighten us.
It happened to Joseph.
He was tricked and then kidnapped as a teenager – not by strangers or criminals, however. No, Joseph’s betrayal centered upon the covetous, distrustful and malicious actions of his older brothers. They despised him. They saw their younger half-brother as a child of entitlement. Joseph was embraced by the loving devotion of their father who upheld Joseph in great favor. The sons of Jacob felt slighted by their father’s disregard and inattention. They sought revenge.
Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt…. New International Version, Acts 7: 9-10a
In this brief recap in Acts, we are not told of the years and years and years that Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned and what happened to him there. There is no mention of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual training that this teenager endured in order to be transformed one day into the wise and discerning leader that was needed not only to save Egypt one day, but his family as well. How do I know that this cultivation of Joseph’s soul and grounding of his faith occurred?
God was with him.
In spite of the harm, the betrayal, the false accusations, and the years and years of imprisonment, Joseph experienced and was comforted by the Presence of the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it was during this time period, Joseph embraced his father’s God as his own.
I cannot imagine that Joseph would have ever chosen this path in life as a seventeen year old boy. Yet, years and years later, he recognized the providential hand of God when in forgiveness, he blessed his brothers:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. New International Version, Genesis 50:20
As a teen, his brothers saw Joseph as an entitled, self-centered and contemptuous brat.
The Lord removed Joseph from his family, his homeland and all of his every day comforts to amputate the boy’s self-importance and cast a new vision and destiny in his heart and soul within the confines of a different culture and a different country.
And somehow and in some way, Joseph chose to embrace the journey – within every single hardship, despite every single slight, with every single betrayal, and in every single loss of purpose and identity – Joseph rested upon the care and transforming presence of his God. He surrendered his selfish ways and self-important talk and in turn became known as a man of wisdom, strength, and holy influence.
This kind of character and spiritual development doesn’t happen over night, does it?
I think this is why situations arise in our lives that take us on journeys to places we never imagined we would ever, ever, ever go and allow us to remain there for an uncertain amount of time.
Did we ever imagine that…
we would be diagnosed with cancer or some other debilitating disease or chronic illness?
we would have a friend or relative who would choose to end his life?
we would be fired from our job?
we would be staring down at a divorce certificate?
we would be emotionally or physically abused?
we would be moving away from the house of our dreams?
we would be suffering loneliness or depression?
we would be experiencing severe financial problems?
we would be single for this long?
At the age of 17, we don’t envision cancer, divorce, betrayal, financial problems or even failure as an integral and impacting aspect of our future.
Yet, God does.
He knows what is ahead of us. And He will be there, when we are extracted from the known and comfortable into a world that completely upturns us!
And not only is He ahead of us…
Our God is Present with us.
Our God is over us; looking down upon our situation with an understanding of what is needed.
Our God is behind us; encouraging us and reassuring us to keep moving forward.
Our God is beside us; taking hold of our hand and our hearts with comfort and benevolence.
Our God is ahead of us; guiding our steps with confidence.
Our God is under us; strengthening our steps and serving as the foundation of our faith.
Our God is surrounding us: shielding us, protecting us, and empowering us.
And our God is in us; transforming us and enabling us to share His grace and love as we go forward in life – wherever this new journey is taking us.
Friends, if you are in an unfamiliar land at the moment and facing an uncertain future, this situation is not unknown to your God. And no matter how long this time may last, something good will come of it.
The blessing of it all is that we go with our God.
As God was with Joseph, our God is with us. His Presence is Sure.
I believe that.
Image retrieved from Leap of Faith