Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. In a life that included a fair amount of darkness, Joseph stands in the end a man who loved his people well. Despite tough circumstances, I see a man who trusted God enough to get out of bed each day believing there was good in it simply because his GOOD God was present. Joseph seemed to live very much in the presence of a very real God. I would love to live my life like Joseph lived his.
In this part of the story, Joseph is 17. He is Jacob’s favorite son. This family is wealthy, prominent and well-known in Canaan. So, I am going to jump into this little moment in history and say that if I had been Joseph at 17, I would have been pretty pleased with myself and my circumstances. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Known by the village, part of God’s First Family, handsome, rich, all set up to live a GOOD life. I would certainly have had a bounce in my step. And I would have wanted everything to stay just like that. GOOD.
An interesting thing happens in this story. It turns out that Joseph, the handsome, favorite son with big dreams, is despised by his brothers. (I am guessing envy was at the root.) One day Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers in the fields. They see him coming and decide that they have had enough of “that dreamer” and throw him in an empty well until traders come along and they sell their brother into slavery. And just like that, the GOOD life was no more. Wealthy, prominent, adored Joseph becomes a slave – unknown, alone, powerless. No family, no money, nothing.
This is where each one of us is able to step into this story. Not because we are literal slaves, but life happens to all of us. Fancy wedding days can end in divorce. Fawned over children can lose their way. Wealth can be lost. Families betray. Friends move on. Sickness comes. Life happens and it can feel like a dark, lonely pit. And even if we are not currently experiencing this kind of suffering, chances are (and I can speak for myself here) I am working pretty darn hard to prevent it. In fact, I can work so hard to keep the GOOD life GOOD - or at least so that it looks GOOD to you - that it can feel like dark, lonely pit of its own. So, you see, on either side of this GOOD life, we can be captives.
BACK TO OUR STORY, role model Joseph is a now slave in the house of Potipher, the chief bodyguard. Having made this giant freefall from the GOOD life, Genesis 39 says, “And the Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… the Lord was with him … the Lord gave him success in everything he did... the Lord blessed ... The blessing of the Lord was on everything…"
In Joseph’s life pits, do you know what I see? I see the Lord. My favorite character is now totally upstaged by God. The LORD is so present in those dark pit places. I know that God is everywhere all the time. But this is what I wonder: maybe Joseph saw Him more clearly, felt Him more fully when all the fluff of the GOOD life was temporarily moved aside. Even though God was always with Joseph, I wonder if Joseph was with the Lord in a totally new and radical way.
So, here is our MANNA. It is so easy to get enamored with the GOOD life. We can work for it, strive for it, suffer for it, pray for it, decorate it; we can love it so much that we even grieve the loss of it, or become a vigilante trying to save it. Be careful. This quest for the GOOD life can blind you to the God who is GOOD. My friend Joseph (I call him that even though we have not formally met, though I do so look forward to coffee with him in Heaven) ends his days as Prime Minister of Egypt. He is the ultimate success story. Because he woke up each day – both in the pit and in the palace – and chose to draw closer to the God who was GOOD, his life was filled with the blessing of a GOOD God’s presence. Oh, if that could be said of us!