At my college graduation, I listened to what felt like a hundred different speakers that I was told were great and important. If I’m being honest, I tuned most of them out. Half because I was nearly in tears from the weight of the day (but that’s another story), and half because a girl three chairs down to me had a bag of goldfish and I was trying to think of a non-creepy way to ask her if she would share. The main speaker, however, caught my attention and all because of a single point in her speech. Talking of her time moving up through the ranks in the media industry to the powerhouse success she is today, she said simply “Who you are in the halls matters.”
I graduated almost three years ago, but the simplicity of that phrase has truly stayed with me. And when I reached the end of Joseph’s story, I was surprised to see how much that came to play.
Two years after Joseph begs Pharaoh’s cupbearer to get him out of prison, the official finally makes good on his word. Joseph is brought to Pharaoh’s palace where he interprets the ruler’s haunting dreams. After providing Pharaoh with a plan to save Egypt from the horrific famine, Joseph is made the second in command of the entire country. Steeped in wealth, building his own family, and running a country, I think it’s safe to say Joseph’s life was finally looking the way he’d been promised all those years ago.
Now into that success comes his brothers, starving and destitute, asking him for help. At that moment, Joseph fully had it in his power to pay them back for every stinging word, every bruise, every year of slavery, every day of darkness in prison, every moment of heartbreak, and every second of doubt. And what did he do? After what could be at the very least described as “messing with your siblings”, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and not only forgives them but has them bring their father and the rest of the family to Egypt. He sets everyone up to live in prosperity and they’re all united as a family.
Then, right at the end of Genesis, Jacob dies, and immediately his brothers revert back to their original fears. They talk amongst themselves and doubt Joseph’s kindness. They wonder if their good fortune and forgiveness only lasted as long as their father was alive and Joseph didn’t want to rock the boat. After all, Joseph is the top dog now, so why should he care who he his in the hallways?
But Joseph stays compassionate and loving even when he has all the power. His first move is to reassure his brothers that nothing will change. They are still forgiven And that’s when Joseph speaks the truth of his entire story and why he’s conscious of his actions from a position of power. The beautiful, mind-boggling truth that defies all the forces of darkness roaming this sad, lost earth. Joseph looks at his scared, doubting brothers and tells them:
“What you intended for evil God meant for good.”
That’s it. That’s the entire point of Joseph’s story and the inescapably reassuring truth of the thing. It is impossible for your story to be outside of God’s control. There is absolutely no scenario in which God’s plan for your life can fail. We can fail him, but he can never fail us. He is not that kind of God.
Darkness may think it has a leg up on us. It may think that by taking everything we love and work for away from us it’s won. It may think that if it beats us down for long enough we’ll become useless. But darkness has it wrong.
Because what darkness forgets is that it’s not operating on an even field of power. It thinks that it’s in an evenly matched struggle but what it fails to comprehend is that it exists in a world its opponent created. The result of this struggle (if it can even be called that) is a foregone conclusion. If you’ve chosen to follow Christ, you have chosen the side that cannot fail. It’s that simple.
What darkness intends for evil in your life God means for good.
At the end of the day, we are not so very different from Joseph. We may not have been sold into slavery or thrown in prison, but all of us can relate to the heartbreak. That heartbreak of hearing so clearly where our lives are meant to go and seeing a seemingly endless chasm open up between us and that goal. How are we meant to do this? How can it be endured? Did I misunderstand everything you told me? I’d venture to say Joseph cried the same questions in the deep darkness of his prison cell. But, God is in those despairing questions too.
Much like how Joseph had to trust the vision for his life going through so much pain and toil to be realized in its fullness, we have to trust that God really can use not just the good, but the bad and the ugly as well. Your own story will go through a great deal of pain and heartache, but none of it is without purpose. Your life will never be easy, but through Christ, it will always be worth it. Have courage and endure.
Let’s find some joy,