Prodigal: Help! Help! Help!
Me: Prodigal, how in the world did you get stuck in there?
Prodigal: Well I was just trying to help out with the canning and then I got stuck in this mason jar and I have been sitting here trapped. I was just waiting and waiting hoping that someone would come and help me.
Prodigal: Prodigal, I am so sorry that you got trapped in that mason jar. It does remind me though of Joseph and when he was trapped in prison.
Prodigal: Please tell me about this Joseph.
The story of Joseph takes place in the book of Genesis. He goes through several trials with God. He has a dream that God gives him that he will have power one day and his brothers will bow down to him. He also is his father’s favorite. His brother’s sell him into slavery in Egypt. He then becomes overseer at the home he was sold too. The owners wife decides that she likes him and she tries to get physically intimate with him. He refused so she then says that Joseph was trying to rape her. He is thrown into prison. In prison he holds another leadership position. He then interprets a dream for the King’s baker and butler. He interprets the dream correctly and ask for favor to the King’s butler when the butler goes back to working close to the King. The butler then forgets all about Joseph for two years. After two years Joseph finally interprets a dream for the King and his trials are over and he is now the second person in command of the kingdom.
I love the story of Joseph! I have been blessed to be able to teach this story to several groups. I remember when I first had to teach this story. The part that really got to me is the verse Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Lets look at this story. This is not Joseph’s first trial. He has already had his fair share. He is in a foreign land, one of the only believers in the one true God, he has tried to stand by his values and has done no major wrong. Here he is sold into slavery, accused of sexual battery, thrown into prison and then he does a favor for someone and he is forgotten. Not forgotten for two days, two weeks, or two months. He is forgotten for two years. Now if I was there, in that prison before being released I would start having some talks with God. Emotionally it would be time for the pity party of a life time. The emotions of bitterness would flow freely with shouts of, haven’t I served you faithfully, why me, and there are others who are not living “rightly”!
The true fact is that God allowed Joseph to stay in that prison for another two years and seemly forgotten. Some of you are now saying how cruel God is and jump in with the bitterness. I would like to quote though from Philip Yancey ” Shift for a moment to the perspective of God the parent. Had he deliberately “pulled back” to allow Joseph’s faith to reach a new level of maturity? And could this be why Genesis devotes more space to Joseph than to any other person? Through all his trials, Joseph learned to trust: not that God would prevent hardship, but that he would redeem even the hardship. Choking back tears, Joseph tried to explain his faith to his murderous brothers: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
Listening to Chuck Swindoll this week in his sermon he made a great point. He said that if you hurt long enough and deeply enough there will be no pride left in you. How true is that. I found that all great leaders in the bible and also in this life today are the ones that have hurt and suffered. I became a better therapist when I learned not to pity my clients in there suffering but to be able to experience the pain with them. We don’t like seasons of our lives when they are difficult but I can tell you this. If you are suffering and it has been going on for longer then you want. If you are suffering and you have been forgotten in a prison that is not made of walls, but a prison where the walls are the emotional pain of your suffering. God will not forsake you. He is just bringing you to a new level of maturity so that you can then lead others.
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.
Jennifer Van Allen,