The trouble began when Jacob gave Joseph a coat, a garment more beautiful than anything his older brothers owned. As M. Thomas Norwood, Jr. says, Joseph is strutting around in a garment too classy to work in while his brothers are working up a sweat in “jeans and dirty T-shirts.”
Everything goes downhill from there. Joseph has a couple of dreams that make it look as if his brothers and parents will bow to him. This does not make for a happy family. When an opportunity presents itself, the brothers sell Joseph to a passing caravan, which in turn sells him to a high official in the Egyptian court. Joseph winds up in jail for refusing to have an affair with his owner’s wife, but is rescued to become Number Two in Pharaoh’s government.
Eventually, Joseph’s dreams come true. His brothers, fearful that he might harm them for their ill-treatment, fall on their faces before him, trying to save their necks. Joseph utters the words which sum up his entire life: “As for you, you meant evil against me, bur God meant it for good…” Joseph has forgiven them, but lets them know their fate is ultimately in God’s hands. As for Joseph: “I will provide for you and your [families].”
There was a time, many years ago, when I was in a work situation that turned out badly. Admittedly, like Joseph, some of it was my fault: I assumed I knew more than I did, and put myself in an untenable situation. My supervisor decided the school would be better off without me, and let me go.
The next few years were difficult, but eventually I wound up with a better job in a much better educational setting. I always hoped I might run into my old supervisor and share with him Joseph’s words to his brothers. The opportunity never presented itself—probably for the best. Sometimes I’m not smart enough to keep my mouth shut. I hope I’m learning to do a better job of that.
You may have been in a similar situation. You know how difficult life can be when everything seems to be going against you. You are sure everyone from God on down has only your worst interests in mind. There is no light at the end of this tunnel, only unending darkness.
At some point, the light appears, and you can see better times ahead. Often the final result is the best situation you have ever been in. When you look back you may, like Joseph, see God’s hand at work even in the darkest times.
Something like this happened to me. Many things I learned during the lean years helped make me a better administrator when that career finally opened up for me. I saw what bad leaders did, and their affect on the people who worked for them, and was able to avoid many of those pitfalls.
God had something like this in mind when he said to Jeremiah (29:10-11), “For I know the plans I have for you, … plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah was despondent. His nation was in exile. Those who remained in Judea turned their backs on him. They hadn’t listened to his warning, and now they ignored his teaching. But God had everything under control. God knew how this was going to work out: for Jeremiah’s (and Judea’s) welfare and not for evil.
Paul said much the same thing in Romans 8:28. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”