But [even after all that] the chief butler gave no thought to Joseph, but forgot [all about] him. (Genesis 40:23 AMP)
Joseph is one of my Bible heroes. Each year, as I read through the Bible, I am awed by the tenacity and faith of this gentle leader. He wasn’t always a leader, or gentle. At the onset of his journey, he may have been a spoiled arrogant kid who was noticed by God for his great potential. As He often does, the Lord will craft a plan to develop in us the character qualities best suited to our calling. For the lucky pliable soul, the road may unfold without a bump. For people like me, we have to be horse whipped into something usable, fit for the master’s work.
His story is full of anguish, betrayal, deception, and misery. This is why I relate so well to this high brother of Israel. Happy ever after endings make me angry, if the lead character hasn’t struggled and sweat. It just doesn’t seem fair. For the hero to have succeeded against all odds, now that’s a happy I can cheer for with gusto
As Joseph languished in his prison years, I find it hard to imagine him without bitterness, a twinge of resentment, and a healthy dose of creeping doubt. Add to those emotions the less than ideal living conditions, I can see Joseph becoming depressed and angry.
My problem is that I compare Joseph to what I have seen happen in people around me, and sadly at times, my own life. Instead, I should try to measure up to what the Bible tells us Joseph was able to achieve in his developing character that pleased God to release him at just the right time. I’ve found that most of us interpret the Bible through our own experiences and not the other way around.
My friend Jaye is the exception to this rule. Her parents divorced when she was a young girl. She’s lived with the chronic interruption of epilepsy and the side effects of the necessary medications. Her only sister committed suicide in her early middle years. Her children have had their share of serious health issues and as adults continue to experience difficulties. Just recently, she had a bilateral mastectomy because of cancer, and successfully completed chemotherapy and radiation. She’s been in her dungeon for the entire time I have had the privilege of being her friend; thirty years has been enough time to observe her and come to the conclusion: she is one wonderful gal. Even though her chains at times keep her from soaring, she never loses her focus on the heavens above.
My favorite statement she frequently says is this: “Even when the sky is cloudy and overcast, remember that the sun is shining above.”
I return to this thought when the sky of my life is totally obscured with gray situations. I am unable to see beyond the horizon to a future ahead. In pilot terms, I am “socked in” by the weather above me and grounded, unable to fly out of my location. Dismal should be a color.
Yet, Jaye has the faith of a mustard seed to find that pinpoint opening through the darkness to see the sun, which always shines above. Our circumstances do not change the brightness of God, nor do our trials limit Him. I have to remind myself that He is above it all and does not change with the winds I experience down here in my life.
I have lived through periods of life when I have felt like I imagine Joseph felt when he was forgotten. That period of time, after he was forgotten by his cell mates after their release, must have been a lonely, hopeless, solitude. The agony of chains persisted, day after day,with unlimited time to question his God. How could he have misinterpreted his own dream of success when he had been so successful in interpreting the dreams of others? Was he wrong to believe that God would use him mightily, or at least, show favor on him for the remainder of his life?
Darkness and doubt go together. The devil knows this all too well. After all, darkness is where he lives and breathes. If we close our eyes to those pinhole rays piercing into our gray sights, we shut out the sustaining life through the light of Christ. Sometimes I allow my eyes to shut, my lids heavy and weary, and tell myself there is no light at all.
Then I remember Jaye. Her example of living in the gray zone of chronic illness and trials jolts me to remember the Christ who died for me. Lest you think my faith is so weak that I can not come to Him on my own, remember the words of Paul.
“Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin].” 1 CORINTHIANS 10:12 (AMP)
I can plod along with the greatest assurance that I am steadfastly connected to my God, and a cloudy day can blow in from a northern sky, and I’m chained in my dungeon on the verge of blindness.
My God is training me to improve my vision, to immediately switch to my night vision goggles by the reading of His word, and see the light of truth clearly, brightly, and accurately. Doubt is dispelled when I know the truth, and I am set free from the darkness. He defines my reality and I look to Him for the cues to take my next step. Much like a Commander who creeps along in the night with his soldiers, I am connected by a spiritual headset tuned to hear his voice and instructions.
How does a sniper gain expertise? He trains in the conditions under which he will fight. I am a soldier in this world of darkness. I am in a battle against the dark. My army is victorious because the battle is already won. Joseph must have had a similar insight from His Sovereign Lord that allowed him to pierce the darkness of that dungeon and believe that, although the king had forgotten him, the Lord had not.
Genesis 41:14 tells us that Joseph was remembered eventually, and was quickly or hastily brought before the king. In those moments before the cell door was opened, Joseph sat dejected and disturbed. Yet, it took only a quick moment to bring him out, to deliver him from his dark abode to the comforts of the palace. Can’t you imagine Joseph’s heart pounding with joy and hope when he emerged before the king?
Hold onto that thought, friend. You may be only a moment away from deliverance. Hang on to the truth that God’s love include a plan, and the plan includes provision. Open your eyes and search for even the tiniest ray to hold your attention and to give you hope until that moment finally arrives. Shut your eyes to the liar and deceiver whispering to you in your cell. Keep the word of God between you and the dark. Remember, He is standing bright above it all and may break through in a vibrant brilliant shining surprise.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/2954904941/”>Rennett Stowe</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>