Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Have you ever experienced betrayal? Do you feel like your life is not what you expected it to be? Too often as women we stuff our feelings and doubts deep within our souls, but in the quiet moments of the night the question nags at us: "Where is God when my life doesn't go as I thought it would?" Recently, I've been meditating on the story of Joseph and wrestling through these questions.
During Joseph's youth, God gave Joseph a dream that his family would one day bow down to him. This was already on top of the fact that he was the favored son of his father, receiving unfair favoritism and special treatment (Genesis 37:3). Joseph's brothers saw all of this and began to resent him and his dreams of superiority, so they sold their brother into slavery. They tore up his iconic robe of many colors and told their father that Joseph had been killed. Talk about taking sibling rivalry to a whole new level! Any plans Joseph may have had for working in the family business, getting married to a nice, local girl, and settling down on his own land were forever interrupted. Surely the God of the universe, the One who gives us breath and holds the stars in place, could have prevented this horrible betrayal and slavery.
Where was God in the midst of this?
Joseph was brought to Egypt where he started working for a man named Potifer. Potifer was a fine boss, but Potifer's wife was not good news. She was attracted to Joseph and made several advances toward him, trying to get him to sleep with her. But Joseph was a man of integrity, refusing her seduction. Even so, he was falsely accused of abuse and imprisoned on these false charges. How could God allow such injustice?
In prison, Joseph met and interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners. He asked only one thing in return: "Remember me when you get out of prison." Once again, Joseph got the short end of the stick and was seemingly forgotten.
As we think on this story, we can wrestle with the sovereignty of God. Throughout his life, Joseph was betrayed, neglected, falsely accused, and forgotten. How many years he must have spent in exile, in prison, and not "living his best life now." In the midst of such darkness and sin, we see one truth on the horizon: redemption is coming.
Years later, the Pharaoh of Egypt began having nightmares. Joseph was remembered for his ability to interpret dreams, and he was brought before the ruler. When he correctly interpreted the dream about a coming famine, Joseph was made second-in-command to the most powerful ruler on Earth. The predicted famine began to devastate the surrounding regions, and Joseph's family went to Egypt to seek food, not knowing that their brother was living there. They bowed before Pharaoh's second-in-command (i.e. Joseph) thus fulfilling the dream given so many years before. Joseph was able to not only provide food for his family but also to reveal himself to his brothers in a beautiful moment of reconciliation. In doing so, he gives this powerful statement of faith: "You planned evil against me; God planned it for good..." (Genesis 50:20).
As readers, we see that God was working a mysterious plan of redemption that was far better than Joseph could have imagined. God was not absent in Joseph's story–rather, He was in control through all the twists and turns of his life. He sovereignly placed Joseph in a position that would save Israel from destruction. But more than this, He was preparing the way for an even greater Savior to come–One who would suffer, experience betrayal at the hands of His closest friends, and die to set them free. One who defeated death when He rose again and who now sits at the right hand of the throne of God interceding for us.
As I meditate on Joseph's life, the moral of the story is not that if I endure a season of hardship, God will always turn my problems into victories this side of heaven. God does not promise to elevate me to be the most powerful woman in America if I can endure a few years of trouble. My loneliness, sickness, or pain may continue until I see the Lord face to face.
Instead, through the life of Joseph, I can find great hope in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Just as God redeemed the circumstances of those in the Old Testament, I know that He will do the same in mine, for God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). When I endure injustice, I know that my judge will one day make all things right (1 Peter 2:18-25). When I am falsely accused, I know that vengeance is the Lord's, and He will repay (Romans 12:19). When my family struggles with sickness, I know that God will use this season in a not-always-clear way to sanctify me and to grow my dependence on Him (James 1:2-4). God promises to redeem all of life's hardships for His glory and for my good (Romans 8:28).
When I am tempted to feel forgotten by God, I need only look to the stories within Scripture to remember: God is in control. Even when I can't see what God is doing, I can trust Him. He promises to redeem even the ugliest of life's situations. God will use all of these momentary interruptions, trials, and hardships to produce a peculiar glory as He works to magnify Himself and to refine me in His likeness.