Have you had a Blank Space in your life? I’m not talking about the American pop singer, Taylor Swift’s hit song “Blank Space”. I’m talking about those dark moments in your life when everything seems to be going wrong in every possible way. Those empty times when you hit rock bottom. Those regrets, disappointments, the unfulfilled dreams or perhaps being excluded and mistreated by your friends and sometimes even by your own family. It’s like a closed door that feels so permanent, so conclusive, so final and seemingly hopeless. Ever had those moments?
There’s a man in the Bible who also experienced a blank space in his life perhaps even more than any of us here. I want to take you to the darkest and most painful moments in Josephs’ life and how he found hope in the most trying circumstances.
The Blank Space in Joseph’s Life (Gen 37-40)
The life of Joseph is one of great problems and trials. In Gen 37:18, his brothers conspired against him. In v. 21, he was thrown into a pit. In v. 28, he was sold as a slave. Joseph had been sold to some Ishmaelite merchants and his brothers sold him only for the price of a crippled slave! The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and put him up for sale in that land.
Try to put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a moment. You are seventeen years old. You are the favored son in a family of twelve sons. Your father had chosen you to be the head of the family and he had given you a beautiful robe to symbolize this fact. You are on the path to power, influence and prominence in your family. Then, in a moment of time, everything is gone. You are stripped of your coat. You are betrayed by people who should have loved you. You are separated from your father. You are sold as a slave and carried off into a strange land. Imagine the humility of being examined and sold in a slave auction.
In chapter 39, he is falsely accused of rape. In chapter 40 he is thrown into prison. Joseph was forsaken by his family, forgotten by his friends and frustrated by his failures. This is a hard pill to swallow, but it is still true: life is unfair! Why did these bad things happen to a young man who was guilty of nothing more than obeying the will of God?
3 Reasons why God allows bad things to happen in our life:
1. He wants us to grow
He is constantly measuring our growth. God is far more concerned about how we react to what we are facing than what we are facning. (Psa. 105:17-19) God isn't as concerned about delivering us out of our mess as He is about growing us out of the mess we are in. Through all the problems that Joseph faced, the Lord is teaching him valuable lessons to grow into a better person.
- In Servitude (Gen 39:1-3)
Even though he was a slave, Joseph conducted himself like the ruler God was preparing him to be. Instead of griping, complaining, whining, and fussing about his situation, he just served Potiphar and did the best job he could do. What a lesson! If God expects you to be a leader, then you must first learn to serve. You will never be over until you first learn to be under. God brought all Joseph's dreams into a pause to teach him to be humble.
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” -1Peter 5:6
- In Seduction (Gen 39:7-19)
Potiphar's wife tried everything in her power to seduce Joseph, but he stood strong in the Lord and fended off her advances. God was teaching Joseph that no price could be placed on a clean conscience. He lost his coat, but he kept his character and conscience. God was teaching Joseph a lesson about purity and self-control. Both are essential to those in leadership positions.
- In Suffering(Gen 39:21-23)
Even when Joseph was forced to endure the shame of a false imprisonment, God was with him and blessed him. God’s purpose in our trials is not to harm us, but to develop us. We can trust Him to protect us and grow us amid the hardships of this life.
Remember, whatever you may face in this world, however deep and dark the valleys you are called to walk through, however heavy the loads you are called upon to bear, God is merely allowing these things in your life to strengthen and to help you become more like Him. The question is: how are you responding to the problems that come your way?
2. He wants us to depend on Him
Throughout Joseph’s short but eventful life, he had learned this truth well: People will let you down, but God will never fail you. Isaiah 2:22 says, “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils; of what account is he?” Which is Isaiah’s way of saying, Why bank your hopes on a creature who can only live by taking one breath at a time? If he misses the next few breaths, he dies!
People are going to fail you, disappoint you, leave you hanging out to dry. Let that drive you to God. Jeremiah 17:5-8 shows us the difference between the person who puts his hope in what people can do and the person whose confidence is in what God can do. Thus says the Lord:
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good to come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."
Learn to wait and trust upon the Lord. Isaiah knew this truth well, and gave us these great words:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall soar on wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint “ –Isaiah 40:31
Joseph understood that God’s ways are not our ways. He trusted and depended on God that His timing is always perfect.
3. He wants to create a miracle in us and through us
On the surface it seemed that circumstances could not have been worse for young Joseph. In truth, those difficult days were mere stepping stones along the path to greater glory. It may have appeared that all Joseph’s dreams had been shattered, but the God Who gave the dreams in the first place was working behind the scenes to ensure that they would all be fulfilled in His time.
If we take a minute to examine the facts, it becomes clear that Joseph was in the hand of divine providence. You can see how much control the Lord has by looking at the actions of the people involved in this account. Joseph’s brothers, the Ishmaelite traders, and Potiphar were all serving their own selfish interests. His brothers wanted rid of Joseph and his dreams. The Ishmaelites were out for a profit. Potiphar was just looking for a good deal on a slave. What they could not see is that they were all unwittingly accomplishing the purposes of a sovereign God.
Isn’t it comforting to know that God can use lost people to accomplish His purpose? Isn’t it a blessing to know that all the events of our lives are part of God’s plan for us? God set everything up just like it needed to be so that Joseph arrived exactly where he needed to be at the exact moment he needed to be there. God turned tragedy, temptation, torment and trouble into a great triumph. While the events of Joseph’s life appeared to be out of control, they were actually being controlled by God.
We have God’s promise that all “things work together for our good”- Rom. 8:28. A lot of what happens in life does not make sense, but it does not change the fact that God is in control of everything that happens to us.
God used the sorrows of Joseph’s life to shape him into the man He desired him to become. The trials Joseph faced, and the trials you and I face, are never easy. They do, however, teach us to depend on God. Our trials help us to maintain a tender and compassionate heart. Our trials teach us to be humble. Our trials make us useful to the Lord. We should never seek to shun the trials of life. In shunning our trials, we are also shunning the best of God’s blessings in our life. A.W. Tozer once said:
“It is doubtful that God ever used anyone greatly without first hurting them deeply.”
And here is a final word of encouragement. What no one could see in all the trouble surrounding Joseph’s life, it is stated clearly in Gen. 39:2, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” No matter how hard the way of life becomes, how God was there for Joseph, He will also be there for you. You do not face your trials alone. You do not walk through your valleys alone. Every step you take are in the path of a divine providence. God is always with His people to see them through in their trials; to accomplish His plans in their lives; and to use them to point a lost world to Himself.
“Fear not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” -Isaiah 41:10
I walked a mile with pleasure,
And she chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.
Published by The Thought Nebulae