Spiritual Musings

forgiveness and pain

Don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourself for selling me. God was behind it. Genesis 45:4

Forgiveness brings with it a warm feel-good glow  when you take the high road in life. Like when you smile and wave at the guy who cuts you.

Of course, the glow takes longer to feel in a situation that requires more effort to forgive.  But with time, you almost always experience the joy of forgiveness.  That is unless you were betrayed by someone you loved, by someone who ripped your heart out and then stomped all over your life.  Forgiveness in this scenario doesn’t bring with it any panacea to your pain. Years later, the pain of betrayal will still be able to squeeze every tear and every breath out of you.

Joseph was but a young man when his brother betrayed him. Years went by; life was good. Luck and God both seemed to be on his side. His professional and personal life couldn’t have been better. Overall, only good had come out of the entire experience. He could even see the purpose behind the injustice he had endured. So, both in his heart and in his head, subjectively and objectively, he believed and knew that it was all meant to be.

And yet the pain of being betrayed was so strong. The first time he sees his brothers, “he turned away and cried” (42:23). And it wasn’t some kind of a closure; the next time he meets them, it was worse–”his sobbing was so violent” (45:2). Joseph’s pain was still as raw as it had been the day he was sold to strangers by his brothers.

So, the realistic fact about forgiveness is that it doesn’t necessarily make you feel better about what happened. But it does make you feel blessed and loved by the One who counts.

Spiritual Musings

you’re the man

You’re the man for us. God has given you the inside story. Genesis 41:39

It was two years of freedom and another dream that needed interpreting before the cupbearer remembered his promise to Joseph. But never mind that for God was in control.

Pharaoh had a strange dream and he was convinced that it held some great meaning and significance. So all the magicians and wise men were called in to try and interpret the dream.

What an opportunity this was–to become the Pharaoh’s confidant, his Chief of Staff maybe. So the line to the throne that week was probably the longest it had ever been. A sight to behold and remember for posterity. No wonder the cupbearer finally remembered the man who interpreted his dream. So he told Pharaoh about Joseph.

Joseph enters the scene. It is finally his chance to shine. He not only knows the meaning of the dream, but he also has the solution for the disaster that the dream is to predict.

Yet Joseph’s preface to the dream interpretation is: “Not I, but God. God will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease.” (41:16) Pharaoh responds by making Joseph his main man saying “Isn’t this the man we need? Are we going to find anyone else who has God’s spirit in him like this?”

Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings

when people let you down

But the head cupbearer never gave Joseph another thought. Genesis 40:23

When I moved here, she went out of her way to befriend me.  Over the next two years it seemed like she was always there to support me in my little battles. But when the big one came armed with heavy arsenal that shot down my reputation with documents that seemed so true, she disappeared from my life. Never warned me of the brewing foes, never asked to hear my side. All of a sudden, she stopped calling, stopped coming by to pray with me. Just stopped being a friend.

And it hurt. Until I re-read this episode in Joseph’s life. The cupbearer was his friend. While in prison, Joseph had brought consolation into his friend’s life by interpreting a dream. The guy owed him one. And yet when he was freed, when he was back in the good graces of the Pharoah, he didn’t give Joseph another thought.

I can imagine that. I know how that feels. And I am glad for a God who brings happy-endings to stories muddied up by people. When people let you down, when those you’ve helped are the first to throw a stone at you, God is there watching, waiting . . . to tie all the episodes with a forever, happy ending.

Spiritual Musings

looks and gifts

He was strikingly handsome . . . . she pestered him day after day, but he stood his ground. Genesis  39: 6, 10

For the ones who cannot be moved to break, let alone alone scratch the surface of the Ten Commandments, the Devil uses their goodness, their steadfastness, their good intentions to create road blocks and pitfalls of temptation.

The Devil used Joseph’s handsomeness to create a convincing scenario. When Joseph prevailed, the Devil continued to make his life worse by using Joseph’s loyal, non-defensive attitude against him. You don’t read about Joseph telling anyone his side of the story. He just let it go, became the innocent that bore the consequences of guilt.

Joseph basically just shut up and let the story play itself out. And “the head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.” (Genesis 39:23)

Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings

when bad turns to good–eventually

“As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him.” Genesis 39:2

Joseph was betrayed by his brother, sold to strangers, taken to  a strange country. Traveling with Ishmaelites, Joseph saw his future clearly: a slave in chains till his dying day.

But God was WITH Joseph. God was not trailing in the desert ,behind the camel to which Joseph was shackled; God was with him, making sure the sisal rope didn’t cause an infection. God was not off on another job when Joseph was put on the auction block; God was with him, propping him up so Joseph looked brave and strong on the outside.

What strikes me even more is that to make Joseph’s story have a great ending, God was at two places at the same time at every one of Joseph’s ordeal. He was with the Ishmaelites, whispering to them the right plans for Joseph, He was with Potiphar, prompting him to buy Joseph.

And that’s the lesson I am learning right now–God works, on my behalf, in the hearts of those that matter. The past year has been a rough one and I have felt the righteous wrath of fellow church members. It was so bad that some have seen me cry (and that has happened only once before). To make things worse I could not share my side of the story fast enough to catch up with the ill-intentioned little mob. And even if I had, the other side was far more convincing and  was one that didn’t beg the listener to look for another perspective. Things were so bad that I couldn’t write (and that also has happened only once before)

It has been difficult to let time and God take their course.  But I must, like Joseph, remember that God is with me and things will go well.

Spiritual Musings

God makes memories

Genesis 41:49 Joseph collected so much grain–it was like the sand of the ocean!–that he finally quit keeping track.
This verse relates a simple fact: Joseph could not humanly keep track of all the grain that God provided. It also paints a picture of hyperbolic proportions: I imagine Joseph sitting on a haystack while his workers roll wheelbarrows full of grain into silos. Quill in hand, Joseph frantically tries to keep count of the wheelbarrows. He brings in assistants, but is still short-staffed. So he gets assistants for his assistants. Imagine the frustration and excitement that simultaneously wrought this man–a man accustomed to being in control,  organized, efficient, on top of things!
To pray and be heard is warm and fuzzy; to be surprised and overwhelmed by God’s goodness is to have a memory that you will remember for eternity.