What if we could go back in time and visit Joseph in prison, and let’s say we could ask him one question: “Joseph, don’t you think what’s happened to you is unfair?” I think if we were to ask him that, he’d be puzzled by the question, not because he didn’t understand it, but because he could not get around the concept of his circumstances being unfair. “Unfair?” he might ask. “How could I consider my God to be unfair?”
“No, Joseph! We aren’t talking about God here. We mean your circumstances. Don’t you think your circumstances are unfair?” Again, Joseph would bring the conversation back to God: “I don’t think you understand, friend. My circumstances come from God and everything God has brought into my life is supremely and divinely fair.”
To understand the life of Joseph and how he lived it, we have to understand “fair” as the Bible teaches it:
- Fair is not me getting my way.
- Fair is not me getting what I want.
- Fair is definitely not me getting what I deserve.
So, what is fair?
Fair is me getting from God exactly what I need in every circumstance – and knowing that God always gives me what I need.
Joseph lived his entire life with this understanding of fair. Because of this, Joseph’s take on life was predicated on some key truths:
- God is the author of my life story, not my circumstances or the people in it.
- My God is good, so I can trust every detail of my life’s story to Him.
- Because my God is good, I can be good (even if my circumstances are bad).
If I am trusting all of my affairs to God, it frees me up to lean into the lives of others. When the butler and the baker were visibly shaken by the dreams they had one night (Genesis 40:5-6), Joseph not only noticed their trouble, he respnded to it with grace:
“And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly [today]? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream…. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” (Genesis 40:7-8)?
Had Joseph been one to keep score of all the injustices he’d suffererd, he might have responded cynically: “Dreams, huh? I’ve had two of them and look where it got me!” Instead, he interpreted the dreams for these men, under God’s guidance. In short, the butler would be restored to his office and the baker would not.
Then we come across the only time Joseph ever unburdened himself to anyone. To the butler he said:
(14) But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:
(15) For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.
A bitter person would tell anyone that would listen about all of his troubles, not to seek relief but to spread his misery. A person trusting his circumstances to God is careful about how he shares his story. Joseph told his story to the one person who could actually do something about it.
Finally! Joseph gets out of prison, right? No. “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but [forgot] him” (Genesis 40:23). In fact, he forgot him for two whole years. But this is yet another lesson from the life of Joseph: Trusting our circumstances to God means trusting Him no matter the outcome. Because even the carelessness and thoughtlessness of others is still in the hands of a loving God.
Are you the victim of someone else’s carelessness (or even cruelty)? As hard as it might seem, you can still trust God through it. Sometimes our circumstances are screaming at us to forsake the Lord and go some other way. But God, in His still, small voice reminds us: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It’s what He assured Moses (Exodus 3:14) and it’s what Joseph knew through every injustice he suffered. We worship that same God.
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