"Come closer to me," Joseph said to his brothers. They came closer. "I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don't feel badly, don't blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn't you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.
-Genesis 45:4-8 (The Message)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, once remarked, "A soldier is trained by battles, and a mariner by storms. . . To sail against wind and tide would be more notable than to drift with gale and current."
Joseph had faced his share of "wind and tide", and had learned how to sail. Sold in to slavery by his brothers, imprisoned after being wrongfully accused by Potiphar's wife, and forgotten in Pharaoh's dungeon despite a promise of assistance from the cupbearer to the king, Joseph underwent trial.
We are not told how Joseph regarded his travails as they arose, whether he was cheerful in disposition or dark in mood. But we do know that once he was called in to service by Pharaoh himself, and was established as the highest official in all of Egypt, he gave credit to God for his power to interpret dreams, and saw the Lord as source of his wisdom. We also know that he considered his life as subject to the will of God, a person through whom God would accomplish a work. His sufferings are not diminished, but they are contextualized. God is providential. God reigns.
We live during a time where people are slow to acknowledge a God who "works all things together for the good" when we are unable to perceive what that good might be. But the God testified to in Scripture is just such a God. This does not mean that we may not question, or struggle, or ask difficult questions. The Bible also testifies to people who did just that. It appears the God of the Bible may be more good, and more complex, than we have presupposed.
I confess, having such as faith is not easy. But as Maltie D. Babcock wrote:
Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour the mill,
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
And the sun and the Father's will.
I trust that God is indeed good. Whatever good deeds may come at the hand of the good God, as Spurgeon observed, are to be engaged as the work God has prepared (Eph. 2:10). Whatever trials might come, also, must be welcomed as a mariner traversing a difficult sea, and as with Joseph, the glory goes to the God who sees beyond what I can see, who sees beyond the wind and tide battering my ship, guiding me to the harbor or grace resting over the horizon.
God in heaven, may I have a faith like Joseph. Help me to trust, despite trials. Give me the strength to persevere through my hardships, and to prepare me for the days ahead, so that I might become a more able Son or Daughter, a more well-equipped citizen of your kingdom. In Jesus' name, amen.