Facing Our Problems (Joseph, part 3)

Every one of us will face a circumstance in life that looks inescapable. It will test our faith. It will cause us to question. And no matter how unwelcomed it is, it will give us an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the power and glory of God at work in our lives. Not just any ordinary circumstance, but one that will weigh on you heavily. Not because you’ve done something wrong – it may be because you’ve done something right.

Joseph suffered because of his family. He was the favorite son that became a hated brother. His brothers sold him to a traveling caravan, and they sold him again to Potiphar as a slave. He was slave in a strange land separated from family – very vulnerable but still strong in faith. Under false accusation he is imprisoned falsely, forgotten, alone, without much hope for a future.  (Read Genesis 39:19-40:23)

How would you react to a situation like that? Have you ever faced problems so severe and seemingly hopeless that you felt imprisoned by inescapable problems? When caught in the prison of powerful problems, here are some truths that will help us deal with them in faith, as Joseph did.

Our Problems Are Not Always Deserved. Joseph did not deserve to be imprisoned. Others have suffered in such a way as well. The Apostle Paul said that while he was imprisoned others made life harder on him.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry … They preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. Philippians 1:15-17

Joseph interpreted a dream for the cupbearer and baker. Those dreams came to pass. He asked the cupbearer to remember him and help him get out of this unjust prison sentence.  It would be two years before the cupbearer would remember him.

How can we be faithful to God during difficult days? We do recognize that all of our problems are not deserved, nor are they solved quickly.

Our Problems Not Always Solved Quickly. He was just 17 years old when sold into slavery. For next 13 years he would suffer hardships and indignities. Joseph did not lose heart, but continued on in Faith, eventually being put in charge of the Prison.

When we find ourselves in a “prison,” it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves and have a “pity party.” Joseph could have done that. But his faith was not focused only on right now…it was a long term faith in an everlasting God.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Our Problems Benefit in Unexpected Ways. God allows us to be in tough situations so that we might grow. We may not want to be in those situations, but we do not always have choices.  The “prison epistles,” were written while Paul was in a jail cell. The Book of Revelation was written by John while he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos.  I would guess that is close to impossible to know what your problems are accomplishing for you today in  your life. But a backward glance will reveal God’s hands in our lives up to now.

Our Problems Can Cause Us Turn To God. Joseph learned from his prison experience that he was not forgotten by God. God used a relationship formed while Joseph was in prison to accomplish His plan. When Joseph came out of that prison, he was a man of great wisdom, courage, and determination. He acted like a leader. We become stronger people by going through tough times, we become more faithful people as we hang on to God in the storm.

Our Problems Prepare Hearts for Ministry. Did you notice the compassion of Joseph for his fellow prisoners?

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”Genesis 40:6–7

Joseph, a lonely prisoner unjustly put into a dungeon, notices somebody else’s pain. There is no ministry to the suffering like that’s offered by another sufferer.

…Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-7

When we face the big problems of life, we can be overwhelmed. We can learn a lot about handling problems from the troubled life of Joseph.

Have you allowed your problems and struggles in life to lead you away from God or toward Him? We would all do well to follow Joseph’s amazing example. Though the text today leaves him lonely and forgotten, his  story is not through. Neither is yours!

What are some ways you handle your problems?

~John