Do you sometimes think you’ve been forgotten or overlooked by God? You know the feeling: That slight twinge of jealousy when you hear that another acquaintance from your singles group has gotten engaged or the annoyance of seeing other people enjoy and even seemingly flaunt the blessings your heart deeply desires.
Personally, my illusion of feeling ignored by God is even more intense when I’m wrestling with emotional wounds inflicted by people who I thought would never reject me. During those times, it becomes too easy to question if God’s love for me is sufficient or even present.
I’ve always found the Old Testament account of Joseph and his faithfulness to God fascinating. Because if anyone had a reason to feel forgotten and even betrayed by God, it was him.
Let’s do a quick review of Joseph’s story: His brothers hated him because he was their father’s favored son. In fact, the Bible tells us they wouldn’t speak a kind word to him. He was threatened with murder, then sold into slavery by those same brothers. Later, he was imprisoned in a dungeon on false accusations despite honoring God’s precepts. Oh, and when he thought he was finally about to be get out of jail, he was forgotten by the cupbearer for two years. He endured separation from his father for approximately 13 years.
Let all that sink in. The brief, 10-minute biblical account we read of Joseph’s suffering was a 13-year trial.
Yet when Joseph finally is delivered and called before Pharaoh, he gives God glory and honor. As I reflect on my own life’s pain that drives me to my knees before God, I am even more baffled at Joseph’s response. I think, God, how did Joseph not hate you, even after you delivered him?
Remembered, Seen and Present
The reason for Joseph’s response has very little to do with Joseph and everything to do with God.
God has the power to prevent or circumvent our painful circumstances. If applied the wrong way, this knowledge can lead us further down a broken road of bitterness, mistrust and anger toward God. Because we’re wondering why He isn’t taking away our painful circumstances.
But in these times of difficulty God implants in our hearts a deeper understanding of His goodness that I don’t believe can be realized during the easier parts of our journeys.
Scripture tells us numerous times “The LORD was with Joseph” and that God showed him kindness and granted him favor. God refused to leave Joseph in his distress, so Joseph experienced God’s faithfulness when he desperately needed it. And Joseph learned to trust the God who allowed his circumstances yet sustained him through it.
You see, even though the cupbearer forgot Joseph, God didn’t.
Our Ultimate Good
But were all those years of Joseph’s suffering absolutely necessary? What about the hard and painful things in our life that God allows? Are those absolutely necessary? Friends, even if the only good that comes out of our pain is that God teaches us to know and trust Him better, then the answer is yes.
God is our ultimate good. That’s the truth, even in those times when everything screams in me that He isn’t.
It’s hard to understand the point of suffering while we’re enduring pain. And we usually don’t know why suffering lasts as long as it sometimes does. Why did Joseph have to suffer for 13 years instead of only three? I don’t know.
But I do know God is the Good Shepherd who will lead us through the pain. And we are never forgotten.
Psalm 66:11-12 says this about God:
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
I pray that God reveals to all of us our places of abundance.