Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”
My two dogs love to run free. Whenever I go for a run, I’ll open up the gate and they both come running to the car. Like little kids, they fight for the front seat, (though usually the weimaraner gets it over the retriever). Those dogs know that I’m about to drive them to an open canyon where they can run free, and they love it. But when I take them for walks, it’s a different story.
I’ll open up the gate, and as soon as they see the leash, they’re both perfectly still. No excitement, no fighting to see who’s first — they don’t like the leash. But without a leash, they’d run way out ahead of me, or out into the street, and get themselves into all kinds of trouble. Without a leash, they would never walk close to me.
Sometimes the Lord allows us to experience pain and suffering so we’ll learn to walk closer to Him. Like a leash, trials teach us obedience.
Joseph was a man who knew pain and suffering. He had been abandoned by his family, shunned and almost killed by his brothers, rejected by his boss, abandoned by his friends, and forgotten by his enemies. At the age of 17, he found himself in a foreign land where he didn’t know one person, and didn’t speak the language. He’d been abused, imprisoned, and mocked. By age 30, he very likely could have been a bitter, hardened criminal. But he wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Thirteen years after being abandoned by his brothers, Joseph had developed such a close relationship with God that he held no grudges or bitterness. In fact, he had such wisdom from God that Pharaoh appointed him the most powerful man in all of Egypt. At age 30, he sat at the most powerful place on the planet, and was able to rule millions of people with wisdom.
I’m sure Joseph must have wondered many times, while sitting in a dark jail cell, “Why God?” Have you ever found yourself asking God that question? “Why am I suffering like this?” I sure have. But God doesn’t give us the big picture, because it would require no faith on our part. Had God told Joseph that He was going to make him the ruler of the most powerful, most advanced nation in the world, Joseph would not have developed such a tender heart, and would not have learned to rely on God. He would have sat waiting for a paycheck, an entitlement that was “due” him. Instead, he learned obedience and acquired wisdom, both of which would equip him for the daunting tasks that lay ahead of him.
You see, when we suffer trials, God is at work. Romans 8:28 says that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Sometimes it will take thirteen years to see what God has been doing all along, but like Joseph, we must learn obedience through the suffering.
When we get to the end of our lives, myself included, we’re going to kick ourselves that we didn’t spend more time with the Lord. We’re going to wish we’d spent more time praying, serving, learning from His Word, and fellowshipping with Him. Today, whatever your circumstances, learn to walk closely with God.