…Joseph said to them (his brothers), “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Genesis 50:20,21 Revised Standard Version

Joseph traveled a long and difficult road to get to these famous verses. You may remember the story.

The favorite of his father Jacob’s many sons, Joseph grew up as the brother his siblings loved to hate. It didn’t help when he flaunted the beautiful coat his father gave him, or bragged about his dreams in which his brothers would bow down before him. Finally, they had had enough and sold Joseph to Egyptian slave traders, telling his father he had been killed by wild animals.

Handsome and talented, however, Joseph was no ordinary slave. Potiphar, an officer of the Pharoah, saw these qualities and brought him into his household. Unfortunately, Joseph also caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife who falsely accused him of rape when he refused her advances. Furious, Potiphar had him thrown into prison. Despite his aid to the prison keeper and successful dream interpretations for Pharoah’s servants, Joseph languished there for perhaps as many as 15 years.

At long last, with the threat of a famine looming, one of the servants finally remembered the man who told him his dreams. Joseph was called forth to interpret for the Pharoah. When he did so correctly, he was made Pharoah’s second in command, able to organize Egypt’s food production to keep them all from starvation.

What he suffered tempered Joseph so he could be God’s man in this critical situation. He had even been humbled enough to forgive the brothers who had caused his suffering in the first place.

But note, please: that tempering didn’t come easily, nor did the answers come without many prison-bound nights of anguish, questions and tears. Nearly everyone I’ve heard who can tell a story like Joseph’s will say that they only understood it after they lived through it. What one must do in the middle is simply believe and soldier on.

Sadly, we all get our turn in the crucible of suffering, sorrow and loss that is part of life in our broken world. Like Joseph, we have a choice: will it make us bitter or better? Will we allow the pain to teach us its hard lessons? Or will we, like Job’s wife, “…curse God and die?”

The choice is ours.

FATHER GOD: It’s hard here; I don’t understand. Help me learn what I need to know. Amen.

First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” July 23,  2023.