There are so many times in my life when I’ve felt like all events are leading to a setback. What happens when things don’t quite go our way? A friend and I were driving through Colorado one day. Looking at the map, the road looked like a perfect shortcut through a high mountain pass. It was unpaved, but labeled as passable, and there was no word about needing a high clearance vehicle. We were driving a small Toyota Corolla up this mountain, into a beautiful pass. The road was getting worse and worse. Darkness was threatening, and the rocks on the road were growing larger and larger. We kept hearing them scrape against the bottom of the little Toyota, until we finally encountered some that much larger than the WHEELS of the car.
We would have to turn around, but wait, that wasn’t quite possible. We’d have to back up a ways, then turn around, go down the mountain, and around through another pass that was paved. We would be hours behind plan, we were risking not getting enough rest for the rest of the trip. Definite setback. The shortcut turned out to be a huge mistake that years later my friend still reminds me that I was the one who chose that road.
This week, we will spend a majority of the days reading the story of Joseph, a person whose life seemed to be one setback after another. His brothers want to kill him, he is a victim of human trafficking, he gets a quaint stay in a small room with bars, none of which we would ascribe to someone who was successful or even on the right track. He was separated from his family, unable to return, and unjustly accused of sexual assault. Upon first glance, setback after setback seems to lead him to destruction.
But things take a turn when he meets some fellow prisoners. Formerly working for the Pharaoh, these servants were thrown into prison with Joseph. As people tend to do, they share stories, talk about what they’ve experienced, and listen to each other as they react to what the others say. Joseph told them about their dreams, but then two years pass with nothing but time in jail. Until one day he is called out to talk to Pharaoh about dreams.
Quickly promoted from prisoner to something akin to the Chief of Staff in the kingdom. He was able to use his position to set the kingdom up to survive an upcoming famine. But that wasn’t the end of God’s plan for Joseph, he was able to meet his brothers again and help them survive the famine as well. What kind of forgiveness would that entail? How would he be able to build a good relationship after all he had experienced because of them over the past couple of decades?
Most of us would not be able to make that jump of forgiveness. But it is likely those years in jail, the time of communion with God and dependence on him that allowed Joseph to know that it was the right thing to do, even though it would be hard. He was able to get some time alone with them, and then convinced them to come to Egypt where he is happily united with his father. In the midst of setbacks and severe famine, Joseph is able to provide for his family in ways that no one could have ever imagined possible.
This picture of redemption is amazing. The forgiveness that Joseph shows to those who wronged him and the way he provides for them foreshadows how God forgives us in our sin and provides a Savior when we do not deserve it at all.
When we have setbacks in our lives – no matter if it is because we seem to be treated unfairly or events are conspiring against us, it is the story of Joseph that helps us keep our eyes on God. Joseph was a man of patience, character, and integrity. He had the confidence that God will come through for him with amazing timing. Are you ready for that? In the midst of adversity, setbacks, and suffering are you ready for God to come through with perfect timing?
Driving over a mountain pass in a car that would not make it was definitely my fault, but God honored our patience in the midst of the setback. I don’t remember the next day, but I do remember the wonderful trip my friend and I had. The setback was a problem for a moment, but it became exactly what we needed at the time and was not a problem at all in the long run because of God’s unfailing grace in our lives.
Let’s all ask ourselves about our reactions to setbacks. Do you trust in God’s plan? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?
See y’all Sunday!