An Anchor in the Wilderness
By Pastor Paula Lawhead
I want to note that today’s post includes references to the abuse, abandonment, and trauma of Joseph’s life, which could be upsetting to some readers. Please use your own discretion.
In this third week of Lent, we remain mindful that we have a God who has not left us or forsaken us in this wilderness journey. Rather, our God has declared that it is love and compassion that motivates all that God promises to you and me. We have a promise of rescue, forgiveness, redemption, and new life through Jesus Christ. This season of the church reminds us that we are indeed people in need of a Savior; and looking toward Easter, we see that God provides our rescue through the cross of Jesus Christ.
So often, our focus during Lent centers on the sin in our lives; the places where we have fallen short of God’s expectation. In response, we seek to trust God in more faithful ways in the hope that we can become the people God has created us to be. But sometimes, the suffering we face comes not from our own sin but from people and circumstances that are out of our control. Sometimes the redemption we need is not about “do better to be better.” When the suffering and difficulties we face are outside of our control, how do we find the redemption we seek? Where do we find comfort and peace?
These questions make me think of Joseph. When, out of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers beat him and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37), I can only imagine the anguish Joseph felt at the betrayal and abandonment by those he loved. I can only imagine the loneliness of being whisked away from his father, his family, and the land that he knew. All of his dreams and expectations of the life he had imagined were gone in an unforeseeable instant.
After finding himself enslaved in Egypt, Joseph was lied about and forgotten about—which pulled him again from the life he was living and landed him in an extended time in prison. Yet, Joseph continued in faith and found hope in God through it all. How? Why? Well, Joseph had a promise to hang onto. From the time of his youth, I have no doubt that he had heard the great promise God had made to Abraham and his descendants. As Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph knew that this promise was his to grab onto. There will be a future for Abraham’s descendants, and God is faithful in keeping his promises.
In addition to the promise of a future, Joseph knew something about God. The intentions of some in his life were to harm him and to steal away his future. But Joseph knew that God’s intentions toward him were love, compassion, and redemption. To hold onto the truth of who God is and what God intended for Joseph is what fueled his hope. And God did not disappoint.
Joseph was changed by his suffering. Not because God wanted it or orchestrated it; but because God was present with Joseph and faithful to him through his suffering. Joseph ended up as a forerunner to prepare a way of salvation for Abraham’s offspring. Through Joseph’s God-given gifts and forgiving heart, there was forgiveness and redemption not only for himself, but for his brothers and his whole family.
Whether we suffer under our own sinfulness or the sinfulness of others, God’s intentions for us are the same. God’s intention is to send a forerunner to prepare a way of healing, forgiveness, hope, and redemption. (Hebrews 6:10-20) God’s intention is to remain faithful to you and to me and to the promises we have received in being claimed as God’s children. You, too, have a future, and God does not disappoint. However you and I are changed by the circumstances of our lives, we can trust that in faith God will bring about new life. We are loved by a God of resurrection!