Have you ever been sorely mistreated through no fault of your own? Perhaps you were the victim of an orchestrated campaign of slander and lies. Maybe you were falsely accused of things that, ironically, you had gone to great lengths to avoid. Maybe you’ve been the victim of some kind of injustice, or someone has hurt you in some way, and it has caused you to withdraw.
You’ve found yourself becoming bitter and angry – not only at people but perhaps at God himself. It may even seem that God has somehow forgotten about you.
If anyone could have felt that God had possibly forgotten him, it was a young man named Joseph. If anyone had a good reason to question God, it was Joseph. If anyone could have claimed he was a victim and the world was against him, it was this young man. Yet amazingly, as far as we know, he never did any of those things.
Joseph certainly had more than his share of unfair treatment. His brothers hated him and wanted to kill him. Ultimately they sold him into slavery. Joseph faced calamities, not for doing wrong but for doing right. He faced mistreatment, misunderstanding and downright hostility.
Despite all this, Joseph did not give up. Despite all the difficult circumstances he faced, we never read of Joseph even once complaining or compromising.
The single greatest characteristic of Joseph’s life was his unwavering faithfulness to God in all circumstances, whether he was in his father’s house or in a pit, whether he was facing success or failure. No matter what came his way, Joseph kept springing back. He had this buoyant optimism, this sense of trusting God no matter what hand life dealt him.
Joseph is an amazing example for all of us to emulate. Joseph could have said, like the apostle Paul, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:11 NLT).
Contentment did not come from what they had; it came from whom they knew. Both Paul and Joseph knew what it was like to live in good conditions as well as miserable ones. You and I can have that same contentment. The apostle Paul also said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV). It comes from a relationship with God.
Joseph had been purchased by a man named Potiphar and taken into his home in Egypt. Potiphar was the chief of the executioners, which meant he was a man of great influence in Pharaoh’s court. In fact, he oversaw the protection of the king.
Potiphar put Joseph to work in his house, and Joseph did very well. He was a man of such integrity, honesty and godliness that it wasn’t long before he was running the entire household. Here was this incredible turn of events for Joseph where things were suddenly going well.
Joseph passed the test of success. I have seen so many good people destroyed by success that came a little too quickly perhaps. Maybe it came through business or even in ministry, but that success brought them down. Joseph, however, passed the test with flying colors. Although he still was a relatively young man, he shouldered his responsibilities well. He carried success with great dignity.
And when Potiphar’s wife tried enticing him day in and day out, Joseph resisted her. You would have thought the story would have turned up something wonderful there. But Potiphar’s wife was so enraged with Joseph that she falsely accused him of raping her. So Potiphar removed Joseph from his position and banished him to prison.
Many of us are content when things are going our way. When things are going the way we want them to, we are content, relatively speaking. But when life deals us a hard blow, when the bottom drops out, when we face a conflict, suddenly we are no longer content.
Most of us live by a code of ethics, and in this code we believe in fairness. We believe that nice guys will finish first, hopefully. And we believe that if someone does what is right, he should be rewarded. If someone does what is wrong, he ultimately should face some kind of punishment.
A good part of life does happen to work out that way. But sometimes it doesn’t. We all know people who do the wrong thing and still seem to do well. They still prosper. Their lives don’t necessarily fall apart. In fact, sometimes they even do a little bit better than we are doing.
So we ask God why. Why is it that he would allow someone who is breaking his commandments to do better than we are? Why would he allow us to go through hardship when we are trying, to the best of our ability, to do his will?
There can be a turn of events in life, and we just don’t understand why. Yet the Bible says, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT).
I don’t know how people have treated you. I don’t know what people have said about you. I don’t know what threats have come against you. But just remember the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
You are a work in progress. God is not finished yet. When it was all said and done, Joseph was able to look back and say to his wicked brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). He recognized that God used the things that happened to him to mold him into a compassionate, forgiving leader of many.
Trust in the Lord. Don’t allow hardships to make you bitter. Rather, allow them to make you better.