God has been leading me to study Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-45 for the past several days. But the more I delve into these scriptures, the more my mind wants to fill in the blanks from Joseph’s perspective. My writer mind wants to “hear” and “see” the set, dialogue and action with exposition in order to really understand what’s going on. I wanted to climb inside Joseph’s head to guess at what he could have been thinking because Godly responses come from Godly thinking. What must Joseph have been thinking as he was sold into slavery and thrown in prison after an unjust accusation? What was he thinking about in jail? This is the imaginary interview of Joseph, son of Rachel and Jacob, when he is middle-aged, long after leaving Egypt’s feminine, when his family settled in Egypt.
Me: Joseph, thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about the challenges you faced when you were a teenager and in your 20s as told in Genesis.
Joseph: My pleasure. I’m happy to share what God taught me.
Me: Tell me what was going through your mind as the slave drivers were hauling you away while your brothers watched.You were 17 and had never lived away from your family at that point.
Joseph: I was utterly terrified. For weeks. I held out hope that one of my brothers would confess what they had done to my dad and he would come looking for me, but as time passed, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I also realized that my dad never made me work hard like my older brothers, and I didn’t know I was capable of it until my experience in Egypt. It actually gave me some confidence. By the time I was 23, my life wasn’t all that bad. I was learning a lot about how to do administrative work and was enjoying that.
Me: Your boss, Potiphar, promotes you to running his entire household.
Joseph: I knew that wasn’t going to end well. You see, Potiphar and his wife, Darla didn’t hide their horrible relationship from me. They fought all the time. I think the reason Potiphar put me in the position that he did was so he didn’t have to deal with her on a daily basis.
Me: When you were in charge of Potiphar’s house, you weren’t surprised when Darla was ah, (throat clear) eager for your attention.
Joseph: I tried to ignore her. That didn’t work. She watched my every move and waited. Yes, she was beautiful, and yes, I thought seriously about sleeping with her. (he smirks) In some ways, it might make my circumstances easier. But when I prayed to God about this, a peace I can’t explain came over me.
Joseph: Yeah, a peace and a strong desire to do the right thing. God somehow strengthened me and in my heart I knew He didn’t want me to do it. God had protected me thus far since I had been kidnapped, so I knew I needed to continue to trust in him no matter what. My future wasn’t in Darla’s control or Potiphar’s. My future was in God’s control.
Me: And then Darla comes after you again, you flee, leaving your robe, and then she goes running her mouth to Potiphar about how you “assaulted” her.
Joseph: Not fun. I admit, I entertained some fantasies about sneaking up on her in the night with a dagger after she accused me. (laughs) At least I didn’t have to deal with her anymore in prison! I think God gave me that particular way out of the temptation. It was easier to live with being falsely accused by some idiot than be truthfully accused by God who was protecting me. Plus, I knew I was obeying God, which gave me the peace I needed. And I got to know the baker and cup-bearer to the Pharaoh, and oh man the stories I could tell about them.
Me: So are you saying that as you continued to obey and trust God, He was giving you peace despite your crazy circumstances?
Joseph: As strange as that sounds, yeah, that’s how it felt.
Me: Actually that doesn’t sound strange at all.
Joseph: Something even more profound began to happen. Something I never would have anticipated. In prison, there weren’t many distractions, like, you know, seductive women or evil men or a 9 to 5 daily grind. In the quiet, without consciously realizing it at the time, I ended up giving God much more attention in prayer, and I learned how to listen to him in a way I had never experienced. It was like God placed me exactly where I needed to be to continue to learn and grow in him. So instead of praying everyday to be released from an unpleasant circumstance, my prayer changed to let me get to know you better God and teach me how to serve you.
Me: Fascinating. During two-year’s time, you went from demanding “God get me out of here” to humbly asking, “God how can I serve you?”
Joseph: Yeah! Amazing, eh? It felt more like 20 years. I was preparing to spend the rest of my life there if that’s where God wanted me.
Me: Was there a connection between your prayers of asking God how you could serve him and the dreams of the cup-bearer and baker?
Joseph: Oh definitely. As I prayed, God gave me the meanings of their dreams.
Me: But then the cup-bearer forgot about you when he was released. You must have been furious yet again that an opportunity to be free passed you by! Why didn’t you try to plead your case with the guards or someone else? It would appear as if you actually wanted to stay in prison.
Joseph: I think the cup-bearer’s release was the turning point for me, when I realized that I could be content regardless of my circumstances. I didn’t need to depend on anyone else or try to control the situation. Like I said before, I knew my future was not in Pharaoh’s hands, Potiphar, Darla, or cup-bearer’s hands. God was still teaching me to trust in His timing alone. So, yes it was frustrating, but I was learning to serve God despite my circumstances. I knew God was giving me the interpretations to dreams for a reason, so I knew if I continued to trust in God, he would deliver me from prison when the time was right. It takes wisdom to know when to act on your behalf or someone else’s and when to wait
Me: That’s interesting, because when I’m in an undesirable situation, I’m frantically looking for any opportunity or something to do, and when I stumble upon one to investigate, it almost always leads me to a dead end and then my frustration starts all over again.
Joseph: One of the hardest things for us to do is to wait on God for the major things while staying faithful in the small things. We want the opposite. It takes years to learn! But if we can’t trust and obey God in what seems insignificant than we won’t trust and obey in bigger matters of life.
Me: Absolutely! Thank you, Joe, for showing us examples of Godly responses so that generations of believers after you could take comfort and know on a more profound level that God has a higher purpose for all of us despite what seems unclear in the present moment.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the wonderful example of Joseph’s life you have provided for proper responses during challenging circumstances. Forgive me when I am depressed, discouraged, impatient and lash out at you, questioning your purposes for my life and not understanding your timing. Help me to trust in your timing in all aspects of my life. Amen.