One of the most predictable truths of the Christian life is that those who have high callings will have to overcome great trials on the road to their destiny. I wish this weren’t true, but I’ve seen few exceptions. If you want to have an extraordinary impact on the world, get ready for some difficult trials, often accompanied by injustices at the hands of other people.
The story of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, illustrates this principle well. Of all of Jacob’s children, he loved Joseph the most (Genesis 37:3). And as the story unfolds, we see that none of the other sons had the high calling Joseph had.
So did Joseph have a soft, easy life because of this special favor from God and special bond he shared with his earthly father? Certainly not! In fact, he had to go through extraordinary trials in preparation for the extraordinary impact he was destined to one day have.
Dreams Turned Into Nightmares
When Joseph was just 17, he had vivid dreams that provided a glimpse of his future. His brothers were already jealous of him, and these audacious dreams infuriated them all the more.
First the brothers threw him into a pit. Then he was sold into slavery to some Ishmaelite traders and taken to Egypt. Joseph ended up working for Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, and things seemed to be going better for him at that point.
However, Joseph’s trials weren’t over yet. Potiphar’s wife wrongfully accused him of attempted rape, and he ended up spending 13 years in prison as a result. He had successfully avoided temptation, but the outcome seemed completely unfair.
One of his prison mates was a butler who had a startling dream one night, which Joseph success-fully interpreted. The butler would soon be released, and Joseph encouraged him to put in a good word with Pharaoh. However, the butler forgot to mention Joseph to Pharaoh until two years later!
Despite the trials and injustices he experienced, the Bible repeatedly says, “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2, 39:21, 39:23). Through it all, he had God’s favor, but Joseph surely must have wondered about that at times. Most of us would have thrown ourselves an endless pity party, but there’s no evidence Joseph ever did so.
In retrospect, his numerous hardships were simply part of God’s refining process, preparing Joseph for future greatness. That’s something for you and me to remember the next time we have to deal with unpleasant or unjust circumstances. God has promised to work them all together for good when we entrust our lives to Him (Romans 8:28).
Joseph’s story is an example of the often-stated principle: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” This man of destiny continued to patiently trust the Lord no matter what he faced, and eventually he outlasted his problems.
Opening Prison Doors
Joseph used a vital key in order to successfully get unstuck from the pit and the prison so he could reside in Pharaoh’s palace – ultimately saving his family and the entire nation of Egypt from starvation. That key is FORGIVENESS.
You see, many people get stuck and bound up in life because they refuse to forgive the people who have wronged them. From a human standpoint, Joseph had every right to be angry toward his brothers. And it must have been incredibly difficult to forgive Potiphar’s wife, whose lies resulted in Joseph being thrown into prison. And what about the butler? Joseph’s time in prison could have been two years shorter if the butler had remembered to tell Pharaoh about Joseph right away.
What would have happened if Joseph had failed to forgive these people? I’m convinced he would have remained stuck at some point in his journey. Instead of being able to fulfill God’s amazing vision for his future, he would have been in bondage to the past.
His brothers were terrified when they realized that Joseph was now the prime minister of Egypt, with power to kill them or enact some other kind of revenge. How shocked they must have been when their brother assured them of his love and forgiveness – even when they clearly didn’t deserve it.
Not only did Joseph refuse to seek revenge against his brothers, but he actively treated them with unconditional love and undeserved kindness:
“Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:19-21).
Joseph’s story is a beautiful picture of God’s abounding grace given to undeserving people like us, who had treated Him as our enemy (Romans 5:6-8). It’s also an astounding revelation of God’s ability to redeem even the most horrendous circumstances and turn them around for our good.
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells the story of another man who went to prison. Why? Because he refused to forgive. Not only was he imprisoned by his unforgiving attitude, but Jesus says he was tortured and tormented. While this may seem like an extreme outcome, it’s crucial to see what Jesus is describing here: Those who allow unforgiveness and bitterness to fester in their hearts will inevitably experience spiritual bondage and emotional torment.
Friend, now is a good time to pause and allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Is there anyone you’ve not forgiven? No matter how unjustly you’ve been treated, your freedom and deliverance depends on extending forgiveness and setting the other person free.
I know you may have faced some horrific treatment by some-one along the way. Perhaps you’ve been sexually abused…physically beaten…lied about…wrongfully fired from a job…or betrayed by a spouse. But if you insist on hanging on to your hurts and offenses, you will inevitably find yourself stuck to the traumas of your past. Don’t allow that to happen! The Lord wants to set you free to fulfill His great plans for your future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Don’t wait a moment longer. Let God’s forgiveness fill your heart, and then extend that forgiveness to anyone who has hurt you. When you do, no pit or prison can keep you from experi-encing the Lord’s incredible favor.
Bishop George Bloomer is a best-selling author and the founding pastor of the Bethel Family Worship Center in Durham, NC. Learn more at bishopbloomer.com.