This is a part of Joseph’s story that bothers me. Not that other parts of his story don’t . . . but the first truth I find in these verses is one of the big “Why’s” I wrestle with at times. I think a lot of us do.
It’s a hard truth. But it’s right here in the scriptures.
New English Translation (NET)
12 When his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I will send you to them.” “I’m ready,” Joseph replied. 14 So Jacob said to him, “Go now and check on the welfare of your brothers and of the flocks, and bring me word.” So Jacob sent him from the valley of Hebron.
15 When Joseph reached Shechem, a man found him wandering in the field, so the man asked him, “What are you looking for?” 16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Please tell me where they are grazing their flocks.” 17 The man said, “They left this area, for I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
18 Now Joseph’s brothers saw him from a distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
Joseph’s father sends him to check on his brothers and the sheep they’re tending and report back to him. When Joseph finally finds the brothers, they recognize him from a distance (could it possibly have been the multi-colored, full-length robe his father gave him?!?) and they plot to KILL JOSEPH.
That’s how much they hated Joseph and resented their father’s favoritism toward him.
This first truth is the hard one I was talking about.
Truth #1: Even when we’re obeying our Father, trouble and tragedy can happen to us.
That’s tough. It’s a hard truth to live with.
But I think it gets even harder to live with when we hear preaching and teaching telling us that if we’re in the center of God’s will, everything’s going to be fine. And I agree. It will be . . . eventually. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to LIFE. REAL LIFE. Life that can include suffering and death and heartache and betrayal and financial collapse and natural disasters and terrorist bombings and car accidents and miscarriages and affairs and wayward children.
Being in close relationship with God and being obedient to Him doesn’t protect us FROM those things. But it does protect us IN those things and THROUGH those things.
I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts where people have asked for prayer for a certain situation. When it turns out like they wanted it to, they’ll post: God is Good! And that’s true. God IS good. But God isn’t good only when He answers our prayers like we want Him to. God is good. Period. Even when the answer isn’t what we wanted. Or even when we don’t get an answer for years.
And that’s a tough truth. One that Joseph had to learn the hard way at a very young age.
The second truth is one that’s convicting for me as a parent.
Truth #2: Some of the things we “hang” on our children make them easy targets for their enemies.
I think that sometimes, in making sure our children know how special they are and how much we love them, we can make them feel like they’re more special than others.
We can give them so much to show them our love that they can grow up believing they deserve special treatment.
We can also shelter them so much in order to protect them that they grow up not being able to recognize danger.
And sometimes I wonder if the way we treat them growing up sets them up for a life of depression and disappointment because things aren’t as “good” as they used to be.
Jacob gave Joseph a special garment because he loved him so much. And I’m sure it made Joseph feel very special and very loved every time he put it on. But it had a very different effect on his relationships with his peers. It didn’t make them love him or respect him. Instead it made him an easy target for them.
I have to take this one step further. Sometimes God’s favor on our lives makes us an easy target for our enemies, too. And sometimes those “enemies” are members of our “family”, too. Just like Joseph, we don’t get God’s favor because of anything we do to deserve it. His favor comes just because of His love for us. But like Joseph, it can also bring unwanted attention and make us an easy target for anyone looking for a reason to plot against us.
When has trouble or tragedy come into my life while I was being obedient to and living close to God? How did I respond?
What have I hung on my child(ren)? How well have I prepared them for life?