Are you bitter over what others have done to you? Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Bitterness doesn’t just hurt you – it hurts many others. Whenever I think of someone who overcame bitterness, I think of Joseph in the Bible.
Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and sold him in to slavery (Genesis 37). He became a slave but was promoted to manager of Potiphar’s household. Then he was falsely accused of rape he was thrown into prison. Joseph’s life was turned upside down and I’m sure he had thoughts of what the Lord was up to in this chaos. But Scripture says, “The Lord was with Joseph in prison and showed him his faithful love. The Lord made him a favorite with the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21). God was faithful to Joseph.
Joseph went from the pit to the palace to prison. That sure doesn’t seem like God’s will for anyone’s life. Joseph’s example during this struggle was one of how to wait patiently on the Lord. God did lift Joseph up to have great responsibility and power and he became the leader over Egypt and his own people. Patience was what kept Joseph from giving up in the middle of doubt and difficulty. I’ve heard it said, “Patience isn’t just waiting; it’s the condition of how you wait.” Isn’t that true? How we wait is so much more important than why, when, or how long we wait. That phrase from Genesis 39:21, “The Lord was with Joseph,” is one that reminds how God never abandons us even in our lowest of days. Joseph even displayed joy in the suffering, asking those in prison with him why they looked so sad (Genesis 40:7). False imprisonment, kidnapping, and slavery don’t seem like situations that bring about joy – but Joseph didn’t receive his joy from those situations.
There isn’t any record of Joseph complaining. The real test of his patience and trust in the Lord came years later after his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. A severe famine had been on the land for two years and was expected to continue for another five. Joseph’s brothers didn’t know he was the ruler of Egypt whom they stood before begging for help.
Joseph said to his brothers, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:5-7). Joseph saw what they did as God’s divine will for his life. He believed God did this to actually save his brothers. He chose better instead of bitter.
Do you see what you are going through as something God can use for His glory and part of His plan for your life? Read Joseph’s last words to his brothers and consider how they should encourage us to trust the Lord, wait patiently on Him, and allow Him to guide all the good and bad days of our lives. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).
Stephen Harrison is the senior pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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