When will this all end? When can we get back to normal? When will I feel safe again? These are all questions we find ourselves asking. These questions have been asked before.
Thousands of years ago, a bright, handsome young man fell into disfavor with his brothers, and their jealousy drove them to sell him into slavery to merchants on their way to Egypt. They lied to their father and led him to believe that his favorite son, Joseph, had been killed by a wild beast. His heart was broken, and Joseph was on a journey filled with much suffering. Where was God in all this?
Joseph was a young man of honesty, integrity and wisdom. He was tempted to practice sexual promiscuity with the beautiful and passionate wife of his boss, but he refused. In humiliation, she lied against him and had him tossed into prison. With great wisdom, he found favor with Pharaoh and was promoted to second in command of all of Egypt. From this high position in the government, Joseph took the revelation his God had given him to direct others in saving their people. The Lord had revealed to him how several years of abundance would precede several years of severe famine. Frugal stewardship in those former years would not only save many lives, but it would position Egypt to become even more powerful in the years to come as the famine spread to other lands which would not be so prepared! Wise leadership in times of crises is always a plus.
Surely Joseph must have had emotional vertigo at how much his head was spinning with the rapid changing of events in the life of a young man from another culture. Being chased by another man’s wife, thrown into jail, sitting on death row, standing before the mightiest king in the world, being promoted to a high government position and, now, essentially saving the world! Pretty heady stuff! But the best is yet to come. Soon his brothers would come seeking food since the famine had hit Israel hard. Joseph looked so different now than when they last saw him. When he revealed himself to his brothers, they were alarmed, expecting a severe payback. He responded with grace. After a little gamesmanship, Joseph invited his father and family to move to Egypt so he could care for them better. In the days ahead, his father would finally die a happy man. The selfish brothers concocted a lie to keep in the little brother’s good graces, but it was not necessary. Joseph finally put it all out there when he stated clearly how God had been at work: what you intended for evil God intended for good.
Do you not see that principle at work today? An aggressive virus has circled the globe. Many citizens are at high risk. Loved ones are isolated in hospitals and nursing homes. Economies have suffered greatly. People are afraid. Conspiracy theories are ramped up. Politics have entered the fray. Everyone needs a haircut! None of this is pleasant, yet there is much good in spite of the pain.
All of us have seen the value in slowing down. Many have backed off our obsession with sports. We are cooking healthier foods and eating more at home. Parents are involved in their children’s education and learning greater respect for school teachers. The truth about the nature of church is coming out: church is the people of God, not just a building. People are checking on their neighbors and building friendships, even from a distance. Families are celebrating nature instead of playing every sport every weekend. People are reading books! As one person commented, “It is as though our Heavenly Father said ‘STOP’ and sent His children to their room for a timeout.” In the spirit of Joseph, may we all see the good and not just the bad.
Greg Burton is pastor at Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Kingsport.