One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Genesis 40:23: “Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Chapter 41 then begins: “Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years . . .” Joseph spent 13 years of his life as a slave or a prisoner. How much of this time was in Potiphar’s house versus prison is not revealed, but we can understand after interpreting the dream correctly for the cupbearer, his high hopes of being released. You can imagine his disappointment. Waiting day after day, then weeks, then months. Nothing.
You can imagine his disappointment. Waiting day after day, then weeks, then months. Nothing.
A story has made its way around the internet told in different ways, but with the same message. One version goes like this:
A woman had been a longtime missionary to Africa. She had become a part of the community and they loved her as one of their own. The day came when she decided to return home. The villagers gave her a farewell party. One of her students presented her with a gift poorly wrapped in brown paper. Opening it, she saw a seashell, seemingly unremarkable in its appearance, yet the woman recognized it as one that was only found on a beach some 30 miles away from where they lived.
“Where did you get this?” she asked.
“I walked to the beach to find it for you,” he replied.
“Walked?” she gasped.
He smiled. “Teacher, the journey is part of the gift!”
When we look at Joseph’s life in its entirety, we know it ends well.
When we look at Joseph’s life in its entirety, we know it ends well. We might even accept that in spite of the challenges this teenager might have needed to experience a few hard lessons before becoming a leader of the greatest nation at that time. Joseph, however, would not know the ending while he was living his life. Being a slave wasn’t great. Being a prisoner was worse. But one thing we do know—Joseph had not forgotten God (Gen. 39:9). He had somehow found contentment in his journey despite the disappointments. The journey was part of the gift.
So where are you in your journey? Sitting amid piles of never-ending laundry? Working in a job that lacks affirmation or challenges? Close to retirement and feeling unaccomplished? Everyone isn’t Joseph. It’s quite possible your journey won’t end in an exciting promotion or amazing achievement. You may simply be living an ordinary life. What is important is finding contentment in your journey. But what about the gift?
What is important is finding contentment in your journey. But what about the gift?
God’s done that for you already! The first gift was giving His Son, Jesus, so that your life can forever be saved in Him. The second gift is coming. While your journey today may seem mundane, there is a reward at the end. Jesus is preparing a place for you all while you face the cares and challenges each day brings. The journey is part of the gift. Be content. Look up. Find joy in your journey. Jesus is coming soon!
Several observations as we finish the Genesis story.
- God made a covenant with Abraham. In it, He promised him land as well as more descendants than the stars.
- Isaac is the promised heir to Abraham, but it begs the question as to how one son can possibly provide the legacy God has promised. Perhaps Abraham wonders this as well.
- Favoritism creeps into the story as the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah are born. The covenant appears to be in danger as we read about Esau, the careless and cavalier firstborn. His brother Jacob, the deceiver, saves the day, but stealing the birthright doesn’t seem to be what God had in mind.
- We get a better idea of how Abraham’s seed might populate the earth as we read of son after son being born to Jacob, even though it involves four women in the process! The covenant, so important in the beginning, while definitely more promising as we count Abraham’s descendants, seems to be lacking as it relates to the land, because Jacob no longer lives in Canaan.
- God tells Jacob to move back to Canaan and the story seems to right itself again. Jacob and Esau patch things up; Isaac is reunited with Jacob; Jacob’s 12 sons grow to manhood.
- Favoritism raises its ugly head once again as it is repeated in Jacob’s household. Jacob prizes Joseph, oldest son of Rachel, so much so that Joseph becomes a challenge to his increasingly unsavory brothers. The selling of Joseph to traders, his relocation to Egypt, and the deception that Jacob’s sons now play on their father, does not seem to bode well for God’s purpose. How will God deliver all He has promised to Abraham with this dysfunctional family?
- Finally, next week we will learn that Jacob’s entire family, the family of the promise, will move to Egypt once again away from the land of the covenant. There they will remain for 400 years. While we may wonder how God will bring about resolution, we know that He has led them there purposely. Joseph’s slavery has become Israel’s salvation at least for now.
Making it Real
Our story revealed that the journey is part of the gift. Take time to reflect on your journey. You can do this in several ways depending on your time:
- Lots of time: Get a piece of paper. Make two columns. In one column list the highlights of your life thus far. In the other column, list any events or incidences that were challenging. Then map your journey, identifying the highs and lows along the way. Mark on your map where you saw or felt God in your journey.
- Some time: Get a piece of paper. Make three columns. In one column list the highlights of your life thus far. In the second, list those times where you were challenged. In the third column detail where you saw or felt God working in your life. Can you see where God was leading even when it was through difficulties?
- Multi-tasking: If you only have time when doing something else (folding laundry, doing dishes, feeding a baby), think about three times in your life that were super highs. Then think of any times that were challenging. How can you praise God for both the highs and lows? Talk with Him about your journey while you multi-task.
Too busy to stop: It’s ok! We all have times in our life like this. God understands. This is when you praise Him for being with you on your journey. Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Repeat: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Respond & Share
What advice can you give to someone who is struggling to find happiness despite their circumstances? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.
Coming next week:
Based on Job 23:10; Genesis 41-50;
PP 219-240; SR 103, 104; BS, vol. 2, pp. 57-72