Things Beyond Our Control
Genesis, chapter 37 begins a narrative of a series of events in the life of Joseph that would drastically alter his future. There are three major incidents noted that rerouted his path.
Genesis 37:13-14 describes a normal situation. Joseph’s father, Jacob asked him to go out to the field where his brothers were tending the sheep and see how they were doing. Joseph went willingly, no doubt fully expecting to check on his siblings and then return to his father’s house later that evening. Little did he know at that time that he would not see his father again for several more years. As Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching, the jealousy they had developed over their father’s favored treatment of Joseph led them to plot his murder (Genesis 37:18). Joseph’s life was spared but eventually he was sold into slavery. The day began as any other for Joseph and ended with him being carried away from his homeland. The day started happily for him and ended tragically. How much of the trouble Joseph encountered that day did he actually cause? How much of it was his fault? It’s clear that every moment of Joseph’s sorrowful experience on that day was beyond his control.
Moving to Genesis, chapter 39 for the second incident, we find Joseph in Egypt as a servant in the household of Potiphar. Everything was going great for Joseph. God was blessing him. His employer was pleased with his work. Life was outstanding (Genesis 39:1-6). Then Potiphar’s wife lustfully approached Joseph and sought to entice him into adultery. The Godly man refused her advances and hustled away so quickly from the temptation that he literally ran out of his coat. Enraged by the rebuff, Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to molest her. A fair trial for Joseph was nowhere to be found and he was sent to prison. How much of this trouble did Joseph bring on himself? Can we find any fault on his part at all in this text? As in the previous paragraph, the answer is again a resounding “no.”
Now looking at incident number three, we go to Genesis, chapter 40. In prison, Joseph, by the power of the Lord, interpreted the dreams of two of his fellow inmates. He advised the butler that he would be restored to service in Pharaoh’s house. Having said that, Joseph asked only one favor of the butler. “But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: for indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.” (Genesis 40:14-15). Joseph only wanted justice. He knew he had done anything to deserve what he had been suffering. Genesis 40:23 says, however, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Reading on into the next chapter we find that eventually the butler did remember Joseph, but it was two years later. Joseph’s release could very well have been granted right after the butler was reinstated to his position, but two years passed before it occurred. Again we ask, how much of that two year sentence was Joseph’s fault? Had he done anything to bring this anguish upon himself? The answer is still “no.”
We can accurately say that Joseph suffered from things that were beyond his control. That’s not really what is important here though. What’s important is how Joseph reacted to each situation that was beyond his control. After being sold into slavery, Joseph made the best of his circumstances and continued to serve God faithfully (Genesis 39:6). When he was tempted to commit sin with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph adamantly refused and chose instead to honor God (Genesis 39:9). After he was imprisoned, Joseph continued to walk with the Lord. In each case, the Bible notes that God blessed Joseph for his faithfulness. Even though some things were beyond his control, the one thing Joseph COULD control was his dedication to God.
All of life’s troubles hurt, but perhaps none hurt so much as those that make us feel helpless because there was nothing we could do to prevent them. May we learn that while we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can control our reactions and may each of our reactions be those words and deeds that will glorify God. He will indeed bless us for our faithfulness, just as He blessed Joseph.