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They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.” Genesis 42:21 (NIV)

It’s a story I have heard from my youth. Joseph, just a boy of perhaps 18 was a dreamer. He was the favored son of his father and a source of contention among his brothers. So much so that when the opportunity came, these brothers sold their brother into slavery and told his father that he’d been killed by some unknown, but savage beast.

The disadvantage to seeing the end of the story is that you forget to contemplate what was going on emotionally for those involved. Judah, the ringleader of the brothers wanted Joseph out of the way once and for all. Rueben fought for the integrity of family and his father.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the anguish of Joseph that day. We remember him more as the good looking and wiser ruler that led Egypt through famine and won the safety of his family. But that day near the old well, it was a different story.

Don’t forget for a moment that the story of Joseph, like any story in the Bible or any other book is a story about real people with real feelings and real emotions. These were the guys Joseph played football with on Sunday afternoons. These were the guys that Joseph learned tending livestock from. These were the guys who helped him put the first worm on his hook and cheered as he pulled in his really big fish.

As Joseph was led away behind the caravan of camels it wasn’t just his brothers he saw disappear over the horizon, it was everything he remembered. He left the arms of his father to deliver food and to the best of his knowledge would never see dad again. Some of us have an adventurers’ heart. Launching out into the great unknown has a certain romance to it. The adventurer chooses to leave the well-known for the unknown. That can’t be said for Joseph. As he was led away he saw his very future being ripped from his hands.

Fast forward now twenty years into the life of Joseph. Somewhere in his life Joseph made a decision to trust God. Read his story in Genesis and you’ll see the presence of God in his life mentioned repeatedly. Whether it was before he was sold into slavery or after, somewhere along the line Joseph made a decision to make the best of every situation and to realize that regardless of what happened God was in control. Because God was in control his ‘duty’, so to speak was to serve this God to the best of his ability.

Like Joseph, there are those times when life deals us a horrible hand of cards. There are those people and those events that seem destined to ruin us and destroy us. But we don’t see the end of the story. We must focus on a God we can trust to know better than we do how life should go. We must rely on the one who sees the end of the story to get us through the middle chapters.

PRAYER: Father, during those times when life seems hopeless and I’m not sure I can continue on, help me remember how you used the abuse Joseph suffered to save the lives of his family. Help me serve you faithfully during my distress. Amen.


For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. Hebrews 2:17 NCV

People put a lot of stock in heritage. It seems like the smaller the town you live in, the more that is true.

“It’s really no surprise. You know what his father is like.”

“I went to school with her mother. She was the same way. Never finished school as I recall.”

“Don’t hang around with those kids. They come from bad families.”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of a critical spirit when we look at other people and their families. On one hand we look at them and make decisions on their motives based on their past. On the other hand we can go the opposite direction and compare our family to theirs (I wish my spouse would do that for me; I wish our kids could be as responsible as theirs.)

Families matter and today they matter more than ever because the very concept of family has fallen into disrepute, attack and confusion. Jesus knew about families. He grew up in one. He learned the struggle of dealing with younger brothers and sisters. He endured the mistakes of young, first time parents. But more importantly, he had a strong heritage before him.

Jesus had a direct line to David on both his mother’s side and his earthly step-father’s side. That’s impressive. But don’t forget about the others that lined the path to the manger inBethlehem. Some were swindlers that thought nothing of cheating their brother. Some were murderers. Even David, his namesake, was a poor parent, slept with a friends wife murdered to cover up his crime and quite often protected himself at the expense of his countrymen.

Jesus had a dysfunctional family heritage. That’s good news for us because most of us come from families at some level of being dysfunctional. The paths of our lives are lined with lust, affairs, failure, financial struggles, divorce, abuse and a wide range of other issues that keep us defeated. Since Jesus’ ancestors struggled with the same things he knows what your family is like.

You may say to those who judge your family, “But you don’t understand”, and from a human perspective you may be right. No one knows the pain you have gone through as the result of your family. But Jesus does!

Talk to him about your family. Tell him your struggles and fears. Remind him of the hurt others have caused you. He understands because his family, like yours, was imperfect.       

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for the fact that you understand the pain and frustration of my family. Empower me to overlook the accusations others throw my way regarding my past and my heritage. Give me the grace I need to accept my family, just as you have given me grace. Amen.


You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

I was talking with a friend the other day and as he shared a very stressful time of his life I said “People say God never gives us more than we can handle, but sometimes I wonder.” He looked at me and said, “God does give us more than we can handle, He never gives us more than HE can handle! That’s the only way He can get some of us to rely on Him.”

Throughout the Old Testament, and in our lives today we go through things that seem to hard to handle, we see our kids struggle with things they should never have to deal with. We see our parents fail in old age and our finances falter in troublesome times. We endure the trauma of broken relationships and death. In all this we look heavenward and say “When is enough, enough?”

Take a look at the life of Joseph for example. If you look at his family closely you will see that he grew up in a dysfunctional family with a weak father, a conniving mother and a bunch of brothers that were nothing short of bullies. Joseph didn’t help matters any when he told everyone in his family that someday they would all serve him! The tension around the dinner table must have been thick enough to cut with a knife!

When his brothers had had enough they beat Joseph up and sold him into slavery. Joseph was taken away by strangers to a far off land. He had no chance to say good bye to his family. He was in a strange land where his customs were odd and where the God he worshipped was looked down upon. He was lonely, wrongfully accused, misunderstood, forgotten, betrayed and in fear for his life.

In the midst of his calamity Joseph never lost sight of the fact that God was in complete control. Joseph’s situation wasn’t completely the fault of his brothers. He’d done some things that inflamed their anger. Yet he knew that God would eventually work everything out.

Joseph made the best of a bad situation as well! Rather than sulk as a slave he worked hard to elevate himself to a manager position. When Joseph sent to prison innocently, he didn’t become bitter, he became better. By the time Joseph had his chance for freedom, he was not only ready for life outside, he was ready for leadership.

When we are treated poorly our natural reaction is to retaliate. One day Joseph had that chance. The very brothers that were bullies when he was growing up, the very brothers who’d sold him into slavery, came for help. Joseph wisely tested them to see if they had changed, and then revealed himself to them. Even though he wasn’t obligated to give them anything he gave them food, shelter and  the most important thing any of us can hope for: FORGIVENESS.

You may be going through something you think unbearable right now. It could be the result of something you did or the actions of other abusive people. You may be feeling like there is no way out. In the midst of your pain, remember the life of Joseph. Throughout his struggle he never lost sight of a God who loves you, forgives you and can make whatever you are going through turn out for good. It may take many years, but someday you will be able to look back and see His way was best. He may give you more than you can handle, but He’ll never give you more than HE can handle!

PRAYER: Holy and powerful God. I thank you for stories like that of Joseph that remind me that you are always in control and that you can take the worst things in life and make them useful to your Kingdom. I confess that the struggle I’m in may be partially my own fault. I also suffer at the hands of abusers in my life. Please forgive me for my part in the struggle, protect me from abuse, but most of all, help me patiently acknowledge your leading and wait for you to make all things good for your sake. Thank you for your love and forgiveness. In Jesus name, Amen.

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