I've been thinking about the story of Joseph lately.
Does God play favorites? (Of course not.) When you read the story of Joseph do you think it IS in fact a little unfair that Joseph is treated differently then all his other brothers? If you were the brother would you resent seeing a sibling spoiled and given nice things while you were ignored. Of course you would. It's human.
Human impulses, however, are not something we're meant to live by. Did Josephs brothers have unwilling hearts to follow God? Did they focus on what they didn't have? Did they feel sorry for themselves and build up resentment?
Do you think if Josephs brothers had been actively fighting their impulses and open to what God had for them, they would have had an even bigger role, like Josephs?
Joseph was given a great responsibility. His life was not spoiled and perfect. With great reward comes great sacrifice. Willingness to follow God means willingness to surrender a mediocre "safe" life. Maybe at times admist the turmoil you wish for boring. And yet, after all the pain comes the reward...greater than anything you may have received otherwise...and with a character much stronger.
That isn't to say everyone must to be imprisoned and enslaved in order to someday rule...
The question is, are we willing to accept hardship for Him?
I think the most striking part of Josephs story was his joy. He had peace and joy in God...and trusted him completely...even when he was in prison and at the lowest point of his life.
How many of us really do this? Trust God to the point of joy amidst pain...in the midst of unfairness even. Other people manipulating you, being selfish, lying, etc. as in Josephs case.
Let me use yet another Cool Hand Luke song here:
Let me tell you what he did for me,
With the weight of my worries tearing my sleeve.
I cried to my father the other night, the end of all hope.
"Show me the rope, which way to go"
As I fell asleep, he took away my worries.
He picked me up put me on his shoulders.
I could see for miles.
He showed me that the mountain I'm climbing, is not a mountain at all, but a gentel slope leading home.
There are mountains towering ahead.
He says to me
"These are mine. Hold my hand, you'll be fine."
I could see for miles.
He showed me that the mountain I'm climbing, is not a mountain at all, but a gentle slope leading home.
"The mountains are mine."
Cool Hand Luke
So...when we find ourselves in the pain...there's so much joy we can have in that. The joy of God's trust in our strength. The joy of knowing the other side will be great. The joy that God is with us right then and there giving us peace...lifting us onto his shoulders...
Our mountains seem so significant while we're climbing them. But if we could see past them...at the bigger picture...they wouldn't seem so significant. And he never asked us to endure trial and pain alone. He's right there with us...holding our hand...suffering with us. And we can look at our mountains and hear God say "The mountains are mine."
Joseph is a great example of extreme pain and extreme blessing. But the Bible (especially the old testament) is full a sacrifices that are frankly much larger than most things we seem to be asked to give up today. Even in cases of love...Jacob worked YEARS to be with Rachel. Years. How many of us are asked to wait years? Not many. If God asked us to...would we think it was insane? Then look at Job who had his children and all his possessions taken. If we lost every one of our children and all we had...could we keep out faith? And the list goes on.
But at the end of each of these stories is Redemption. And often, unexpected and better than expected.
So in our temporary pains...we can find peace in him...but can't we also find some joy?
It's okay to hurt and not rid yourself entirely of your hopes or the pain of submitting them to God. What would we offer as our sacrifice if we had no personal desires? It'd be easy to follow God if we had no personal feelings of our own on that matter of our lives...but we do...and the pain of giving them to God is a willing sacrifice and submission.