So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, because God sent me before you to preserve life.” -Genesis 45:4-5
“Thy will be done.” This is something that Christians say quite a bit, especially those who often quote the Lord’s prayer. But it’s one of the hardest phrases to actually mean, at least in my opinion. Control is something we work so hard to maintain, yet it is one thing that we most definitely do not have.
Lately, I’ve been on a quest of sorts to read more of the Old Testament. When I say lately, I really mean late… like the last few years. At first, I would just pick a book that I hadn’t read before and read it, but over the summer, I decided to take it back to the beginning. I love to read, and I thought: ‘If the Word of God is a story, I want to read it from start to finish.’ So, I began with the famous words, “In the beginning,” and moved on from there. Let me tell you, Genesis has some incredible stories. One that really interested me was the story of Joseph. Sure, I’d heard it before. Growing up in church you hear a lot about him, but it had been so long since I’d really read it. What I found was a lesson on surrendering to God’s will.
If you haven’t heard the story of Joseph before, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Joseph was his father’s favorite out of many brothers, which infuriated them. To make matters more tense, Joseph started having dreams where he was set above all of his siblings. Led by anger, Joseph’s brother’s sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt and eventually thrown in prison, where he interpreted dreams for two men who had worked for the Pharaoh. When Pharaoh later had two dreams no one could interpret, one of the men who had been released remembered Joseph and shared about the dream interpreter. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and successfully gave the dreams’ meaning with God’s guidance. He found favor with the Pharaoh, and became a leader in Egypt.
This brings us to the context of the verses quoted at the start of this devotional. Egypt and the surrounding areas are in a time of famine where food is scarce. Because of Joseph’s leadership and direction from the Lord, there is food in Egypt. Joseph’s brothers embark on a journey to buy some for their family. When they arrive in Egypt, they don’t realize that their brother is the one who they are pleading with until Joseph reveals himself to them in chapter 45. Despite the wrong his brothers did to him, he reveals himself to them for a profound reason. He does not want them to be distressed over their past actions because God used Joseph for His will. Joseph had learned a very valuable lesson: his circumstances do not matter compared to the fulfillment of the will of his Creator.
I don’t know what you’re going through, and I won’t pretend that setting aside your situation for God’s will is easy, but I will ask you this: whose will is more important to you? That’s a key question in the story of Joseph. I’m sure if Joseph had his way, the situation would look very different. There’s probably things in your life you’d change if you had the power. Yet even in hardships, God is with us, in control, and knows the bigger picture. Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment, God is in control, and He will use the difficult circumstances of life for His glory and our good.
The question we are left with is whether we will learn from Joseph’s attitude and surrender our wants and circumstances to God for His will and His glory. That’s the challenge I give you– to ask that question and work towards surrender with God. I know it isn’t easy. I know it has to be an everyday decision. It is for me. But scripture shows how good, beautiful, and powerful it is to trust His will over ours.