Lately I’ve been reading about the life of Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis. I’ve probably read this account dozens of times over my lifetime, but something new jumped out at me because of my own recent attitude and circumstances.
Let me give you a little background on this story before I reveal the insight I’ve gained.
Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery many years earlier when he was probably only about 17. And in chapter 42, they had providentially run into him again many years later in Egypt. Of course, they didn’t recognize him. After all it had probably been around 15 years since that terrible day when they coldheartedly sold Joseph to a caravan of traders. The brothers probably couldn’t conceive of their “little brother” as an adult. I can also imagine that Joseph dressed like most Egyptian lords—a far cry from the coat of many colors he was wearing on that awful day way back when. It’s also safe to assume that he had an elaborate headdress and lots of thick Egyptian eye make-up concealing his Hebrew peepers. And the fact that he was second in command of Egypt might have thrown his brothers for a curve as well.
After all those years of alienation from his family, it was now Joseph’s turn to be in control of the situation. And he, at least in my opinion, seemed to relish using his brother’s ignorance to his advantage. So Joseph set about to play with his brother’s heads just a little before revealing the truth.
First of all, he accused his brothers of being spies. They protested, trying feverishly to convince him of their innocence. The load of guilt and the burden of the lie that they had kept from their father for so many years was probably weighing heavily upon them. They believed that their predicament was God’s punishment for their crime.
Joseph saw their anguish. He felt their pain. But did he go easy on them? No way! Instead, he took one of their brothers, Simeon, and threw him in jail and wouldn’t release him until they brought their youngest brother, Benjamin, back with them on their next trip. With heads hung low, the brothers trotted back to their father in Canaan. Along the way one of the brothers discovered that the money he had paid for his grain was in the top of his bag. What a gut-wrenching realization, since this meant that it would incriminate the brothers all the more upon their return.
When they finally reached their home and father, they presented a long and whiney list of woes to him. And this is the point in the story where something interesting popped out at me.
The brothers could only see the apparent problem. In the brothers opinion everything was a problem from
1) The money they thought they had paid being found in the top of their bags
to . . .
2) Returning to Egypt and being taken directly to the harsh Egyptian leader’s house
to . . .
3) Discovering the harsh Egyptian leader’s cup in the top of little brother Benjamin’s bag
The point is that every problem the brothers experienced (and there were many more than I just listed) was really just a stepping stone that brought them closer to the blessings God was going to give them. In other words, they looked at the apparent problem as, well . . . a problem. But in the spiritual realm, if they had looked with spiritual eyes, they would have seen that the problems they were facing were really blessings in disguise. If you know anything about the story you’ll realize that God reunited this family and blessed them in every possible way later down the road, but God used the problems to set the stage for what was to come.
I have a tendency to view my apparent problems as actual problems. In other words, I’m spiritually nearsighted a lot of the time. The reality is that God views my problems not as problems at all. Remember He sees the long view. Furthermore, He not only sees the road we are on, but what’s ahead over that jagged mountain we are traversing as well.
In other words, God views our problems not as roadblocks to our goal or mountains we cannot scale, but rather as opportunities for us to trust Him. We need to remember that He is way ahead of us and knows how, with His help, our apparent problem will work out. And if we trust Him and follow Him when we are in the middle of our problem, He will lead us to a better place. We may not be able to see it now because we are often spiritually nearsighted. But if there’s one thing I know, our inability is not a problem for our farsighted God.