3 Things the Story of Joseph Has Taught Me About Hard Times
"Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed."
INSPIRATION & PURPOSE
“Joseph Thrown Into Prison” is the seventh piece in my 15-piece Joseph series. The Scripture above is what inspired the look of this design, but its meaning to me is much deeper. When I look at it, I’m reminded of Joseph’s experience which taught me three main things about hard times.
HARD TIMES TEST YOUR FAITH
When Joseph was thrown into prison, he was probably thinking, “I didn’t do anything! I didn’t even touch that woman!” Joseph was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife. This lie landed him in jail. When the jail door slammed in Joseph's face, the testing of his faith began—would Joseph walk away from God or towards him?
Similarly, I believe God has allowed certain things to happen in my life as tests to see how faithful I am to him. God doesn’t want me to be someone who sees tests as a problem, but as ways to strengthen my faith in him. Max Lucado put it perfectly in his book called You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times,
“If you see your troubles as nothing more than isolated hassles and hurts, you’ll grow bitter and angry. Yet if you see your troubles as tests used by God for his glory and your maturity, then even the smallest incidents take on significance.”
God will continue to put me to the test not because he’s a meany-head but because he wants to make me better. He puts the challenges, hard times, difficulties, opposition and road blocks in my way to make sure that I still have the faith to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep after it, to keep seeking him. God loves a go-getter and he will provide opportunities for each one.
HARD TIMES BUILD CHARACTER
Although Joseph was innocent of the crime he was accused of by men, with more context of this story, we learn that God found him guilty of a few heart issues and character flaws that needed to be corrected. I can relate! I was prideful, self-centered and believing the world was out to get me and my ideas. These kinds of traits were not great building materials for God’s Kingdom. God only uses building materials like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness and self-control...to name a few.
When things were not going so well for me a couple of years ago, God wasn't putting me in a time-out. God used those hard times to get my attention and help me understand how to fully embrace and fulfill the promises God had for me. This pattern will always continue in my life if I desire to keep maturing. However, I must be willing to change habits so that he can use me. I have to shed my selfishness and let God replace it with his grace and mercy.
I love what Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) states,
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
With the right building materials, God can bring his Kingdom here on earth. The hard part is putting aside my flesh to allow God's grace and mercy to flow through me.
HARD TIMES HELP SHIFT PERSPECTIVE
When hard times show up on my doorstep of life, I end up answering the door in one of two ways: Why? or Now what? When answering the door with Why?, I place myself in a perspective of being a victim. I then start to tell myself that God is against me or that he is out to get me. This perspective is very toxic and it has caused me to question and gradually distance myself from God.
Over time, I’m working to shift my perspective by answering the the door with Now what? This perspective causes me to believe that everything happens for a reason—even the bad things. These bad things are actually opportunities where God can use me to bring glory to him and also share the gospel.
In addition to these two perspectives, I have discovered that I should be grateful—things can always be worse. I enjoy reading stories from persecuted Christians because their perspectives are always inspiring to me. Many Christians around the world are facing some of the hardest times—wars, hate, rape, death, isolation, imprisonment—yet, they continually look to God for guidance and peace.
I am encouraged by this quote from an Internally Displaced Person (someone who is a believer that is stuck in a war zone with no place to go) who has fled form place to place because of the violence:
“In all these years I have been moving around, I never felt like my life was difficult, because God was with me all the time. When I was in need, he provided for me in miraculous ways. Like the time that I had to give birth to one of my children, and there were a lot of bombs outside. I had to bring myself to the hospital because there was no electricity, and the doctor asked me, 'How is it humanly possible that you reached this hospital alive in your state of pregnancy?' I said, 'God is always there.'”
Joseph could have seen his situation as hopeless, but instead he did his best with each small task given to him. His diligence and positive attitude were noticed by the warden and he was promoted within the prison. By having the perspective of “God is always there,” God will see me and bless me during the hard times.
As you can see, though I've never been thrown into prison, I feel like I can relate to Joseph on so many levels—especially regarding hard times. I’m betting you're right there with me. I'm hoping some of these thoughts and this Art Print will help unchain your heart from hard times in your past.