Each January as I return to read Genesis, the Holy Spirit seems to emphasize something new. About a week ago I was reading chapter 42 when these words seemed to pop from the page: Jacob said, “Everything is against me!” You and I may not have said it so others could hear, and our words may have been a bit different, but all of us have thought the same as Jacob.
It seems as if once we begin a day wrong, everything goes wrong. We have been awake only 30 minutes when we burn the toast and spill the coffee; we are low on gas and stopping to fill up makes us late for work. Then the computer has a glitch and the project we have just spent an hour on is gone and can’t be retrieved. Our lunch sandwich is soggy, so we throw it out. The hunger pains drive us to the candy machine, and all our healthy eating goals, which we have dutifully kept for three weeks, are broken. Then we remember that we forgot to thaw the meat for supper, and a friend who needs help is coming to share the meal. Yes, just as Jacob says, “Everything is against me!”
Sometimes days are just upside down. In those situations, we must train ourselves to rejoice even in challenging circumstances. What Jacob didn’t know (and what we often have no idea of) is that God was in the process of providing the biggest miracle of his life.
If you remember the story found in Genesis 37, ten of Jacob’s sons decided to get rid of their younger brother, Joseph. They were jealous of Jacob’s obvious affection and preference. At first, they put him in a pit, but then got the bright idea to sell him into slavery to men who were traveling to Egypt. Jacob was sure Joseph was dead when the brothers showed Jacob his son’s beautiful blood-stained coat. (The brothers killed an animal and put the coat in the blood.)
God prospered Joseph in Egypt as he worked for Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, until Potiphar’s wife decided to entice him. When Joseph continually refused her advances, she looked for a way to trap him. He escaped, but she lied about the incident, and Potiphar put Joseph in prison. God even blessed Joseph there. Through providential circumstances (see Genesis 39-45), Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and was appointed as second in command in the land to oversee the stores of grain to prepare for the coming famine.
Joseph’s brothers go twice to Egypt to buy grain. The story in Genesis in 43-45 is fascinating, and Joseph finally revealed his true identity. Joseph’s attitude was exemplary; he told his brothers, “[D]o not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you,” (Genesis 45:5). The brothers returned to Canaan and brought Jacob to Egypt where he lived until his death at age 147.
When Joseph introduced his father to Pharoah and Pharoah asked him his age, Jacob could have told him all of God’s blessings. Afterall, he had sons, daughters, grandchildren, great wealth, was a healthy 130-year-old man at the time, and he was now with the son whom he thought was dead. And that boy was a leader in the land. What more could a man ask for? Instead, Jacob said, “My years have been few and difficult.” Poor Jacob, regardless of God’s goodness to him, he looked on the dark side of everything.
We may be going through very difficult times, but we have no idea what God is working out in our lives. Unless, however, we learn to trust the Lord and praise Him when things are challenging, we will not be able to rejoice well when we are blessed. Sarah Young offers this prayer in Jesus Listens: “Sovereign Lord, please help me to live joyfully in the midst of my struggles.… I need to remember that You’re always in control and taking care of me.”