I was praying for a friend this week, and I prayed this specifically for her: “Don’t let her bad decisions shame her, haunt her, or hold her back.” And I stopped and said WOW! That’s powerful, and that’s for everyone.
We’ve all made bad decisions. And we’ve all let our bad decisions affect us one way or another. Usually we wind up dragging them around with us for a while, hoping they’ll become invisibile or disappear altogether without any effort on our part. But their weight won’t lessen as long as we’re carrying guilt and shame around.
And the longer we allow our decisions to weigh us down, the deeper we climb (fall) into the pit. We’ve all been in the pit. We’ve all thought it was hopeless. But it’s never hopeless. There is always the light of hope shining down on us, calling us to let it all go and crawl back up.
The problem is we think we deserve to stay in the pit. The problem is we feel unworthy of the Light (John 8:12 – Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”).
Joseph was a man who experienced a string of disappointments and lived for years in various pits. If you read his story, you almost want to think he deserved it. He was, after all, Jacob’s favorite son (Genesis 37:3), much to the chagrin of his ten brothers. And Jacob was quick to flaunt his favoritism without shame. So maybe Joseph’s head got a little big, and yes, he was a tattletale (Genesis 37:2 – Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. … Genesis 37:14 – Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.” So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.). Then Joseph had the nerve to have dreams that he was going to be bigger and better than them later in life (Genesis 37:5-8 – 5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.).
So how did his brothers react to all this? They literally threw him in a pit (Genesis 37:23-24 – 23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it.).
And if that wasn’t bad enough, they then decided to get rid of him for good and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:26-28 – 26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.).
In the matter of a few hours the life of luxury Joseph knew was gone. His brothers allowed anger to dictate their actions because they thought life would be easier if they sold Joseph out of their hair. The problem child was gone, and they could now be happy. Who cared about Joseph, the favored son? Jacob would grieve and move on.
But Genesis doesn’t focus on the brothers or Jacob. The story focuses on Joseph and how his true destiny started in that pit. How Joseph’s God-ordained purpose was set in motion when his brothers ganged up on him and threw him into the pit. The pit is only the beginning of Joseph’s story.
Did Joseph realize it at the time? No. Did Joseph think his life would always be hard or that he would always be a slave? Maybe. Did Joseph get depressed or discouraged? Possibly. We’ll never know, since it isn’t recorded.
The point God wants us to grasp is that Joseph didn’t lose heart through his various pits, and neither should you.
Nothing is recorded of Joseph losing his faith. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was very real to him – and sustained him through 13 years of hardship and slavery. God even blessed him for his faithfulness:
- Genesis 39:1-6 – Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.
- Genesis 39:20-23 – 20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
Do I think Joseph had moments of doubt? Of course. But he obviously didn’t let his doubts become bigger than his faith. And he had plenty of opportunities to turn away from God. He could have easily stolen from or run away from Potipahr, his master. He could have given in to Potiphar’s wife and maybe no one would have ever known. He could have taken all the credit when he interpreted the chief baker and chief butler’s dreams and no one in prison would have known the difference. He could have presented an overly confident and full of himself person to Pharaoh, and he could have demanded that the job of governor be given to him.
But Joseph decided that even though he was in the pit that he didn’t need to climb lower. He literally ran from Potiphar’s wife and the temptation to sin (Genesis 39:8-12). He didn’t hesitate to give God the credit for dream interpretations (Genesis 40:8; 41:15-16). And he didn’t hint in any way that he should be taken out of prison and given a high-ranking government job (Genesis 41:33).
So people took notice, and God favored him. After 13 years of living under someone else’s authority, God pulled Joseph out the pit and set him over the land of Egypt: Genesis 41:38-41 – 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
At any point in his story Joseph could have given into temptation and perhaps had a better or easier life as a result. He could have given in to the temptation to live for himself and be happy in the moment. But then Joseph would have missed out on God’s plan and purpose for his life.
If he had run away from Potiphar, if he had slept with Potiphar’s wife, if he had taken credit for dream interpretations – if any of these things had happened, Joseph would have missed the blessing of being governor. He may never have reconciled with his brothers or reunited with his father. And he would have never saved Egypt from starvation and ruin.
And it all started with the pit.
The pit brought Joseph into the fullness of his destiny. The pit was part of God’s purpose. Genesis 50:19-20 – 19 Joseph said to them [his brothers], “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
God used Joseph’s pit, and God will use yours, too.
Sometimes we end up in the pit by our choices, and sometimes it is by other’s choices on us (Genesis 40:15 – For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”). Remember, Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers.
But there is no pit too deep or dark for God to find us, love us, heal us, and rescue us. He can pull us up, equip us, and then work through us for His glory and our good.
He is reaching out to you today. Will you reach out to Him? Will you trust Him?
We can’t reach out to God when both our hands are grasping onto our past, our mistakes, our shame, our guilt, or our fears. We need to let go of the baggage dragging us down and holding us back. Let it go and open your hands to the loving Creator reaching to pull you up and out.
In each situation Joseph had a choice to turn to God or turn away from God. In each situation, Joseph had to determine what kind of person he would be. And with each good decision God honored him and gave him favor … even in the pit. Eventually God promoted to him to a position of great power. I believe it’s because Joseph continued to reach out and look up to God to give him the strength to face each day in the pit.
What will your choice be? Will you give into the temptation to wallow, be depressed, to linger in the dark, to choose the easy option? Or will you be filled with the hope that there is a plan for your life, a bigger and better purpose for you than you can envision right now? Will you trust God to bring you through and then lift you out?
Remember, we are never forsaken. God never loses sight of us or stops caring for us. God always wants the best for us. God is always giving us the choice – will we choose Him or not? Just as He encouraged the Old Testament leaders, so He continues to encourage us. Deuteronomy 31:6-8 – 6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” 7 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. 8 And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Don’t let the pit suffocate the light of God within you. Don’t let the pit extinguish the hope of God within you. Don’t let the pit make you forget the all-consuming love of God (Ephesians 3:18-19: 18 [that you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge).
Stop lingering in the pit. Stop wallowing in despair. Stop holding on to your mistakes and bad choices. Stop letting people’s bad choices control how you live. The pit is not meant to be your final destination. Let the pit be a “pit stop” and move on. Learn the lessons God will teach you in the pit and then climb out!
Then share your story and tell people how God helped you overcome. Be a Joseph who says “God meant it for good” and praise Him for bringing you closer to your purpose. Stop despising your pit and start seeing the hand of God. Trust Him to bring great purpose from your pit after He pulls you out.
Marie Fremin, 10/26/14