“We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” (Genesis 37:32b NIV)
Joseph’s brothers placed a bloody robe in their father Jacob’s hands with little concern for the heartbreak it would bring him.
Sometimes, during a Bible study I find myself wandering off with a thought that is not really where the leader intended. Kelly Minter’s Bible study about Joseph called Finding God Faithful did not dwell on this scene, but I could not get it out of my mind. This part of the familiar story stuck me this time when I read it. Joseph’s father Jacob was anguished because of the implication that an animal devoured his son. His mind concocted imagines of him suffering a horrible death. The saddest part of the story of course is that none of it was true. Jacob’s suffering came at the hands of the cruelty of his own sons.
As he stood there holding the richly ornamented robe made especially for Joseph, Jacob's dreams died. His hopes for his beloved son wasted away. It would be about twenty-two years before his needless mental and emotional suffering would end. In the meantime, God was preparing a way for the family to survive a famine through his lost son. His promises to Jacob were being fulfilled even though Jacob lived in the shadow of a perceived tragedy.
Pondering this story, I wondered what bloody robes I might be holding, grieving over, that God is in the process of redeeming. We view situations in life through the only lens available to us, losing sight of our big God.
Joseph, though sold into slavery, falsely accused, and forgotten, decided to continue to display his faith through his attitude toward God. The argument might be made that he held a bloody robe too. His hopes and dreams also slipped out of his reach, yet God redeemed them with more than he could have imagined.
Joseph’s attitude toward God as trial after trial unfolded in his life revealed his heart.
The most basic choice each of us possess is our attitude. Thankfully, it can lift the heavy situations in life that derail us and set them aside so that our way is clear to continue.
One of my friends prayed that God would change a difficult situation at her job. Soon after, she got fired. She moved forward though with a good attitude toward God, acknowledging his authority. She recognized that even though she did not understand God’s plan, moving forward with resentment did not honor God’s sovereignty. She asked God to help her.
I worked with a man who always seemed to get chosen for the interesting little assignments in our office. “I may not be the brightest color in the box, but I have a great attitude. I always have a great attitude.” He made a conscious decision to close the gap between his shortcomings and abilities by being easy to work with. His attitude served him well.
Self-control, it’s just controlling myself. Maybe the very best thing I can control is my attitude. Joseph set a powerful example. Eventually, his family reunited and his ability to trust God resulted in these famous words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
Joseph had every reason to be bitter and resentful. He examined his attitude and chose something better.