We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. Romans 5:3-5, NCV
An anvil is a tool with a hard surface on which another object is struck. You might say the anvil graduated from the “tool house” of hard knocks. In most cases the anvil was used as a forging tool, and before the advent of modern welding technology it was the primary tool for metal workers. If we liken the anvil to the hardships in our lives what is the result? As an example, why don’t we explore a bit of Joseph’s story from Old Testament times. Like many of us, he had it rough, but how can an ancient story make sense to the modern, grieving heart? Let’s peek into his life and see if we can uncover anything that might fit our lives today.
Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons born to his father, Jacob. He was the first child born to his mother, Rebekah, Jacob’s favorite wife. The other sons were from Leah, Jacob’s first wife and from his wives’ maids. Does it sound complicated? It must have been the source of much drama during the time in which they lived. And on top of everything else, Joseph was his father’s favorite son, which provoked jealousy in the hearts of his step brothers. It didn’t help that he had dreams and then explained their meaning to his family in which he implied that his brothers would one day bow down to him. I can imagine how I’d feel if one of my siblings said that to me. It would not have gone over well.
The jealousy led to a quick life-changing act at the young age of seventeen. One day Joseph’s father sent him to the fields to check on his brothers. He happened to be wearing the special coat woven especially for him. Not the usual drab colors shepherds’ wore, this coat stood out with its bold, bright colors and the brothers saw Joseph coming from a long ways off. Their blood boiled just thinking about this self-proclaimed dreamer. One brother suggested they get rid of him once and for all. Others suggested they not murder him, but sell him to a band of Midianite merchants they could see approaching in the distance, who would be on their way to Egypt to sell their wares and slaves. For a little change in our pockets, some of them reasoned, we could unload this dreamer and be rid of him. And so that is what they did and changed their brother’s life forever. Plucked from innocence and freedom, he was now destined to be a slave in the household of Potapher, Captain of the Palace Guard. Would Joseph ever see his family again? Where was his God when he needed Him most?
Meanwhile back in the fields, the brothers concocted a lie to tell their dad when they returned home. They would tell him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They produced Joseph’s coat as evidence, which they had dipped in goat’s blood, supposedly proving that they were telling the truth. The Bible says that Jacob mourned a long time for his son and refused to be comforted. He lived many more years grieving his loss. Even though he was surrounded by his many other children and their offspring, the death of Joseph nearly killed him. He refused to be comforted saying, “I will mourn for my son until I die.” (Genesis 37:35, GW) Sound familiar? I have said these same words. You too?
And so began a different life for Joseph . . . one he did not choose. He had been taught well at home and even though he must have resented his loss of freedom, he set to work to do his best. Do you think he wondered how this wicked action could possibly be a part of God’s plan for his life? Did he blame God? We have no evidence that he did. Did he know his life would get better over time? Did he know he would get out of jail after being unjustly accused? Did he know whether or not his brothers would be brought to justice? Did he know that one day he would be given a high place in public office where he would face his family again and they would indeed bow down to him? No. Joseph did not know his life in advance any more than we do.
We have the advantage of being able to take a panoramic view of Joseph’s life whereas he did not know what lay ahead. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the twists and turns from adversity to triumph within the pages of Genesis. It may be difficult for us to see our reflection within Joseph’s story, but if we take the time to look, perhaps it will give our own personal faith a boost.
Sometimes we find ourselves in our own deep well of adversity and see no way out. Perhaps Joseph did too, when he was sold as a slave, but he chose to not give up on God even though his future seemed to have collapsed at his feet before he had barely begun to live. How discouraging it must have been to try and try and try and still come up short. He suffered many losses over the next few years while in bondage to Pharaoh, but God never left his side. He had plans, big plans, and one day Joseph would have 20/20 vision, and he would see how God had led him step by step until the day he was promoted to second in command under Pharaoh and was in charge of feeding the nations who were struck by the adversity of famine. Eventually his family joined him and his dad lived out his final years surrounded by all of his children, even the one he thought he had lost forever. All along the way, God was with him and blessed him. Even when he was unjustly accused of raping his boss’s wife and sent to prison, God was with him, helping him to stay faithful within his circumstances.
~Especially during life’s trials, our spiritual muscles are exercised and strengthened, thus building characters fit for heaven~
But Joseph replied [to his brothers], “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:19-20, NLT
I am familiar with the same impatience you feel. I didn’t think I could last a week after my son’s suicide and now it has been years. I’m as eager as you are to see the end of suffering and pain and have our children restored to us once again. Like Joseph, soon we can shout loud enough for the enemy to hear, “YOU INTENDED TO HARM ME, BUT GOD INTENDED IT ALL FOR GOOD!”