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When Life Hits, Think About Joseph in the Bible

Photo of Stephen BrownlowStephen Brownlow | Bio

Stephen Brownlow

Stephen is married to his wonderful wife, Brittany, and is the father of two children. He is a ministry graduate of Dallas Christian College and received his masters from Point University. When he isn’t writing, you can find him making things in his garage or just enjoying the role of being a husband and father.

When life gets tough and your dreams fall through, it’s time to think about Joseph in the Bible. It’s a story of human endurance and God’s faithfulness. 

So, you’re working away at your calling. You put in extra hours and invest your heart and soul into the role. You’re doing so well that your boss has noticed and has started giving you more responsibility. He hints strongly at a promotion because of your work. You’re on cloud nine because you know you’re doing what God called you to do and it seems that you are being blessed.

But then the bottom falls out.

All of a sudden, change happens on your team. Business goals change. New ideas emerge that challenge your work. You’re getting more and more stressed because your role is now affected. To make things worse, a power-hungry co-worker falsely accuses you to conceal their own ambitions. The next thing you know, you’re called into the office and your boss fires you. There isn’t even a thank you for everything you’ve done.

“There isn’t even a thank you for everything you’ve done.” 

Now what? You’re upset and depressed. You don’t have closure. You feel like you’ve lost a battle and the enemy has won. But more than anything, you start to question your calling, your purpose, and God’s love. It’s a dark place to be—like a prison.

If that sounds like something you’ve been through, you’re not alone. Similar situations play out every day. An important question needs to be answered when we enter these prisons. How do we move forward? The answer can be found in the story of Joseph.

“How do we move forward? The answer can be found in the story of Joseph.” 

Joseph was a diligent worker in Potiphar’s house. He was put in charge of everything, and God blessed everything he did, but it took only one false accusation to cause him to lose everything he had worked toward. Potiphar’s wife was ambitious for something—for Joseph to have sex with her. She persistently pursued him, but he refused to dishonor his master and sin against God. Eventually, she accused him of trying to rape her. Despite all the trust he had built with Potiphar, Joseph was thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Bible doesn’t describe Joseph’s mental state in those first few weeks that he was in prison. We can imagine that what he experienced emotionally, mentally, and spiritually was a true trial. Emotionally, he may have been depressed or suicidal. Mentally, he may have been tempted to give up on trying to do his best, and he may have questioned his value.

“He may have been tempted to give up on trying to do his best, and he may have questioned his value.”

The biggest blow could have been spiritual. When we lose the favor of an earthly master, we can be tempted to believe that we have also lost the favor of our Father in heaven. I can imagine Joseph on his knees in prison weeping and asking God why he had been abandoned—again. Let’s not forget that Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers before all of this.

When we experience trials, have we lost the favor and love of God? The answer is a definitive no. Of all the things that could have been written about Joseph after his arrival in prison, the thing that was written tells us exactly what we need to hear:

“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Gen 39:21 ESV)

Pause for a moment and let that soak in.

1. Recognize God

When we experience a prison moment, the first way we move forward is to be still and recognize that God is with us, and that his love for us has not changed. It is when we are brokenhearted and crushed that he is even nearer to us. During difficult seasons, we need to be aware of, and be ready to receive, how God ministers to us through family, friends, and co-workers. This gives us the confidence we need to move forward.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

2. Have grit

The second way we move forward is by having grit. In the second half of the verse, we read that the Lord granted Joseph favor with the prison warden. Is this because Joseph sat in a corner feeling sorry for himself and refusing to act? Hardly. It’s because Joseph continued to act within his gifting. We know that this is true because in the very next verse we find that Joseph was placed in charge of the entire prison.

“And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.” (Gen 39:22 ESV)

Joseph had a gift and calling for administration. What are you gifted and called to do? Has a setback caused you to stop using or pursuing it? Is it the role you have while doing the work of your calling, or the work itself, that matters?

3. Consider your legacy

The final way we move forward is to consider the impact of our legacy. Are we going to be remembered as the person who gave up and checked out or as the person who persevered and overcame? Joseph persevered and we know from his story that he eventually became second in command in Egypt—no one was higher than he except Pharaoh! Although we probably won’t end up running a country, we can still have impact in our circle of influence. Impact can be eternal whether it’s created from a seat of power or at the feet of a person in need.

It’s time to break free. When we endure trials, God is with us and loves us. With this knowledge we can move forward with confidence and faith. Moving forward not only fulfills us; it gives God the glory as he works through us in spite of our circumstances.