Yesterday, as I taught my Sunday school class, a verse jumped out at me. Genesis 39:21 says: “ But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
Have you ever felt imprisoned in your circumstances, circumstances beyond your ability to control and with no way out? Many of us have felt this way at one time or another. It could be an illness or a bad job situation or the responsibility of being a caregiver. These and many other situations may feel to us like a prison. Let’s look to this verse as an example of how to handle such times.
Notice this: “The Lord . . . gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Joseph didn’t do anything special to merit that favor. God did it for him. Even when we are going through tough times, God is giving us favor and we may never open our eyes to see it.
I don’t know the conditions of the prison Joseph was in, but they were probably horrific—little food, filthy conditions, no bed to rest on, and brutal inmates. Even with the favor of the keeper, conditions were probably worse than anything we will ever experience. Yet in the midst of his suffering—for which Joseph was in no way responsible—God helped him.
Notice also that God did not immediately release Joseph from his prison. Yet, during that long night, God “showed him steadfast love.” Often in our prisons we feel angry with God because years pass. Our spirits droop when he does not release us and we have no hope of getting out any time soon.
God has his reasons for keeping us imprisoned, reasons we may never understand this side of heaven.
Joseph trusted God and made the best of his circumstances. If he had struck out with anger to those around him, if he had become embittered, if he had sulked in the corner of his cell, he never would have had the opportunity to become second only to Pharaoh, to become one of the great men of the Bible, to save his people.
And to become an example many of us need to follow.
Yesterday, while teaching this one verse, I was the one who learned. I learned:
1. We may be suffering through no fault of our own.
2. God may allow us to spend many years within our “prison” walls.
3. God will grant us unmerited favor in the eyes of others.
4. God’s steadfast love never ceases, even when we’re imprisoned and feel forsaken.
5. We must work on our attitudes while imprisoned and not become bitter, resentful, or unkind.
6. God has a reason to keep us in our prisons. Perhaps, like Joseph, it’s to prepare us to do great things.
Imprisoned? Let go and let God --a clichéd saying, but one that is applicable. Great things await if we simply trust God!