When I read the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, I often end up thinking, “Man, he had a good attitude! He must have been a glass half-full for sure!”
Think about everything Joseph endured: He ended up crunched into the bottom of a cistern. His brothers planned to murder him but settled for selling him as a slave instead. He worked for years as a servant. He ended up in prison. And finally, after years of suffering, his life began to turn around when he found favor with Pharaoh.
Yet look what Joseph said to his brothers when he told them his story:
“It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” (Genesis 45:5)
And just in case we missed it, Joseph reiterated his point two more times: “God has sent me ahead of you…so it was God who sent me here, not you!” (Genesis 45: 7-8)
Was he simply delusional, or did Joseph really view everything that had happened to him as part of God’s favorable plan?
I thought about this for a long time, because honestly, I can’t relate. I’m glass half-empty, times ten. Had I been in Joseph’s shoes, I surely would not have had such a positive attitude.
Yet I also know this: the passage of time allows for both healing and a change in perspective.
Last year at this time my publisher informed me that they would not be publishing my next book. For various reasons, they let me go. It felt a lot like getting fired.
It was my bottom-of-the-cistern moment, and I was so far down, I could barely see a pinprick of light at the top. I didn’t know which move to make next, where God was leading me, if God was leading me.
Should I update my resume and head back to the traditional workforce, I wondered? Pitch my book idea to a different publisher? Give up writing altogether? Get a job at Cambell’s Nursery? (I pictured myself watering petunias and phlox without a care in the world).
The path was unclear. I didn’t know which direction to turn. And I certainly didn’t see God in the mix.
I suspect Joseph felt the same way when he was crunched in the bottom of that cistern, and when he was tied to the back of a camel en route to life as a slave in Egypt, and when he was sitting in prison, having been unfairly accused by Potiphar’s wife.
I could be wrong; maybe Joseph had more faith that I give him credit for, but I suspect God’s favor wasn’t clear to him in the very midst of those difficult moments.
You’ll notice that several years had passed by the time Joseph told his brothers this story. I suspect it had taken Joseph much of that time to understand the big picture and to see how God had used even the most challenging moments in his life to move him forward. By the time Joseph was reunited with his brothers, enough time had passed to allow for healing, forgiveness and a deeper understanding of the big picture.
It’s been a year since my original publisher let me go. After eight long months of wandering and questioning, I signed a contract with a different publisher to write a different book — one I never intended or expected to write. It’s not the plan I had in mind, and the road has certainly been full of bumps and unexpected detours. As time passes, though, I feel my perspective beginning to shift. I am beginning to see and understand how God is present, walking with me on this path, helping me navigate its twists and turns.
Perhaps as time continues to pass, someday I’ll say, like Joseph, “It was God who sent me here.”