If you aren't familiar with the story, Joseph is the son of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. He has another son, Benjamin, by the same wife and several other sons by another wife. Joseph is his favorite son. and all his brothers know it. Early in his life, Joseph has dreams about his older half brothers serving him, he tells them, and to make a long story short, they debate whether to kill him but decide to sell him as a slave and tell their father that he is dead.
Joseph ends up a slave in Egypt, is later lied about and lives in prison for many years. Basically, he spends fifteen years of his life in a miserable existence because of what other people have done to him. But Joseph's heart isn't miserable. He trusts God, honors Him.
In the end Joseph, an Israelite, becomes second in power only to Pharaoh. Really! From slave to hero! It is a brilliant story, so listen to it (Genesis 37-50). He even interprets dreams and saves Egypt from a famine.
Now lets skip back to those brothers who sold him off. We don't know much about their lives back home with their father Jacob and half brother Benjamin but here they come to Egypt, looking for food for their families because the famine has hit them hard too.
When they appear before the man in command of distributing the grain and food, he accuses them of being spies. Their response? They go back all those years ago to the moment they sold their brother as a slave and blame their life troubles on that one event. God must be punishing them for what they did.
To shorten the story still, Joseph is the man distributing the grain, he forgives his brothers, is reconciled to them and his father and they live together happily in Egypt. He even tells them that all they meant for evil, God used for good! This is pivotal. This is the heart attitude that preserved Joseph while he was being accused of adultery, chained in prison, forgotten, living alone without family in Egypt.
End of story? No. Of course not. In time, the boys' father Jacob dies. Once again Joseph's brothers turn back to that moment in time when they sold Joseph, worrying that he will now take his revenge on them. It doesn't matter that Joseph has taken care of them and their families, loved them, provided homes and land for them, forgiven them. They are stuck in time. Stuck in their past on a mistake they made.
I had never noticed this contrast in the story of Joseph until a few days ago. I've been noticing how most of us still live one of these two ways. We have options. We can live our lives out still shaking a finger at our childhood, blaming an alcoholic parent, unloving mother, unaffectionate father, ungodly spouse. We can take a load of blame on ourselves and live out in fear that somewhere around the corner is a consequence waiting to greet us for a mistake we made, an abortion we had, a marriage we left. Joseph's brothers took those roads. They were victims, the sons of a wife Jacob did not love, and while Joseph was the favored son - they played second fiddle.
Joseph could have played the cards dealt him in the same manner, becoming hateful toward the man that wrongly put him in jail, bitter toward the God who had seemingly forgotten him, revengeful towards the brothers who came asking for food. Maybe he wouldn't have even gone to those extremes. If he had marriage problems, he could have pointed back to his childhood, blaming his mother's death, living in a single parent home...
Someone once said to me, "oh, it's alright, we all carry baggage from our pasts." Really? If that is the logic you follow, which crowd do you think that puts you with? I've been thinking on this story all day, while folding laundry, doing lessons with kiddos and separating chicken into freezer bags. Won't you think a while on it with me?