One of the toughest pills to swallow in life is the fact that we aren’t always in control. Sometimes we find ourselves at the receiving end of others' bad choices, facing hardship and pain that we didn't invite into our lives. It's during these moments of struggle that we can draw inspiration from the remarkable story of Joseph.
What do you do when you’re on the bad end of someone else’s poor decisions?
Genesis 37:31 introduces us to a seventeen-year-old Joseph. Clearly his father’s favorite son, Joseph’s favor sparks hars anger and envy from his brothers. Their resentment drives them to do unthinkable things to Joseph, including selling him into slavery.
It’s hard to summarize Joseph’s story with all its twists and turns, but here are some of the highlights: a dysfunctional family, loss of dignity, false accusations, being forgotten, and given unrealistic demands. Yet somehow, Joseph rises above his circumstances time and time again.
Navigating through crises, Joseph's compassion shines as he forgives his brothers, reuniting his family and ultimately saving lives. In a pivotal moment, he utters in Genesis 50:20, "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."
4 lessons we can learn from Joseph’s story
If you feel like you’re dealing with the brunt of someone else’s poor choices, you’re in good company with Joseph. When you’re in a tough or unfair situation, it can be hard to know what to do.
Joseph’s actions and responses throughout his lifetime give us a powerful framework for our own struggles. When we feel trapped in the repercussions of others' wrong decisions, here are some helpful things we can do to find hope and move forward:
1. Acknowledge the truth
Joseph acknowledged the truth. When we’re stuck at the bad end of someone else’s decisions, it’s all too easy to point the finger and place blame. We tend to take it a step further and cast judgement on an entire group of people when, in reality, we were only wronged by one person. If you were bullied by popular kids in middle school, for example, did you grow up seeing “all popular kids” as a threat? While these are understandable self-preservation instincts, are they actually true?
Joseph was treated unfairly by so many people – enough that he could’ve made enemies out of the whole world! Instead, we see Joseph zero in on the individuals who specifically caused him pain. He doesn’t gloss over what was done, but he has enough wisdom to look at only the situation right in front of him without painting with broad strokes.
Acknowledging the truth provided Joseph with clarity, and it can do the same for us. When we focus on what’s immediately in front of us, we can gain clarity that will help us treat our pain at the source. By recognizing the true source of our pain, we can begin the process of healing and transformation.
2. “But God”
When we’re dealing with pain – and especially when this pain is caused by someone else’s actions – it's easy for us to become angry about what we feel we don’t deserve. We become so fixated on what’s right in front of us that we don’t easily see the bigger picture.
In the midst of his trials, Joseph chose to embrace a powerful perspective shift. He turned his gaze away from his pain and toward God, saying, "But God intended it all for good." Joseph chooses to surrender and trust in a higher plan.
While it may be difficult to comprehend the purpose behind our suffering, choosing to adopt a "But God" perspective allows us to step back and acknowledge that our story is not solely defined by the hurt we've experienced. By handing our pain over to God, we open ourselves to the possibility of growth, transformation, and redemption.
3. Trust God's plan
Joseph's story shows us what it looks like to trust in God's overarching plan. While he couldn't foresee the specifics of how his pain would lead to a greater purpose, Joseph held onto the belief that God was working behind the scenes.
This step requires faith and vulnerability, as we release the need for immediate answers and outcomes. Trusting in a divine plan invites us to relinquish our desire for control and instead lean into the belief that our pain can be woven into a greater narrative that brings about good.
4. Rely on God
Joseph relied on God. If you feel like you’re about to crumble under the weight of your circumstances, know that you don’t have to keep carrying it alone. When we can’t understand what’s happening or see the bigger picture in our pain, God is ready to carry us.
Only God can bring you to the place of hope and healing you’re desperately searching for. Joseph’s story shows us that when we fix our gaze on God and choose to rely on him, even the heaviest situations can be made lighter. Remember that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
Joseph’s story sounds too good to be true: he’s one man who rose from unthinkable adversity and was used by God to accomplish incredible things. However, our story can follow the same trajectory! If you want to learn more about how to navigate tough situations – figuring out what to do when you don’t know what to do – check out these resources:
What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Not Good Enough
What to Do When You Feel Lost in Life
How to Move On From Your Past
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