God is our . . . strength, a . . . help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (Ps 46:1, 2).1
Joseph believed that. Jesus believed that. Do you?
Joseph was the favorite son of his father, Jacob. God blessed him with dreams about his future standing in the family, much to the outrage of his older brothers. When Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers sold him into slavery and convinced his father, without explicitly saying so, that his favorite son was dead (Gen. 37:17-28, 31-35).
Once his father’s pampered child, Joseph was now just another item in Ishmaelite business transactions, a thing for buying and selling. He hadn’t said goodbye before leaving, and now it seemed he would never say hello again. The “tenderly cherished son” had suddenly become “the despised and helpless slave”2 to be hawked for cash or kind at the next market stop.
Time to quit? Was God still Joseph’s strength? Should he be afraid? As he watched the tents of his privilege and paternal indulgence disappear against the horizon he was indeed afraid: “For a time Joseph gave himself up to uncontrolled grief and terror.”3 But as he thought of the blessings of his childhood, remembering his father’s stories of divine encounter and providence, Joseph made a simple decision: The God of my fathers shall be my God.4 After that, you couldn’t scare him anymore.
The stories of Joseph in Egypt show his chutzpah and equanimity, his kindness and morality. They never show him scared. Lower and lower life’s circumstances would drag him down. But he never seemed to find any reason to quit, or fear. Fear of God, yes, even when it cost him his house slave status. Fear, no.
Over time Joseph became the favored attendant of his master, Potiphar, steward over his entire household, second in authority to only Potiphar himself. Now people noticed Joseph a lot, Potiphar’s wife included. She looked and liked what she saw, and took an inappropriate liking to Joseph. She knew her way with men, but seduction does not always work. When Joseph chose to honor God by refusing to sleep with her, she falsely accused him of trying to take advantage of her. Burning with rage—perhaps—Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison, where he remained confined for years.
At this point Joseph might have concluded that God had forgotten about him, or worse, that God really didn’t care.
But Joseph didn’t quit: he kept trusting and believing and going. The difficult situations of his life only brought out his grit, his determination to keep going. And through the darkness of it all, God was working for his good.
God keeps going too. He is determined to save us.
Remember the prophetic dreams at the beginning of the story? Well, the God who gave those dreams gave Joseph the ability to interpret other dreams; to begin with, the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, one of whom, as Joseph predicted, would be reinstated as Pharaoh’s cupbearer (Gen. 40:13).
After a while Joseph was interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. His interpretation landed him in an Egyptian palace, second in command over all Egypt (Gen. 41:38-44). In his new position Joseph became the savior of nations, including the lives of the very brothers who had sold him into slavery years before (Gen. 45:3-7).
Joseph’s story illustrates how God is with us, working for us even in the midst of the most devastating circumstances. God sees the end from the beginning and already has a plan that will knit our pains into patterns for good. All He asks of us is to trust Him and keep going as He guides us through the night of storm.
Through all the hardships Joseph faced he kept going: through betrayal by his brothers he kept going; through the abuses of a slave’s existence he kept going; through success with his master he kept going; and through the slander of his master’s wife he kept going; through the ungrateful forgetfulness of the reinstated cupbearer he kept going. He continued to honor God with his actions, and allowed God to use him for His glory in every circumstance. He could not have known what God’s ultimate plan was, but He did know God’s character and trusted in Him.
God wants us to keep going too. His steady eye is on us, and He will bring us through to the other side of pain if we trust Him and persevere.
Jesus Himself, God’s beloved Son, faced humanly insurmountable trials while living on earth. In the depth of His passion in Gethsemane, overcome with anguish, He pleaded with His Father, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). Sweat fell from His brow like great drops of blood (Luke 22:41, 42). On the cross, struggling under the weight of our sin, Jesus still kept going. He did because He knew that only by Him bearing our shame could He accomplish our redemption. In Gethsemane, when the burden was beyond His bounds, God the Father sent Jesus comfort to show that He was there with Him (verse 43). God will do the same for us during our trials.
God keeps going too. He is determined to save us. Through our hardships we are encouraged to remember “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God’s genius can use the devil’s worst crime, the crucifixion of His Son, to bring us the miracle of redemption and the glory of the resurrection of the righteous. God weaves our pain and His gift of joy into a beautiful masterpiece: hearts restored into His image, and lives that through eternity will reflect His goodness.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed or tempted to doubt or quit, remember that God has a plan that will bring you everlasting profit, regardless of what you’re going through. Trust in His sovereign will, believe that He is working all things for your ultimate good, and just keep going!
Danielle N. Quailey is a young adult writer and editor from New York City who is passionate about spiritual growth and diving deeper into the heart of God.