At first, it looked like Joseph had a charmed life. His father Jacob showed him special favor. Smart and handsome, Joseph sported a flashy wardrobe and had a God-given penchant for interpreting dreams. His fortunes, however, quickly turned upside down. His jealous brothers tossed him into a pit in the ground, then sold him to traveling merchants who took him far away to Egypt. Enslaved, separated from his beloved father, and given up for dead, Joseph endured one misfortune after another. And right when things seemed to be taking a positive turn, he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and jailed for a crime he didn’t commit.
How bewildered and alone he must have felt in that Egyptian prison! Troubles seem harder to bear when no one is around to share the pain or listen to our complaints. The very word alone has a dull, depressing tone. It’s from the Old English all one, “solitary, unaccompanied, all by oneself.” Loneliness lurks in the shadows, casting a hint of melancholy over our hearts when we eat alone, travel alone, or celebrate a holiday alone. It’s especially painful to suffer alone.
However, Joseph’s confinement wasn’t solitary. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:20, 21). Notice, the Bible doesn’t merely say “the Lord noticed what he was going through” or “the Lord cared about him from afar.” The Lord was “with him,” present and working for good in the midst of Joseph’s afflictions.
God’s Comforting Presence
Numerous Scripture texts highlight God’s comforting presence. David wrote, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Jesus selected 12 apostles so “that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14), and the Lord assured all of his followers, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus promised a dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul viewed death through the same lens, insisting that for a Christian, dying means “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)—a prospect so appealing that Paul declared, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). All of us who belong to Christ look forward to the day “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). John summarized God’s plan for the faithful by saying, “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
Christian, what stressful situations do you face right now? The Lord is “an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). You are not alone in your distress. When you are sick, the Lord is with you in the hospital. When you sit at home by yourself, his listening ear is ready to hear your voice. When you face uncertainty and danger, he stands faithfully at your side. When the dark shadows of loneliness descend, God’s presence brightens the path, and an even fuller experience of his presence awaits when you die.
Many titles for Jesus Christ appear in the Bible, but one of my favorites is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Life is hard, but God is good. His presence turns loneliness into love, misery into ministry, gloom into glory.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.