Monday, February 23, 2009

Joseph's Pilgrimage

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good …" Genesis 50:20 NIV

I know of a young resident with a promising outlook in academic medicine encouraged by the favor of the department chairman. But changes that occurred under new leadership resulted in loss of an intended job within the medical center to another. It was hard for her to contain the angry feelings and yet commit to finishing the residency well, honoring her Lord to work as for Christ and not her program director. It was even harder when colleagues and peers continually spoke to her about the injustice committed against her and urging her to stand up for her rights while declaring their allegiance to support her.

The story of Joseph: job loss, unfairness, false accusations, rejection and disappointments. In these tough economic times, many doctors face the injustice of life that we see portrayed in the life of Joseph and in his pilgrimage. Being subject to acts of evil, injustice and neglect, Joseph's reaction is an example to us.

His brothers sought to kill him out of jealousy, and then sold him to the Ishmealites for monetary gain. He was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar. Though blessed by the Lord to do well in the eyes of his master, he refused to accept the advances of Potiphar’s wife, who then hurled accusations of rape. In spite of Joseph’s integrity, Potiphar, believing his wife, threw him into prison.

Even in prison God blessed Joseph with His favor, including the gift of interpreting the dreams of two other incarcerated servants, the king’s baker and cupbearer. The cupbearer was released, consistent with Joseph's interpretation of his dream; and though he was asked by Joseph to speak on his behalf to the king, the cupbearer promptly forgot to do so and Joseph remained in prison.

It wasn't until the king himself had troubled dreams that Joseph was remembered by the cupbearer and released to interpret the king's dream: 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph's merits were finally recognized and he was positioned as Governor of Egypt administrating the nation’s resources and the distribution of supplies prior to and during the famine.

Does Joseph’s story remind you of unjust actions committed against you? What was your reaction? Did you remain faithful to the Lord and mindful of your integrity and witness? Did you act out in justifiable anger and behave as if God was not in the picture? The resident above had only one solace: to pray and seek God's peace and direction for her life in view of this loss. She received from Him some comfort and freedom from her distress when she recognized that some things in this world just happen as a direct result of evil and injustice.

Even more liberating for her was the realization that, like Joseph, acts intended for evil can be turned by God for the good. When Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt to buy food during the famine and discovered their brother to be the one who held their lives in his hands, they were amazed to learn that Joseph did not seek revenge for their injustice. Instead, Joseph told them that their evil acts, resulting in his suffering and trials, had indeed been intended for evil--- but that God had taken their evil and intended it all for good, now giving him the ability to save his father's household and nation.

Our resident also experienced God's turning pain into gain as she moved forward, not only into a rewarding career in clinical medicine, but also into an extensive and gratifying ministry that she would never have known had she stayed in the job once promised and taken away.

Dear Lord,

Help us to see that the bad things that happen to us are not beyond your great ability to turn them around for the good. Help us to know that, when bad things happen to us, we are to focus on the fact that we are called according to your purpose and that we are to behave accordingly, trusting by faith that you will bring us to the success of Joseph.
In the name of Christ,

Author: Dr. Elaine Eng

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