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So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat a meal.


It was an abandoned cistern. Jagged rocks and roots extended from its side. The seventeen-year-old boy lay at the bottom. At least he looked to be a boy: downy beard, spindly arms and legs. His hands were bound, ankles tied. He lay on his side, knees to chest, cramped in the small space. 

The sand was wet with spittle where he had drooled. His eyes were wide with fear. His voice was hoarse from screaming. It wasn’t that his brothers didn’t hear him. Twenty-two years later, when a famine had tamed their swagger and guilt had dampened their pride, they would confess, “We saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear” (Genesis 42:21 NKJV).


Joseph didn’t see this assault coming. He didn’t climb out of bed that morning and think, I’d better dress in padded clothing because this is the day I get tossed in a hole. The attack caught him off guard.


So did yours. Joseph’s pit came in the form of a cistern. Maybe yours came in the form of a diagnosis, a foster home, or a traumatic injury. Joseph was thrown into a hole and despised. And you? Thrown into an unemployment line and forgotten. Thrown into a divorce and abandoned, into a bed and abused. The pit. A kind of death, waterless and austere. Some people never recover. Life is reduced to one quest: get out and never be hurt again. Not simply done. Pits have no easy exits.


Joseph’s story got worse before it got better. Abandonment led to enslavement, entrapment, and finally imprisonment. He was sucker punched. Sold out. Mistreated. People made promises only to break them, offered gifts only to take them. If hurt were a swampland, then Joseph was sentenced to a life of hard labor in the Everglades.


Yet he never gave up. Bitterness never staked its claim. Anger never metastasized into hatred. His heart never hardened; his resolve never vanished. He not only survived; he thrived. He ascended like a helium balloon. An Egyptian official promoted him to chief servant. The prison warden placed Joseph over the inmates. And Pharaoh, the highest ruler on the planet, shoulder-tapped Joseph to serve as his prime minister. By the end of his life, Joseph was the second most powerful man of his generation. It is not hyperbole to state that he saved the world from starvation.


How did he flourish in the midst of tragedy? We don’t have to speculate. Some twenty years later the roles were reversed, Joseph the strong one and his brothers the weak ones. They came to him in dread. They feared he would settle the score and throw them into a pit of his own making. But Joseph didn’t.



And in his explanation we find his inspiration:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant i t for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20 NASB)

In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good.

Joseph tied himself to the pillar of this promise and held on for dear life. Nothing in his story glosses over the presence of evil. Quite the contrary. Bloodstains and tearstains are everywhere. Joseph’s heart was rubbed raw against the rocks of disloyalty and miscarried justice. Yet time and time again God redeemed the pain. The torn robe became a royal one. The pit became a palace. The broken family grew old together. The very acts intended to destroy God’s servant turned out to strengthen him.


“You meant evil against me,” Joseph told his brothers, using a Hebrew verb which traces its meaning to “weave” or “plait. “You wove evil,” he was saying, “but God rewove it together for good.”

God, the Master Weaver. He stretches the yarn and

intertwines the colors, the ragged twine with the velvet strings, the pains with the pleasures. Nothing escapes his reach. Every king, despot, weather pattern, and molecule are at his command. He passes the shuttle back and forth across the generations, and as he does, a design emerges. Satan weaves, God reweaves.


And God, the Master Builder. This is the meaning behind

Joseph’s words “God meant it for good in order to bring about . . .” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated here as bring about is a construction term.1 It describes a task or building project akin to the one that I drive through every morning. The state of Texas is rebuilding a highway overpass near my house. Three lanes have been reduced to one, transforming a morning commute into a daily stew. The interstate project, like human history, has been in development since before time began. Cranes daily hover overhead. Workers hold signs and shovels, and several million of us grumble. Well, at least I do. How long is this going to last?


My next-door neighbors have a different attitude toward the project. The husband and his wife are highway engineers, consultants to the Department of Transportation. They endure the same traffic jams and detours as the rest of us but do so with a better attitude. Why? They know how these projects develop. “It will take time,” they respond to my grumbles, “but it will get finished. It’s doable.” They’ve seen the plans.


By giving us stories like Joseph’s, God allows us to study his plans. Such disarray! Brothers dumping brother. Entitlements. Famines and family feuds scattered about like nails and cement bags on a vacant lot. Satan’s logic was sinister and simple: destroy the family of Abraham and thereby destroy his seed, Jesus Christ. All of hell, it seems, set its target on Jacob’s boys.

But watch the Master Builder at work. He cleared debris, stabilized the structure, and bolted trusses until the chaos of Genesis 37:24 (“They . . . cast him into a pit” NKJV) became the triumph of Genesis 50:20 (“life for many people” MSG).


God as Master Weaver, Master Builder. He redeemed the story of Joseph. Can’t he redeem your story as well?


LORD, even when I have trouble all around me,

you will keep me alive.

When my enemies are angry, you will reach down and save me by your power.

PSALM 138:7

Joseph would be the first to tell you that life in the pit stinks. Yet for all its rottenness, doesn’t the pit do this much? It forces you to look upward. Someone from up there must come down here and give you a hand. God did for Joseph. At the right time, in the right way, he will do the same for you.

In Her Own Words:



or our seventeenth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me tickets to fly to Michigan to spend a week with my aunt and cousin for a “girls shopping” trip, something that I had wanted to do for several years. I flew from Florida to Michigan on our anniversary.


The next morning he dropped off our two daughters (then thirteen and fifteen years old) at church and went to the store, telling them he would be back when they got out. I was out with my cousin, aunt, and uncle when my uncle’s phone rang. It was my mom: my husband had fallen, he was in the hospital, and they needed permission to perform emergency brain surgery on him. I called the hospital, gave permission for the surgery, and then rushed to the airport to get home.


God was in full control as I was able to get the next flight from Michigan to Florida. I was actually walking down the hall of the hospital as the doctor was coming out of surgery.

After my husband spent a very long month in ICU, it was clear he would not recover. He was taken off life support, and eleven hours later he joined God’s choir. My daughters and I have felt God’s presence with us since the minute my husband fell. Our church family had such a great impact on us during and after the ordeal.


I am very blessed to be able to say that since losing their dad, my daughters have also grown in their walk with God. All three of us have graduated from college. My older daughter is married to a wonderful godly man.


Now when I hear someone say, “God will carry you through,” I am a true believer. He has brought me through— and continues to bring me through—hard times. The journey has not been easy, and tough situations aren’t always resolved quickly. But God is faithful. Just lean on him


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