I have just finished chapter 5 of Jodi Detrick’s book The Jesus-Hearted Woman. The chapter is titled ‘Resilience.’ In it Detrick discusses the need to continue fulfilling the tasks God has called us to even when (1) we make mistakes, (2) others hurt us, or (3) life throws curve balls our way. Detrick refers to these events as My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad. Her discussion questions at the end of the chapter focused on Joseph and the resilience he needed in order to become the leader God desired him to be. Unfortunately, Joseph experienced a number of My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad moments along the way.
As a young man, Joseph had a dream that his brothers bowed down to him. Unfortunately, sharing the first dream was one of Joseph’s ‘My Bad’ moments. His brothers already were angry with him because he brought a bad report about them to his father, and they were jealous that their father loved Joseph more than his other sons. This dream added fuel to the fire. Genesis 37:8 tells us, “So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” If this wasn’t enough, Joseph had a second dream in which not only his brothers but also his parents bowed down to him. And, of course, he shared this dream with his father and brothers–another ‘My Bad’ action. His brothers were angry and wanted revenge on Joseph.
Joseph experienced a ‘Their Bad’ moment when his brothers sold him as a slave to a company of Ishmaelites. Joseph was bought by Potiphar, a captain of the guard in Pharaoh’s army. God favored Joseph, and he rose to a position of prominence in Potiphar’s household. Apparently Joseph wasn’t yet ready for the leadership role God had in store for him, as he was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior toward his master’s wife and thrown in prison–another ‘Their Bad’ moment.
We don’t know how long Joseph was imprisoned, but we do know that thirteen years passed between the time his brothers sold him and when Pharaoh released him. At least several of these years were spent in prison. It must have been difficult for Joseph to sit in prison year and year waiting for God to deliver him. I am sure that he recognized that he and his father bore some responsibility for his brothers’ hatred toward him, but he was completely innocent of the charges brought against him by Potiphar’s wife. It would have been easy for Joseph to become bitter about the circumstances of his life. He could have convinced himself that God was against him and that his life was over. But Joseph didn’t get angry and he didn’t give up. He persevered. He was resilient despite all the adverse things that had happened to him.
Genesis 39: 21 – 22 tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing.” Joseph’s rise in the prison to a position of leadership did not come overnight. He had to prove to the keeper that he was reliable and responsible. As he did, his responsibilities increased until Joseph was running the prison. After some time had passed, the king’s chief butler and chief baker were imprisoned. Joseph interpreted dreams for each of them which came to pass just as he had foretold. Joseph had shared his plight with the butler and asked the butler to mention his situation to Pharaoh. How he must have hoped that his release from prison would come soon. Yet, we read in Genesis 41:1, that another two years passed before the chief butler remembered Joseph. ‘Too Bad,’ but again Joseph was resilient and persevered.
Eventually, however, Pharaoh had a dream which his wise men could not interpret. It was then that the butler remembered Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dreams, being careful to give all the glory to God. He shared with Pharaoh that God was giving him an opportunity to prepare Egypt for the coming famine. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to a position of great power, second in command only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph was used by God to save Egypt and Joseph’s own family from starvation.
We can only surmise as to why God delayed Joseph’s release from prison. Certainly, in prison Joseph was developing the leadership skills he would need later as a leader over Egypt. During those years, Joseph continued to serve the Lord and God’s favor was on him. As the leader of Egypt, Joseph had grown and changed much from the arrogant teenager his brothers had sold into slavery. When Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, he was humble and quick to give the glory to God. God opened Pharaoh’s eyes to see that Joseph was the right person to lead Egypt through the coming famine.
Any one in leadership positions faces My Bad, Their Bad, and Too Bad situations on occasion. The challenges Joseph faced prepared him for more leadership responsibilities. Like Joseph, we must be resilient and allow the adversities we face to help us develop as leaders. As we do, we will be able to do more and accomplish more, until we complete the work God has called us to do.