Yesterday was Thanksgiving. My big beautiful family all met together at my son’s house. Looking around the table I had to laugh to myself as I studied each one. If you have ever seen the sitcom, Parenthood, that is what my family reminds me of. All talking at the same time with drama abounding.
Everyone of us there has had our own personal struggles. I looked at those who have been divorced and saw pain like they never imagined. I looked at the children who suffered through that pain through no fault of their own. I saw those of us who have made poor choices and learned great lessons from those choices, and some who were still learning and stumbling along. There were new people added to our clan that day by invitation that were instantly put at ease when they saw what a loud, raucous family we were. And somewhat horrified at some of the subjects that came up and openly discussed and laughed at. There seems to be no subject that is taboo when we get together.
As the mom and nana, I found myself asking if I had done something different in my own messed up life could I have spared them all the pain. Was I, in my youth, at fault for their lives and choices and hardships.
Can you relate?
Yet, I knew that I did the best with what I had as a younger version of myself. Isn’t that all the Lord asks of us?
As we passed the traditional candle around and talked about what we were thankful for this year you could see Jesus in their midst. You could hear the growth in some and still see fear in some. I could see those guests who were instantly nervous and could think of nothing they were thankful for, and listened to my grand kids who used to say they were thankful for Disneyland, but now they talked about how thankful they were for family and that we were all together.
I don’t mean to pop your bubble, but we are all a beautiful mess. There is no perfect family.
You remember the story?
Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family.
His father Jacob had four wives. He had 11 brothers scattered among those four wives.
He had one full brother, the youngest child of all, Benjamin.
With all of that, there is bound to be trouble–and there was.
Genesis 37:3 says that Joseph was his father’s favorite son—the son of his old age. It means he was the first son by Rachel, the woman Jacob always loved.
Joseph was always his favorite. All the brothers knew it.
Jacob’s family was a disaster waiting to happen and indeed it did happen.
His family looked like this:
1 father, 4 mothers, 12 brothers plus one daughter (Dinah). And one favorite son.
Trouble is brewing right under the surface in Jacob’s complicated family.
Out of it will come Joseph who many years down the road will rescue the brothers who betrayed him. As the story opens, there is no reason—none at all—to see any of this in advance. At the beginning, we mostly see dark clouds on the horizon.
Here is his story in one paragraph.
He was the favored son of his father Jacob. When he enters the stage of biblical history, he is 17 years old. Because his brothers hated him, he was sold as a slave and taken to Egypt. After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned with no hope of getting out. Because he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he became the prime minister of Egypt. Eventually he welcomed his family to Egypt, which preserved the line of promise that had started with his great-grandfather Abraham.
And that brief summary only hints at the drama that surrounded his life.
And so now we look at you.
Your background is no impediment to serving God. There is no excuse imaginable for you to blame your childhood for your behavior today. Nor can you truthfully say that God will never use you because you are too broken.
Joseph came from a family that was in many ways “out of bounds.” It certainly was not a neat, clean, one man-one woman nuclear family. He was born into a family where jealousy, comparison, and distrust were the rules of the game. It was not a happy family.
Yet God chose Joseph and used him mightily.
Though Joseph was God’s man, he did not have an easy life.
Here are some of the things his story teaches us:
How to deal with sexual temptation.
How to redeem a painful past.
What to do while you wait.
How to see God’s hand in all things.
How to make wise plans.
How God awakens a guilty conscience.
The marks of true repentance.
How to live for God in a pagan culture.
Overcoming lingering bitterness.
How to die well.
Not many of us come from perfect families. Actually, none of us do because there is no such thing.
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14).
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12).
“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
The real problems we face are not “out there.”
They are always “in here”, on the inside.
That’s where we fight our greatest battles.
This world is a messed-up place, and the most messed-up part lies inside the human heart.
That’s one reason we know the Bible is true. It speaks the truth about the human condition. It doesn’t lie to us about our “unlimited potential” or tell us that we are basically okay the way we are at the moment. It tells us we are okay and accepted into the beloved lap of God because Jesus paved the way for us.
What prevents us from simply accepting this and being awesomely grateful that nothing that has ever happened to us can prevent us from walking right into His perfect plan for our lives?
This is where the truth that Jesus spoke becomes so incredibly relevant. He didn’t make us feel good and then say, “Just try harder and you will be okay.”
“For there is no difference.” (Romans 3:22b)
No difference between rich and poor.
No difference between religious and pagan.
No difference between Jew and Gentile.
No difference between young and old.
No difference between housewife and harlot.
No difference between criminal and choirboy.
No difference between American and Kenyan.
We’re all in the same boat, and unless God does something, we’re all going to sink together. And He did!!
Because of Jesus!
We are all broken people. Some of us know it, some of us don’t.
If you can relate, this story is for you.
If you come from a broken home, this story is for you.
If you don’t get along with your brothers and sisters, this story is for you.
If you were abused, this story is for you.
If your friends lied to you, this story is for you.
If you’ve done jail time, this story is for you.
If your family doesn’t understand you, this story is for you.
Life isn’t easy for any of us, and for most of us it can be quite difficult. To say it another way, anyone looking for an easy life has picked the wrong planet to be born on.
Since God Himself stands behind the universe He created, we should not be surprised to find His fingerprints everywhere, even in the tiniest details of life.
Christ is the power to make life worthwhile. Note that I did not say that Christ “has” the power, which is true, but that Christ “is” the power, which is slightly different.
Because Jesus Himself lives in us, He Himself is the power that gives meaning and purpose to life.
The hero, Joseph, arises out of the turmoil of a dysfunctional family. His brothers don’t like him. There is trouble on the horizon.