So the Bible says that “God was with Joseph” in what was possibly his darkest, loneliest, and deepest hour of need.
I have over the years heard more than one preacher point out that the above statement was only possible because Joseph never doubted God but instead trusted him. I will never forget the reaction I registered within me that last time I heard that said from a pulpit. Feelings of unbelief, frustration, and disappointment flooded me instead of the surging faith, belief, and excitement that I had felt many years before when I heard the same being said.
Today as I look back from where I stand I realize that the inner disgust I felt was not some demon rebelling against what the Bible said. Instead, I realize that it was the feeling of one that has come to understand that the reason God was with Joseph had nothing to do with the trust he managed to have. Instead, this had much more to do with God’s unconditional nature and commitment to us.
Now before I dig deeper into the story it is important to understand that if a detail is given to us in the scriptures it is because there is a deposit of truth within it. In other words, it requires us to spend some time within it as doing so will give us insight into what was really going on at the time when the events took place. I have found over the years that every time I have looked further into what was given it often led to an unexpected discovery where I was able to understand and see something totally new – and often contrary to what is normally believed.
In this story, such detail is found in verse 14 of Chapter 40 where we are told that Joseph says to the two servants “And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place.”
Do you believe that these are the words of a man that is at peace and settled? A man that is confidently waiting for someone to show up unexpectedly to let him out? A man that is quietly trusting God as he realizes that only God can set him free? It would be easy to dress the above scripture by saying that he was acting in faith by asking the servants to tell Pharaoh. Yet, I know in my own life if I am very honest every time I have been in a very desperate situation I have often chosen to go directly to a man to ask for help instead of trusting and waiting for God to do something – and if we are honest who could blame Joseph or any of us for that matter for feeling this way after all?
This is why I believe that this detail was given to us so we would somehow not fall into the trap that Joseph never once doubted God and even if he did he didn’t act upon it. To me, these are the words of a man with a doubting faith desperate to get out of a situation he never planned to be in. His faith was in God but like any “normal” human being he doubted and whenever possible tried to make things happen for himself. We need to once and for all come to the realization that faith without the presence of doubt is not faith at all. In other words, it is the fact that we continue to believe in the presence of deep doubt that shows that we have faith. Faith was never meant to be a quick result as much as it was always meant to be a long-term reality that we choose to live in and can only be accessed through the doors of doubt. We need to realize that just because it says that God was with Joseph it doesn’t mean that Joseph knew or felt that God was with him.
If this is not the case and our faith has to be perfect every time for God to be with us or do something with and for us, then Yeshua would have walked away from the man that admitted that though he believed he also had a big part within him that didn’t. If we are honest the large majority of us would never even dream of entertaining the possibility that we could have the same “extraterrestrial” like faith the people in the Bible seemed to have. Somehow these common and often deeply flawed individuals for some reason only got something from God because in our view they became superheroes that reached some sort of space where they were bulletproof perfect and never doubted.
I must be honest and tell you that is hard not to entertain the possibility that what we often believe happened in the Bible is more aligned with our insecurity and obsession to make our faith seem solid as a rock, instead of being able to humbly accept a faith that is and can still be real and life-changing, in spite of the daily mistakes and flaws we ALL display in our lives.
In fact, this is, I believe, the very reason Joseph approached Pharaoh’s servants in the first place – he was real. This is why he noticed on their faces and demeanor the same look and posture of despair that doubt cause us to have, and he himself probably felt on more than one occasion. If he didn’t then it is unlikely that he would have even noticed the difference in them compared to how other prisoners looked due to the normal depression people feel when they first arrive in jail.
I know today that the reason I recognize moments of great faith is that I know what it is like to live within a space where I am often overwhelmed with doubt. Equally, I also know that I am able to recognize when someone is struggling because I myself often struggle. Yet, the reality is that God is with me as much during these moments of despair as he is when I feel like I stand on the highest spiritual places of faith.
Preaching or sharing an unrealistic kind of faith is a complete disservice and deception to the listeners which are led into a journey that will inevitably end with their hearts becoming sick. We need to understand that great faith is the product of our great doubt being turned inside out by the only one that can and not the complete and successful removal of it. Great faith is not something that is achieved as much as it is something that surfaces from within our hearts as we allow God to deal with it. Plain and simple it is the by-product of a deep and intimate relationship where folks are accepted as they are and not as they should be doing the best they can and not the best they could.
As I look around the world today and in particular those of us that claim to have a deep faith in God I see a community that is deeply divided in just about every topic that we are dealing with at present. Our perspectives lack depth and the apparent unity that our rock-solid faith was meant to produce is inevitably cracking under pressure like everything else.
Maybe is time that we take a harder and closer look at ourselves and the type of message we share with the world at large. Maybe is time we stop judging Biden, Trump, the gay community, and each other and instead examine our hearts and this so called solid faith which doesn’t seem to be so solid at the moment.
In my time I have come to understand something pretty well and that is that God is more relaxed with our doubts and much more stressed with us parading an unrealistic message that makes him look conditional, unreasonable, unstable, callous, and plain out of touch with the reality we are all living in.
Remember – the only person that was invited to touch Yeshua’s body after the resurrection was the one that admitted his doubt… so lets consider keeping it real as with God that seems to have much more traction than pretending!