Friday, May 08, 2009

The Long Reach of God's Kindness

Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison . . . but while he was there in the prison the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden (Genesis 39: 20-21).

Joseph had fallen from grace, and hard.

He had been Potiphar’s right hand, a most trusted servant, a good caretaker of all that Potiphar owned both in the house and in the fields. But it had come down to “he said - she said.” That was a contest Joseph couldn’t win. The accusations of Potiphar's wife shattered the trust of his master like old pottery.

Joseph was now in prison. There must have been something vaguely familiar about that experience. His brothers had done the same kind of thing to him, only the cell was a dry cistern. He had already been taken from his place and deprived of everything he knew. Prison allows plenty of time to ponder how unfair life has been. Prison is a good place to stew over every injustice done. Prison is the kind of place that convinces you that the real story of your life is about getting knocked down.

That’s what happens to you in prison. You grow cold and hard, your soul shrivels up and you get small and mean. That’s what happens . . . but for one thing: God.

At this point in the story we come across words we’ve read before. The Lord was with Joseph. The Lord showed kindness. The Lord granted favor. And all of that took place in prison. God’s kindness and favor was easier to detect when Joseph was climbing the ladder of success in Potiphar’s house. But in the prison, kindness and favor are much harder to find.

“If God were truly good and kind,” we say, “God would have kept Joseph out of prison and protected from the lies of Potiphar’s wife.” That sounds good – but that’s not the story the Bible tells us.

Instead what we are told is that there is no place you can be where God’s kindness cannot reach you. There’s no way to get beyond the reach of God’s grace and favor.

God shows you kindness when you’re promoted . . . and when you’re let go.

God shows you kindness when your child is born . . . and when you struggle with infertility.

God shows you kindness when you win the tournament . . . and when you break your leg at the start of the season.

“The Lord’s compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). And that includes this morning, this day.

What does the kindness of the Lord look like in your life right now?

Whether surrounded by power and luxury or whether deprived of all that I hold dear – teach me, O Lord, to give thanks for your faithfulness and the mercies that greet me with every new morning. Amen.

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