When You Suffer Alone Like Joseph

No really goes out looking to suffer.  One day I started counting all the things I do for my own comfort and it kind of appalled me.  And I thought of a promise of God that had nothing to do with making me comfortable:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12

If we truly are in Christ, this kind of suffering is already felt, and if it isn't, it will be.  

When it comes, we have the words of Jesus to command a response that to our sinful, fleshly minds doesn't seem even rational:

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  Matthew 5:12

Why does this tilt us on our axis?  Here are two of aspects of this kind of suffering that hinder us from rejoicing, and then we will explore two aspects of suffering that cause us to rejoice.

We will do that by looking at the life of Joseph.  I wrote a song awhile ago about his life, and to get a quick paraphrase of his life you can listen here to Joseph's Song.  (free download :)

As you hear in the song,  Joseph was enjoying life in his coat of many colors as his father's favorite.  He was unware of how flaunting his position in the family was affecting his brothers.  One day he came upon them in the field and they ganged up on him and threw him in a pit.  Then they lied to their father and told them Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, when in fact they sold him as a slave to traders going to Egypt.  (You can read the much more perfect account of this story starting here and then read Genesis 39-46:7!)


We see the first aspect of difficulty in suffering persecution in Joseph's life.  First, we are aware that some of the persecution we experience may not be for righteousness sake.  On our best day, our best actions are tinged with sin.  And that awareness, as it grows, makes us doubt whether we are being persecuted for Christ or just because we are so annoying.  And we struggle with this even if we are, in fact, being hated because we love Christ.

In Joseph's case, he was annoying to his brothers.  At the very least he showed a lack of wisdom in not understanding how his privileged position with his father might make them jealous.  His dreams were God-given and actually came to pass, but as he recounted them to his brothers they must have seemed like more arrogance.   We don't know what Joseph was thinking when they mistreated him so badly, but perhaps he missed the fact that they hated him because his father loved him.  This was true even though Joseph's sin was also evident. There is no mention of his brothers trying to please their father by obeying him. In fact, Genesis 37:2 implies that the brothers were misbehaving. In contrast,  Joesph was apparently obedient. This is a good illustration of how the world hates us because we belong to Christ, whom the world hated first.  

The second aspect of persecution that makes it so hard is how alone we are in our suffering.  Surely if we are suffering for Christ, shouldn't we have His presence in it?  But there are times of great deprivation in it when we don't find understanding or comfort even from our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Christ Himself may seem far away. I think of the great Puritan pastor Samuel Rutherford, imprisoned for his stand for Christ, and how lonely he was for his congregation and ached to preach again.  His letters are well worth your time to read.  


As we read in the chapters of Genesis linked above, Joseph's suffering only increases.  He is a slave in Potipher's household, unjustly accused by Potipher's wife for assaulting her.  This lands him in prison for a long time.  He has further disappointments in prison.  But slowly, something else is happening.  In the midst of his agony, God is working in him and also in his situation.  God is laying the groundwork for an unbelieveable outcome!  

We can seem to descend further and further down in the afflictions God ordains for us.  I think of the lonely suffering when one person makes a stand in church when doctrine and leadership are corrupted.  We can be abandoned by friends and family we have loved and counted on.  But in the depths of it, if we are His, this can be our song as well as Charles Wesley's:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee

So the first aspect of suffering that causes us to rejoice is the work God is doing in us.  If we turn to Him and not away from Him, He will strengthen us, refine us, bring us to deeper repentance.  We will rejoice because He has not abandoned us.  We rejoice because we are growing in holiness and having more victory over the sin that so easily besets us.

The second aspect of suffering that causes us to rejoice is that we know there is glory awaiting!  This is our faith in the promise of Christ that great is our reward in heaven for the persecution we are suffering. We can see a type of heaven in Joseph's going from a prison to a palace in just one day!  

Granted,  there were so many days for Joseph that were lonely and painful, waiting on God.  Maybe you think your suffering will never end.  Take heart from James 1:  we can count it all joy right now because we believe Christ's promise to us.  After suffering for Him, we will see His face.  After suffering, glory!

We will go in an instant from our prison to His palace.  Oh what a day that will be!


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© 2024 by Charlotte A Ryerson