This pandemic has inhibited our ability to do a lot of different things: go to work, see our friends, travel, etc. Many people unexpectedly found themselves stuck at home and spending more time with family. Parents who previously traveled and stayed for long hours at their job are now working from home. Kids who went to school for eight hours a day now gaze glassy-eyed at their computer screens in their own rooms. And for Penn students? Many who thought they were never going to be at home for such a long period of time again now find themselves at home, with restricted options of traveling or going out.
For many, it has been great! You are fed more home-cooked meals, are constantly surrounded by love and care, and maybe even have someone to do laundry for you. For others, however, it has been a lot harder. Tension with your mom or dad has grown exponentially. You feel trapped with no freedom, stressed from strained family relationships and circumstances, hurt from past memories–something you thought you had escaped from when you left for college. You had wished to move on with life without looking back, but here you are, unexpectedly back home again. And it is hard.
Joseph had a similar story in the book of Genesis. To say that Joseph had strained family relationships is an understatement. At the age of 17, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and then told their father that he had been killed by a fierce animal. Joseph worked for an Egyptian master, was sent to prison based on a lie, and was neglected until he interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh. The dream was a warning from God that there would be a severe famine coming that would last 7 years. Throughout this entire ordeal, God was in control and had a grand plan for Joseph. Joseph’s interpretation saved nations from an incoming famine and granted him power and prestige.*
Then suddenly one day, Joseph found himself face to face with his brothers. What did he think? I’m sure he never expected to see them again. Memories of past hurt and betrayal must have emerged, not to mention the countless hardships he had endured over the last fifteen years as a result of the actions of his brothers. With his power and position, he could have executed them or sent them to prison on the spot. Instead, he gave his brothers a chance to see if they had changed. When Joseph saw that they were willing to lay down their own lives for their other younger brother, he wept and embraced them, and brought his whole family to live together in Egypt.
Everyone’s family situation is different, and challenging in its own way. However, looking at this story, I see three important things:
First of all, no family is perfect. We are all sinners and have wrongly acted towards our families with anger, selfishness, or jealousy. Likewise, there have been times when we were hurt by the sinful nature of our family members.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
– Romans 3:23-24
Secondly, God changes people. Even if it seems like the same family struggles and afflictions aren’t getting any better, have hope. God can work miracles, even in the lives of those who don’t yet believe in Him.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
– Matthew 19:26
Lastly, God restores. Joseph’s family thought he was dead. Joseph’s last memory of his family was his brothers selling him into captivity. Yet, that wasn’t the end. God brought Joseph’s family together and restored it. God healed betrayed relationships, brought hope that had been extinguished for years, and unified this family.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11
In the same way, God can heal, change, and restore your family. I won’t pretend to understand what you and your family have been through. I can only give a testament for what God has done in mine. The year 2020 has been a hard year for my family. From the eyes of man, it should have been filled with worries, pain, and confusion, yet God has brought joy, healing, and hope to my family this year.
Whatever your family situation is, God has a plan. Seek His heart and His desires, and God will answer. He loves you with such an abounding perfect love that never fails. I look to 2021 as a year where Christ restores, confirms, strengthens and establishes you and your family. God bless and happy New Year!
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
– 1 Peter 5:10
*Check out Genesis chapters 37-46 for the full story of Joseph.