Summary: Your restriction, though onerous, may be God's means of bringing glory to His Name through promoting you. This becomes obvious through a study of Joseph's trials and promotion as God worked in his life.

“Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” [1]

An old saw asserts, “Whom God would use greatly, He wounds deeply.” This saying assuredly applies to Joseph, favoured son of Jacob. In one of the Psalms, the Psalmist reviews Joseph’s life when he writes,

“[The LORD] had sent a man ahead of [Israel],

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet were hurt with fetters;

his neck was put in a collar of iron;

until what he had said came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.”

[PSALM 105:17-19]

Whenever we think of Joseph, few of us remember the pain he experienced in his youth. We remember that Joseph was the second most powerful individual within the sole superpower of that ancient day. We remember that he was an instrument in the hand of the LORD God to save his family. We remember the great blessings God bestowed on Joseph. These are the things we remember, though we tend to neglect the path of suffering he was forced to tread; we ignore the pain he suffered while moving toward the heady days of power and authority.

Few people are ever permitted to make a lasting impact on this world without experiencing suffering, without experiencing opposition, without experiencing disappointment. The path to greatness lies through the slough of despair, through the castle of suffering, or through the forest of shattered dreams. Those who suffer greatly are able to serve selflessly. They have compassion on others and seek to assist them to avoid the injuries that seem to accompany the journey through life each of us must make.

As he opens his Second Letter to the saints in Corinth, the Apostle Paul speaks of the trials the missionaries had experienced. He wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer…

“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” [2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-6, 8-10].

I know that among those to whom I speak are some who feel as if they are imprisoned by circumstances. You’ve dedicated yourself to serving the Lord, and it seems as if all your desires have been transformed into bonds which restrict you, binding you and keeping you from fulfilling what you believe to be the will of God for your life. Your path has grown very narrow, and though there is no turning back, the way forward seems almost impassable. You peer intently into the future, and it is so dark that even seeing the shapes of what lies in your path is a hopeless task. Even breathing has grown tedious, and exhaustion seems to be your constant companion. You’ve prayed for relief, and it seems as if your prayers rise no higher than the ceiling. You lift your eyes to heaven, and all your see are dark clouds that obscure the light you know still shines brightly somewhere behind the obscuring veil.

If this describes you, then the message I have this day is meant especially for you. It is a message that urges you to look beyond the long confinement you are experiencing, allowing yourself to look by faith at what lies beyond the moment. In order to pull back the veil between what is and what shall be accomplished through your life, we will need to look at the life of one who suffered greatly for what seemed to be no reason other than the hatred of those whom he loved and on whom he depended.

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