Man facing mountains

Man facing mountains

“…the LORD was with [Joseph].” – Genesis 39:3

Abuse destroys lives: physically, psychologically, emotionally. Sometimes abuse kills. This is why we fight back. We pray, of course, but we also report physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as the crime it is.

And yet, Christians survive abuse. Martin Luther looked at Joseph and appealed to a theologian named Augustine who wrote, “the miracles performed daily in the world surpass those performed by Christ.” There’s better than blind receiving sight? Yes. Every day God the Father feeds the world. Every day God takes care of birds and plants. Every day he is your God, your Father. Your life is a miracle. You’re here and I’m here – miracle. We get to baptize children, preach the Word, commune – miracles. We eat, sleep, work, play – miracles. From God.

Which is why you’ll survive. I know this because Moses says about Joseph: “The Lord was with him.” This isn’t Joseph picking himself up by his bootstraps or having more grit. This is the Lord being with Joseph. Joseph is, by faith, a temple of the Holy Spirit. That gets you through: when God lives in you and with you.

Moses gives us Jesus. “The LORD was with him.” That’s Christ. You know, God with us. Immanuel. That’s what Moses says. God is with us. Jesus was with Joseph, preserving, protecting. He’s with you. In injustice. In abuse. In success.

“The LORD was with him.” Sometimes this is all I get. It’s what I need. It got David through: “You are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” The LORD is with him, and it’s the crucified Lord. It’s Jesus, who came in the flesh, who became Joseph’s brother and yours. Jesus suffered every temptation Joseph suffered. He suffered every abuse, and more. Jesus let the world abuse him for you. Jesus nailed to the cross is the Lord with us. He’s with us in slavery and death. Until he breaks free. He rises, like Joseph. Joseph rises from the dead: from the pit, from slavery, from prison. This points to Christ, the one who can’t be killed or destroyed, but rather destroys the power of death. For you.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, you have promised to be with me, keep me firm in that promise when you seem to be gone. Fix my eyes on your love for me in Christ. Amen.

Forget Me Not Flowers

Forget Me Not Flowers

“…the LORD gave [Joseph] success in everything…” – Genesis 39:3

“It could be worse.”

“It’s darkest before the dawn.”

“Something good must come from this.”

You’ve heard these. They’re meant well. They prove that we don’t process trauma well. Sometimes silence is best, right? If someone just sat with us until things got better.

But what if they don’t? What if abuse doesn’t stop? Anxiety never leaves? Therapies don’t work?

We could give in. We could do whatever makes us feel better. We could end it. If it’s not going to get better, why not kill myself?

And now you throw Genesis 39 into our face and show us Joseph’s success? I do. Mind you, he’s still a slave. God didn’t free Joseph. God didn’t suddenly make Joseph powerful. Those things happen. But first, Joseph spends years as a slave and in prison falsely accused of rape.

Joseph could conform. He could curse God. He could be a wicked, lazy, unfaithful servant. He could dole out physical and sexual abuse upon those below him. He could indulge in the sex his master’s wife offered. He could say, “God screwed me! Screw him!”

But he didn’t. Pay attention. Whether you’ve been abused, are being abused, or know someone who has. When Joseph holds firm to his trust in the Lord, he offers his body as a sacrifice to God: not conforming to the world, not doing what it wants, what makes us feel good, what’s most convenient.

Martin Luther said about Joseph: “The Word spoken by his father reigns in his heart…. ‘My father has taught me. No matter how long God wants to forsake me, I will hold out. My father has taught me to believe and to wait patiently for God’s help, no matter how long He postpones or delays. “Wait for the Lord….”’” Wait. God remembers. He remembers you. He wrote you upon his hands, the hands imprinted with the marks of nails that attached him to the cross. After going through such trauma for you, he doesn’t forget. In fact, he wrote his name upon you when he baptized you.

Father, lead me out of temptation. Forgive my sin. Bless me according to your will. Amen.

Abuse even happens to good people

Abuse even happens to good people

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.” – Genesis 39:1

If you didn’t know better, you’d make nothing of Genesis 39:1. It sounds harmless. Far from it. Joseph’s been sold into slavery, a horrific trauma. His brothers did this. They roughed him up, stole his clothes, threw him into a cistern, and debated whether to kill him. If that’s not domestic violence, I don’t know what is. When they sold him, they handed him over to who knows what. He goes from slave pen to slave master, eventually prison, places where abuse are cliché. You know the reputation of prison showers. Slaves are non-people: do what you want to them.

Maybe Joseph deserved it. Nothing in the Bible suggests that. The Spirit shows us no terrible sin. Or even small ones. Certainly, he was a sinner, but he’s presented as neat and clean. Adam lies. Noah drinks. Abraham sleeps around. Jacob cheats. Joseph? He did nothing wrong. Yet almost no one in Genesis endured more.

The point? Bearing the name Christian is not some trauma-preventing talisman. Sinful things happen to baptized children of God. This doesn’t excuse or minimize them. This doesn’t compel us to stay silent or say, “God wills it.” It compels us to look to the cross. “Lord, have mercy upon us!” And, more, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Only when Christ’s return with new heavens and earth will end trauma. But we can be sure that end is coming. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” You know who said that? The one who endured more trauma than Joseph. For you.

Jesus, deliver us from evil that harms bodies and souls. Grant us peace. If not today, grant it in the blessed end of eternal life with you. Amen.