Last in last week’s sermon we talked about being in the pits, and about how all of us have been there at some time!
Because we’ve figured out that the car payment is due and we are flat broke.
Because someone we love is sick and hospice is coming.
Because we tried to finalize a deal at work and got ghosted.
And when those losses add up, we can end up in a state of grief. And grief can be a huge pit!
We are heartbroken and we begin the grief cycle of doubt, bargaining, anger, depression, and never quite get to acceptance. Sure there are small grief episodes. But there are also huge ones, times when grief near overwhelms us.
Understand that like everyone else, we bounce around between the stages of grief, sometimes feeling like we are making progress, to only then have something sets us back and we begin the grieving all over again.
Some of us, in fact, never really fully emerge from grief for a whole host of reasons.
Sometimes the pain is too much to let go of our loved one, at the same time the pain of grieving somehow strangely becomes a soothing balm, a safe place that while not healthy, may make us feel safer than reconciling with the fact they are gone!
Yes, we all have all been distressed, depressed, angry, confused, scared, even hurt. We can relate to others who have been through it too.
We have grieved.
But to be clear, for Joseph this pit of despair was a much bigger deal! Yes, he was grieving, and angry, and bargaining, and I would guess praying that God would save him.
And then Joseph, at the bottom of a dried-out cistern, hears his brothers negotiating his price. Talk about dysfunctional family!
Rueben the oldest brother tries to end their warring madness, their plot to kill their brother. And he succeeds, kind of. Judah does too. But before he can rescue his younger brother and take him back to his father - Joseph is sold.
And while it is hard to imagine this, God’s got Joseph.
Yeah, I know it sounds crazy! But the circumstances, as dire as they are, are all part of the journey to a place God has in mind for Joseph.
And it is true for us as well. Remember, though the journey may be grueling, God has got you.
It turns out Joseph is to be a slave.
Slavery is where you are no longer yourself, but a generic human available to the highest bidder, useful not for your personality, your talents, your skills, your lineage, your faith, but just because you are physically available.
There no practical differences between you and one of the pack animals a mule, a horse, or a camel, in the Midianite caravan. And sadly, you are in some ways less valuable than any of them.
So there you are at the bottom of the cistern while your horrible brothers negotiate your future – the one in which you dreamed they would all bow down to you.
Life couldn’t get much worse, unless of course the going rate for a slave is 30 shekels of silver and they sell you for 20!
The Midianites or Ishmaelites, that is the sons of Jacob’s grandfather Abraham’s son Ishmael, knew something was shady, so being good businessmen, they asked for a better price that included keeping their mouths shut as to where Joseph came from.
All while you lie at the bottom of the well, awash in grief and think, this cannot be God’s plan! God can’t use my misery for anything good!
Doesn’t God see how awful things are? Why doesn’t God rescue me up?
The reality is God does sees! And God knows! And yes, God has got you!
Jeremiah the prophet, you remember, says, “For I know the plans I have for you…. plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
It is hard in the midst of crushing grief and fear to remember that God understands our grief!
Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Jesus when he says, "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted."
And 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "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."
Imagine that! That our experiences of grief are preparation for us to be able to care for others who are grieving.
And while the pit where Joseph is at the moment is not the only pit he will be in on his journey, God is still at work, preparing Joseph for a story that Joseph could not have imagined as, a shepherd boy beloved by his father.
So, for now, out the physical pit comes Joseph, and he gets to walk to Egypt to be sold as a slave to an Egyptian military officer.
None of it makes any sense to Joseph.
Because he can’t see what God sees. Neither can we.
Instead, we trudge on through the desert remembering as best we can.
God’s got me! Amen.