“Jehovah was with Joseph . . . , making everything that he did successful.”—GEN. 39:2, 3.
SONG 30 My Father, My God and Friend
1-2. (a) Why are we not surprised that we have trials? (b) What will we consider in this article?
AS JEHOVAH’S people, we are not surprised when we have to face trials. We realize that, as the Bible says, “we must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.” (Acts 14:22) We also know that some of our problems will not be completely solved until we are living in God’s new world, where “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
2 Jehovah does not shield us from trials. However, he does help us to endure them. Note what the apostle Paul said to Christians living in Rome. He first listed a number of trials that he and his brothers were facing. Then he wrote: “We are coming off completely victorious through the one who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35-37) This means that Jehovah can make you successful even while the trial is running its course. Let us see how Jehovah helped Joseph to be successful and how He can help you.
WHEN THINGS CHANGE SUDDENLY
3. What sudden change took place in Joseph’s life?
3 The patriarch Jacob made it obvious that he loved his son Joseph very much. (Gen. 37:3, 4) As a result, Jacob’s older sons became jealous of their brother. When they saw an opportunity, they sold Joseph to a group of Midianite merchants. Those merchants took Joseph hundreds of kilometers away to Egypt, where he was sold once more—this time to Potiphar, chief of Pharaoh’s guards. How quickly Joseph’s life changed, from being his father’s dearly beloved son to being a lowly slave of an Egyptian!—Gen. 39:1.
4. How might we face a challenge similar to the one Joseph faced?
4 The Bible says that “bad things happen to everyone.” (Eccl. 9:11, Holy Bible—Easy-to-Read Version) We sometimes encounter hardships that are “common to men”—that is, trials that all humans experience. (1 Cor. 10:13) Or we may suffer simply because we are disciples of Jesus. For example, we might be ridiculed, opposed, or even persecuted because of our faith. (2 Tim. 3:12) Whatever trial you face, Jehovah can make you successful. How did he do that for Joseph?
5. What did Potiphar conclude about Joseph’s success? (Genesis 39:2-6)
5 Read Genesis 39:2-6. Potiphar noticed that Joseph was a very capable young man and a hard worker. He also knew why. Potiphar saw that “Jehovah was making everything that [Joseph] did successful.”b Eventually, the Egyptian made Joseph his personal attendant. He also put Joseph in charge of his entire house. The result? Potiphar prospered.
6. How might Joseph have felt about his situation?
6 Try to view the situation from Joseph’s standpoint. What did he want more than anything? Was it to be noticed and rewarded by Potiphar? More likely, Joseph wanted to be freed so that he could return to his father. After all, despite all the privileges he had in Potiphar’s house, Joseph was still a slave who was subject to a pagan master. Jehovah did not cause Potiphar to set Joseph free. And Joseph’s situation was about to become much worse.
IF THE SITUATION GETS WORSE
7. In what way did Joseph’s situation go from bad to worse? (Genesis 39:14, 15)
7 As reported in Genesis chapter 39, Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and repeatedly tried to seduce him. Each time, Joseph refused her advances. Finally, she became so angry with Joseph that she accused him of trying to rape her. (Read Genesis 39:14, 15.) When Potiphar heard of this, he threw Joseph into prison, where he remained for some years. (Gen. 39:19, 20) What was the prison like? The Hebrew word Joseph used for “prison” can mean “cistern,” or “pit,” suggesting that his surroundings were dark and that he felt hopeless. (Gen. 40:15; ftn.) Also, the Bible indicates that for a time Joseph’s feet were bound in fetters and his neck was put in irons. (Ps. 105:17, 18) Joseph’s situation was going from bad to worse. He went from being a trusted slave to being a lowly prisoner.
8. Even if a trial intensifies, of what can we be sure?
8 Have you ever been in a distressing situation that went from bad to worse despite your earnest prayers? That can happen. Jehovah does not shield us from trials in a world that is ruled by Satan. (1 John 5:19) Still, you can be sure of this: Jehovah is fully aware of what you are going through, and he cares about you. (Matt. 10:29-31; 1 Pet. 5:6, 7) Furthermore, he has promised: “I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you.” (Heb. 13:5) Jehovah can help you to endure even when your situation seems hopeless. Let us see how that was the case with Joseph.
9. What shows that Jehovah was with Joseph when he was in prison? (Genesis 39:21-23)
9 Read Genesis 39:21-23. Even during this bleak period of imprisonment, Jehovah made Joseph successful. How? In time, Joseph gained the trust and respect of the chief officer, just as he had done with Potiphar. Before long, the chief officer put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. In fact, the Bible says that “the chief officer of the prison was looking after absolutely nothing that was in Joseph’s care.” Joseph now had something to occupy his mind—productive work. What an unusual development! How could a prisoner who is accused of attempting to rape the wife of a court official be given such a trusted position? There is only one explanation. As Genesis 39:23 states, “Jehovah was with Joseph and Jehovah made whatever he did successful.”
10. Explain why Joseph might not have felt that he was successful in everything.
10 Try again to view the situation from Joseph’s standpoint. After being falsely accused and imprisoned, do you think that he felt successful in everything? What did Joseph want more than anything? Was it to gain favor in the eyes of the chief officer of the prison? More likely, Joseph wanted to be exonerated and set free. He even asked another prisoner who was about to be released to speak to Pharaoh in his behalf in order to get him out of that dreary prison. (Gen. 40:14) However, the man failed to speak to Pharaoh right away. As a result, Joseph remained in that prison for two more years. (Gen. 40:23; 41:1, 14) Still, Jehovah continued to make his way successful. How?
11. What special ability did Jehovah give Joseph, and what role did this play in accomplishing Jehovah’s purpose?
11 While Joseph was in prison, Jehovah caused the king of Egypt to have two troubling dreams. Pharaoh desperately wanted to know what they meant. When the king learned that Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams, he sent for him. With Jehovah’s help, Joseph interpreted the dreams and impressed Pharaoh with the practical advice he gave him. Seeing that Jehovah was with the young man, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the food administrator for all of Egypt. (Gen. 41:38, 41-44) Later, a severe famine arose that affected not only Egypt but also Canaan, the land in which Joseph’s family were living. Joseph was now in a position to save his family and thus preserve the line of descent that would lead to the Messiah.
12. In what ways did Jehovah make Joseph successful?
12 Think about the unusual events in Joseph’s life. Who caused Potiphar to take special note of Joseph, a mere slave? Who caused the chief officer of the prison to favor Joseph, a lowly prisoner? Who gave Pharaoh troubling dreams and gave Joseph the ability to interpret them? Who was behind the decision to appoint Joseph as the food administrator of Egypt? (Gen. 45:5) Obviously, it was Jehovah who made everything Joseph did succeed. In the end, Jehovah turned the cruel scheme of Joseph’s brothers into a means by which He could accomplish His will.
HOW JEHOVAH MAKES YOU SUCCESSFUL
13. Does Jehovah intervene in every situation we face? Explain.
13 What conclusion can we draw from the account of Joseph? Does Jehovah intervene in every situation we encounter? Does he maneuver every event in our life, so that all bad things that happen are for a good reason? No, the Bible does not support that view. (Eccl. 8:9; 9:11) However, we do know this: When we face a trial, Jehovah is aware of it and he hears our cries for help. (Ps. 34:15; 55:22; Isa. 59:1) More than that, Jehovah can help us to endure hardships successfully. How?
14. How does Jehovah help us in times of hardship?
14 One way that Jehovah helps us is by providing comfort and encouragement, often just at the right time. (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) That was the case for Eziz, a brother in Turkmenistan who was sentenced to two years in prison because of his faith. “On the morning of my trial,” he relates, “a brother showed me Isaiah 30:15, where it says: ‘Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.’ This verse always helped me to stay calm and rely on Jehovah for everything. Meditating on this verse helped me over the entire course of my imprisonment.” Can you think of a time in your life when Jehovah sustained you by providing comfort and encouragement just when you needed it most?
15-16. What do you learn from Tori’s experience?
15 Often, it is only after we look back on a hardship that we see how Jehovah helped us get through it. A sister named Tori found that to be true. Her son, Mason, battled cancer for six years until he passed away. Understandably, Tori was heartbroken. She says, “I don’t think there could have been a more painful ordeal for me as a mother.” She adds, “I’m sure other parents would agree that seeing your child suffer is worse than experiencing it yourself.”
16 As devastating as that trial was, however, Tori later reflected on the ways in which Jehovah helped her through it. “In hindsight,” she says, “I can see Jehovah’s loving hand throughout my son’s illness. For example, even when Mason was too sick to see visitors, brothers and sisters would drive two hours to the hospital. There was always someone in the waiting room—ready and willing to provide support. Also, our material needs were cared for. Even in the worst of times, we never went without.” Jehovah gave Tori what she needed to endure, and he did the same for Mason.—See the box “Jehovah Gave Us Exactly What We Needed.”
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
17-18. What will help us to recognize and appreciate Jehovah’s support during times of trial? (Psalm 40:5)
17 Read Psalm 40:5. A mountain climber’s goal is to reach the summit. However, there are numerous points along the route where he can stop and take in the view. In a similar way, regularly take time to stop and think about how Jehovah is making you successful even while you are enduring a hardship. At the end of each day, ask yourself: ‘In what way did I see Jehovah’s blessing today? Although the trial is still running its course, how is Jehovah helping me to endure?’ See if you can identify at least one blessing from Jehovah that has made you successful.
18 True, you might be praying for your trial to end. That is understandable and appropriate. (Phil. 4:6) But we should also be aware of the blessings we have right now. After all, Jehovah promises to strengthen us and to help us to endure. So never lose appreciation for the fact that Jehovah is supporting you. Then you will see how Jehovah is helping you to succeed, as he did Joseph, even during times of trial.—Gen. 41:51, 52.
SONG 32 Take Sides With Jehovah!
a When we are going through a difficult trial, we may not view ourselves as being “successful.” We might think that such a word would apply only when our trial is over. However, events that occurred in the life of Joseph teach us a vital lesson—Jehovah can help us to succeed even when we are in the midst of our trials. This article will explain how.
b The Bible reports these initial changes in Joseph’s slavery in just a few verses, but they may have occurred over a span of several years.