You ever look around at the world or go through times in life when you wonder to yourself “What in the world are you doing God”? I think we all have wondered this several times in our lives. When I was a young child, this was a question that I came face to face with. My Great Grandmother Standish was still very active in our family when I was in fifth grade. I used to visit with her daily stopping into see her after getting off the school bus. Sometimes my mother would have to call her house to find out where I was after school. I loved spending time with her. I was fascinated by her life. She was born in 1898 and that just inspired my imagination and she never held her stories to herself.
She was my paternal grandmother’s mother. She shared her joys and her struggles. She shared her sorrow over losing my grandmother, her daughter to cancer way too young. And she would say, “I don’t understand what God is doing. And why I am still around”. At this young age, I began to understand how God worked in our world and in our lives and that sometimes we don’t understand God’s plans. But because of her I felt like I had a grandparent and understood that her purpose at that point may have been to influence my life.
God uses all of our experiences to shape us, to work through us, and to make his ultimate plans come to fruition whatever they may be. We see it in our scriptures this morning. The story of Joseph is full of hardship, sorrow, lose, and God’s work coming to life. Joseph was the favorite of his father Jacob and in jealousy his older brothers threw him into a pit in an attempt on his life. Instead what happened was that he was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Ishmaelites and later to Egypt.
Joseph must have come before God in prayer and asked the same question that my great grandmother did “What in the world are you thinking God? What do you have in store for me”? Sometimes life brings situations that we struggle to accept; situations where we just can’t see God at work. Life experiences where we feel alone, angry, and confused. Joseph went through all those very human emotions. Yet when he saw his brothers in the passages we read for this morning, he couldn’t help but have compassion on them. When he saw his brothers and realized his position he could suddenly see that God had used his terrible experiences to do his work and to save his family from famine, death, and poverty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “God does not give us everything we want but He does fulfill his promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself”. God has promised to work through us and with us. God has promised us comfort and care. God has promised to lead us to him no matter the experiences we have in life. Just as God did in the lives and hardships of those earliest Patriarchs of the nation of Israel.
God guides us. God has plans and his ultimate plan is to lead us to him and He uses our regular experiences, our challenging experiences, and our successful and happy experiences to do just that. God used Joseph’s rivalry with his brothers and his slavery to set up a relationship between the family of Israel and the great power of Egypt so that when famine hit Israel would not be wiped from the face of the Earth. Joseph recognized this when he said, “ And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors”. God had a purpose, God had a plan. Though Joseph may have doubted that plan many times throughout his life, when his brothers showed up seeking refuge Joseph no longer had any reason to doubt.
In our lives, we have many experiences personally and globally that make us doubt God’s plans and His presence. We can’t always make sense of what is happening and we might feel more like Job who demanded an explanation of God for his hardships. We might feel like Joseph early on in his life and feel horrified by the deeds of those he previously loved. But we need to remember that God is always working and has a plan. God will use our lives to lead us back to him and to help others find comfort in him as well. God is working. God is present. Remember God has never left our side. So, if you are struggling, if your loved ones are struggling, remember that we are not alone and though we may not be able to see through the pain, confusion, or doubt now, if we keep our faith alive, if we keep praying and asking for guidance, if we keep looking for God in our life then soon enough we will be able to see that God has a plan for us and has never really left us. Remember what was written in our Psalms reading from this morning, “the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore”. God is leading us and the world towards life for evermore. It is just that the path there is different for each person and the experiences along the way may be tough and at times scary. But God will work through it and bring us through in the end. So go forth and seek God in your lives, and in the world and invite others to join in your search and in your work for the ever present God.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 20th Century theologian.
 Genesis 45: 7, RSV.
 Psalm 133: 3b, RSV.
(Based on Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133)