I remember a friend whom I knew only one semester in college, but we seemed to be on the “same wavelength.” It was not something we worked on; it was something that happened naturally. His name was Dan. He once said to me, just before the semester was over, “I appreciate our relationship.” I had felt the same way, but did not know how to express it. We were friends before we knew where each other had come from. It was without work or intention; we became friends automatically. We were both aiming for the same thing — to please God. We both wanted to serve him, so basically our goals were the same. Maybe friendship is, as C S Lewis said, “two people walking together toward the same goal.”
Dan went back home to Southern California. He was hired by a church there as associate minister. But he was such a quality person, that people began going to him rather than to the senior minister. He was also a better speaker and with deeper content than the senior minister. So the senior minister became jealous of Dan, and he began to put into operation ways to discredit Dan or to have Dan fired. Over time, as Dan discovered what was going on, he decided to resign rather than to cause division in the church. He did resign.
He looked for a job and finally found one as a janitor in a small school. He was probably the most highly educated janitor in California. He worked there some time, and again, people began going to him with their problems. He would give advice to them. The students trusted him with their private problems. Soon, the principal of that school resigned, and Dan put his resume in for the job—and he got it! Later he became superintendent of all Southern California schools!
I asked Dan once what he thought of when he was pushing a broom with all his graduate degrees. He said, “I studied the life of Joseph.” This is the Joseph back in Genesis 35-50, a young man who had done no wrong, but still suffered for it. Joseph was in a dysfunctional family. His father Jacob (aka Israel) had two full wives and two slave-wives. But his “favorite wife” was Rachel. Rachel did not have children at all until all the other “wives” had their children. When Rachel finally had a child, it was Joseph. Jacob doted on Joseph. He even made him a virgin’s robe that covered him from wrists to neck to ankles. This alone made Joseph’s brothers hate him, but then Joseph began having dreams. He told the dreams to his family. The dreams indicated that all the brothers and even his parents would bow down to him in the future. Now the brothers really hated Joseph.
Later his dad sent Joseph to watch his brothers and report back to him how they were doing. When the brothers saw Joseph coming, they said, “Here comes that dreamer! Let’s kill him.” The oldest brother Reuben was able to stop the killing, but they stripped Joseph of the special robe, and sold Joseph as a slave to some passing traders. He was taken to Egypt as a slave. From slavery and jail Joseph always did what was right. He finally was taken from jail to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Later, after his suffering, he became second in command in Egypt, next to Pharaoh. His brothers did come and bow down to him again and again. They could not recognize Joseph since he had grown up and become Egyptian in appearance. He even spoke to them through an interpreter.
The story of Joseph ends with Joseph saving his family, bringing them all to Egypt, and giving them the best land of all—the Nile delta region, the Land of Goshen.
God is always able to take what is bad and make it good. A classic line comes from the mouth of Joseph at the end of the story. After Jacob died, his brothers came to him and said, “Will you kill us now since Dad is dead?” He answered, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Mark Berrier is the minister of Central Christian Church in Sherman. He earned a doctoral degree in divinity from Dallas Christian College. He and his wife of 49 years, Paula, have two children and eight grandchildren.