Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)
In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down herself will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10 (NIV)
Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.
“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)
Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brothers schemed landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.
“And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.” Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)
By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.
Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.
Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)
Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.
There are many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)