We carry painful memories of betrayal, disappointment, let-downs, hurtful remarks, and false allegations. These painful memories taunt us – torment us – and worse, paralyse us. Pain has the ability to shrink us on the inside and there in loneliness go on a downward spiral of hurt, resentment and self-pity. We mentally replay the sequence of events even as we writhe in fresh bouts of pain.

We all have a gruesome secret pain or at least a sob story tucked deep into the depths of our hearts. How do we deal with the hurt, the pain and the unfortunate events that happen in our lives?

The familiar story of Joseph in Genesis (37 – 50) helps us glean principles to cope with pain and hurt and further to see how God turns the unfortunate sequences of events into a blessing for us and for those around us.

Joseph’s life had many twists and turns. He went through pain, disappointment and hurt because of these unfortunate twists and turns. Life was difficult and yet, Joseph was able to cope with these difficulties. In fact, Joseph was able to see his life as a blessing (50:20). God turned his ‘burdens’ into a ‘blessing’. We can learn principles from Joseph’s life to cope with unfortunate twists and turns in our lives.

Joseph did not let go of God

Joseph had to go through terrible things – sibling rivalry, slavery, false allegation – and yet, he did not let go of God. Joseph was Jacob’s favourite son, and he was pampered with extra love and care. However, Joseph became the target of relentless hate.

Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelite traders who in turn sold him to Potiphar, a high-ranking official in Pharaoh’s Court (39:1). However, God was with Joseph (39: 2–5; 21–23). The converse was also true. Joseph was with God.

Despite the anger, resentment and hurt, Joseph did not let go of God. There are many who let go of God when they go through difficult times. However, Joseph was able to find the presence of God even in the seeming absence of God. God helped Joseph find favour and made him successful. He even blessed Potiphar on account of Joseph (39:5). Further, Joseph was God-conscious and His values were shaped by God-consciousness (39:9).

Despite the unfolding horrors, Joseph clung to God. He derived strength from God and therefore was able to go through the ugly twists and turns of life.

Joseph did not let go of Hope

It is quite easy to give up and resign to fate, particularly when life takes an ugly turn, and you face a dead end. Joseph was seventeen years old when he was sold as a slave (37:2). He had to suffer for thirteen long years before he could gain freedom (41:46). But Joseph did not let go of Hope.

He was falsely accused and put in prison (39: 17–19) and yet he did not give up on Hope. He did not let anger, resentment and bitterness overwhelm him and define him. Rather, he was considerate and compassionate towards others (40: 6–8).

He was patient and he never gave up on hope. It must have been particularly painful when the Pharaoh’s personal servant forgot Joseph (40:23). In fact, it was almost two years before Pharaoh’s personal servant remembered Joseph.

And yet, Joseph did not lose hope. It was hope that defined his actions and reactions. He waited for God’s perfect timing. Joseph did not let go of God, and therefore, he was able to patiently hold on to hope. God’s perfect timing is worth waiting for.

Joseph did not lose sight of God’s goodness

God was with Joseph. Joseph experienced God’s faithfulness. God blessed him and even blessed his masters on account of him (39:5). It is quite easy to forget God’s goodness and focus on our hurts and pain. God does not take us to a place where His grace is not there. He is with us and He is for us. Not only did Joseph find favour with his masters, but he was also successful because God was with him. Joseph recognized the hand of God over his life.

Not surprisingly, Joseph names his sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh means, “God has let me forget all my troubles and my family back home” (41:51) and Ephraim means “God has made me a success in the land where I suffered” (41:52). Joseph did not lose sight of God’s goodness.

Towards the end, he tells his brothers, “God made it turn out for the best” (50:20). Joseph did not lose sight of God’s goodness and this helped him to gain a new perspective. We can cope with the ugly twists and turns in life if we hold on to God, hold on to Hope and hold on to God’s goodness.

Ponder: Does my faith in God strengthen my hope and resilience? Does pain blind my eyes to see God’s goodness?

Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to hold on to you as I go through the twists and turns of life. Help me find Hope and resilience in you. May I always recognize your goodness even when the going gets tough? Help me rely on you and wait patiently for deliverance. Grant us grace to ever Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and faithful in prayer. Amen!

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.