Joyful in Jail
The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers. Genesis 49:26
At our Sunday morning jail Bible study recently, one of the guys spoke of the misery of the old life of drugs. He described the chaos and angst of his addiction and then explained that in jail, he’d turned to God, finding peace and joy. He said that other inmates have asked him why he’s so happy. Don’t you know you’re in jail? How can you be joyful? He’s discovered that authentic joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances and that true freedom is found, not in doing whatever we want, but rather in abandoning our way to follow God’s will. This has set him apart from most of the guys in jail, making him appear a little weird. It’s not that he likes jail and wants to stay there. It’s just that he’s living in such a manner that is completely foreign to those around him. Frankly, being joyful in jail looks insane but he doesn’t care because he’s the one with the joy, experiencing the blessings found only by walking with God.
Joseph too, lived a life that stood out from those around him. In today’s passage, we read how his father, Jacob – on his deathbed – blessed or cursed Joseph and his brothers. When Jacob got to Joseph, he recounted Joseph’s strange life. He described how Joseph had remained faithful to God, despite great trials. Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, and unjustly imprisoned, but through it all, he followed God’s will. Jacob described Joseph as one set apart from his brothers. Compared to them, he was strange, but in the end, it was Joseph who received the greatest blessing from both Jacob and God.
There’s a lesson here for me. Often, I want to fit in, get along, and simply be like everyone else. The normal human condition though, isn’t one that has led me to life, joy, and peace. It’s human nature to follow myself, which has led me to misery. So, I’ve got to make a daily choice. Do I want to fit in, or am I willing to stand out and live a life set apart for God? Following God’s plan for my life may look a little weird to others, but if that’s where I find recovery, joy, and meaning, then I’m OK being a little weird. Authentic joy isn’t found in doing whatever I want, but paradoxically is found in daily surrendering my will for God’s.