One of my favorite books in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis is “The Horse and His Boy”. Truth be told, I read it as an adult for the first time, while I read most of the other books as a child. I doubt I would have liked it much as a child as it doesn’t seem to be among the more exciting books in the series, but I loved it as an adult for one paragraph in the book.
I couldn’t possibly do it justice here, as describing the book’s plot in any detail would take some time. In short, the book is about Shasta, an orphan boy who is found floating in a boat as a young sick child, sold into slavery and through a series of seemingly random circumstances ends up saving the kingdom of Narnia. The events that lead to this seem so unnecessary at best and possibly cruel at worst. The paragraph that means the most to me though, happens when Shasta is lost in the fog at night, and senses that someone is with him. He can’t see him, but manages to speak to him as he can sense his presence. Shasta relays his true feelings about the troubles he has gone through, including being pursued by lions twice. He makes the comment, “If nothing else, it was bad luck to meet so many lions.” His companion, Aslan then reveals himself as the single lion whom Shasta has encountered during his journey…
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
So many things are at play here, but most of all was Aslan’s providence. Aslan of course, representing God, has orchestrated every event to prepare young Shasta for the purpose that would be fulfilled in him. The parallels to Joseph’s life abound, as the circumstances surrounding his sale to Potiphar seem every bit as random – mere coincidences that lead to one heck of a story in the end.
Was it really a coincidence, though? No, it was a divine plan executed by a divine God. God brought to Jacob’s mind to look in on his sons. Perhaps someone in Shechem would have seen what was done to Joseph, so God ordained that brothers would not be there. Someone was in the fields at Shechem though and knew exactly where Joseph’s brothers had gone. When he arrived, it was God’s will that Reuben was among his brothers when the decision was made to kill him, so that he could talk them into sparing his life. Likewise, God willed that he would not be there when Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites, as he probably wouldn’t have allowed it. The fact that the brothers simply sat by the well and had a snack gave just enough time for the caravan to come by and buy Joseph from them. I’m sure that some bizarre circumstance occurred to facilitate the meetup of the caravan with Potiphar, who bought Joseph and just happened to work for Pharaoh.
In every instance, God was not controlling, but orchestrating. It was in Reuben’s nature to stand up against killing his brother. Judah was always the pragmatist, and the Ishmaelites, being laden with spices and perfumes from far away lands, were always in the market for making a deal. The natural instincts of everyone involved were orchestrated by God to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps even Joseph himself is unscathed here, as he may have been until that point a bit of a loudmouth. Who in their right mind would speak out loud of dreams in which everyone is subject to you and expect to be perceived of as a good guy? He may have sealed his own fate, but that fate would in turn affect the fate of everyone in the land.
If you’re going through some stuff right now, it is appropriate in one sense to ask “why” but not in the sense of “what have a I done to deserve this”. Have confidence that God works out everything for the good of those who love him and ask him what you should do. Do that, and while you wait, simply be still, and know that he is God.