James repeatedly commands patience in suffering and points to the prophets and Job as examples. They were blessed for their steadfastness, and God showed them compassion and mercy (James 5:7–11). One such a prophet is Joseph who received and interpreted dreams from God. A survey of Genesis 37–50 shows us Joseph’s suffering, patience, and steadfastness, and it shows us God’s compassion and mercy.
Suffering and Patience: When Joseph was “seventeen years old” (Gen 37:2), he was taken captive by his brothers and sold as a slave to Egypt (Gen 37:24, 28, 36). This suffering began thirteen years of hardship (cf. Gen 41:46).
“After a time,” Joseph’s master’s wife attempted to seduce him (Gen 39:7). When he ran from her, she falsely accused him of the same, putting him in prison (Gen 39:17–20). However, as the Lord had blessed him as a slave (Gen 39:1–6), so the Lord blessed him as a prisoner (Gen 39:21–23).
“Some time after this,” Joseph interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Gen 40:1; cf. 40:5–22). The baker was hanged, and the cupbearer lived and served Pharaoh again but “forgot” Joseph for “two whole years” (Gen 40:23–41:1).
Compassion, Mercy, and Blessing: Now “thirty years old” (Gen 41:46), Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams of coming abundance and famine, resulting in his promotion over Egypt with only Pharaoh over him (Gen 41:14, 44). Joseph was given a wife and had two sons, their names indicating that he had forgotten hardship and saw his life as fruitful instead (Gen 41:50–42).
He gathered food in “seven years of plenty” and dispersed it in famine (Gen 41:53, 57). Over the next “two years” (Gen 45:6), Joseph provided for his family, revealing his identity in the end (Gen 42–44). Joseph looked back and saw good: “God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5).
Joseph was reunited with his father that he had not seen for twenty-two years, and they lived together in Egypt for seventeen years (Gen 46:29; 47:28). He received his father’s blessing and forgave his brothers in full (Gen 49:22–26; 50:15–21). Joseph said again, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20). Joseph lived for many more years and died at age 110 (Gen 50:26). His years of compassion, mercy, and blessing were many than those of suffering and patience.
Lessons for Us Today: God puts us through suffering from time to time. We must be patient to let Him accomplish His purposes, whether we know these purposes in time, in full, or neither. As we are patient, God will show compassion, mercy, and blessing—in this life, perhaps, and certainly forever in time to come. May God help us to persevere like Joseph whenever suffering comes our way.