The Rest of the Story

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. [. . .]

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:3–4, 12–28 ESV)

As a child, I used to listen to a radio program called The Rest of the Story by Paul Harvey. Each short broadcast would tell the story of an individual, often concealing the person’s name. The story would often speak of trials and difficulties and failures and missteps the character of the story had endured. Finally, there would be the big reveal of the person’s name – Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, or Abraham Lincoln – and with his unique voice, Paul Harvey would sign-off with the signature phrase, “And now you know . . . the rest of the story.”

It’s good to know the rest of the story. It’s good to know Joseph’s tragic sale into slavery will be redeemed by the time we get to Genesis 50 when he says to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” It’s good to know Lent doesn’t end with the cross but the empty tomb. It’s good to know God is able to redeem any pain, any suffering, any tragedy. It’s good to know the rest of the story. But in the middle of the story, at the bottom of the pit, in the midst of carrying the cross, God is no less there. God doesn’t show up at the end of the story. God is in the midst of your suffering, your pain, your story. He is not only listening to you crying out, but he is crying out with you.

This Lent, let us not move too quickly to the rest of the story, to the end. Allow some time to know and to take comfort that God is with you in the midst of your story, your pain, your suffering.