Formations 07.31.2022: “Thangs Happen”

Controlled collapse of the long-abandoned Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort, KY (April 14, 2018)

Genesis 45:1-15

When my daughter was in the eighth grade, my wife volunteered to be a chaperone when the school choir performed in a nearby city. At one point, she reassured the choristers about all the preparations that had gone into the trip. One of my daughter’s friends, who to this day is one of the most over-prepared people I know, turned to her and sincerely said, “Miss Connie, thangs happen.”

“Thangs happen,” pronounced exactly that way, has been a watchword in our family ever since. We hope for the best, we do what we can, and we plan for any eventuality. But we know that sometimes, despite all our best efforts, things do not work out the way we had hoped.

The challenge is to find God when the bottom falls out.

Two weeks ago, we saw how Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. In the intervening years, Joseph rose to a high position in Pharaoh’s court. In a time of famine, his brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain, unaware that the stern Egyptian official they’re dealing with is in fact the long-lost Joseph. Joseph soon reveals his true identity, leading to a tearful reunion with his family.

Joseph had every right to turn bitter because of what his brothers had done. He might well have even turned his back on God. Where was God when these things happened? Why would God allow Joseph to suffer such a downfall?

Instead, he recognizes God’s hand in sending him to Egypt to preserve the whole family of Jacob. “God sent me before you to preserve life,” he says (v. 5). A few chapters later, he says it even more directly: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today” (Gen 50:20).

Thangs happen. People betray us. Life falls apart. Well-laid plans come to nothing. Sometimes we can prepare for the worst, and sometimes we can’t.

And when we can’t, when everything falls apart, we’re left to look for God shining through the cracks.

Discussion

• When have things fallen apart for you? Were you able to find God in the ruins? Explain.
• How did Joseph arrive at the bigger picture of God at work in his life that he expresses in verse 5?
• How do you account for the seeming disconnect between his magnanimous words here and his behavior toward his brothers in chapters 43–44?
• What lessons can we learn here about forgiveness, privilege, and faith?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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