Genesis 49:29-32, 50:15-26a
What does despair look like? It looks like the experience of Joseph, who was thrown into a cistern by his jealous brothers, who then sold him into slavery to a caravan passing by. In Egypt, he was falsely accused of trying to take sexual advantage of Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. Joseph suffered loneliness and despair. Yet he never stopped trusting God.
Amazingly, years later, after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams of seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine, he was elevated to the lofty rank of Pharaoh’s Vizier. In this position, Joseph was instrumental in saving the lives of countless many throughout the region during the severe famine. Those lives included his own brothers and family who came to Egypt to buy bread.
After their father, Jacob, died, the brothers feared retribution for their cruel treatment of Joseph years earlier. But Joseph saw through his suffering at the hands of his brothers. He could see the hand of God guiding him. That is why he could he say to his brothers “even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good.” He never stopped trusting God.
What does despair look like for us? It may look like those moments of famine when our dreams are shattered, our hearts are broken, when grief seems unbearable, and illness unrelenting. In the midst of our darkness, can we see the hand of God guiding us? Can we say with Joseph that God means it for good? Can we believe that we are “worth more than many sparrows?” What does hope look like? It looks like our trust in God’s providential love.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.