What would you say if I told you I just quoted a verse from the Bible?!
I guess it’s one of those verses that don’t get quoted very often ( has anyone ever preached a sermon on it?), probably due to its lack of weighty spiritual content! : )
Yet, there’s so much to mine here!
“Why do you look so sad today?‘ – it’s in Genesis -Chapter 40, Verse 7.
It was spoken by a prisoner to his fellow prisoners! The prisoner’s name was Joseph.
Some of us are familiar with his story – the cynosure of his father’s eyes, hated and envied by his brothers and then betrayed by them, sold as a slave, falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison just when he might’ve hoped things were turning around!
Remarkably the question was not addressed to Joseph ( as this brief synopsis of his life may have led us to assume) but was spoken by him!
A couple of things struck me as I was reading about him today.
Joseph knew he was marked for greatness. He knew it from when he was very young, well before his life took this unpredictable turn. As readers of his history, we see the unfolding events in his narrative from the vantage point of hindsight and miss how it could’ve been like for him. From his point of view it must’ve been a bit like being one of those whiz kids destined for ‘big things’ who suddenly finds himself on skid row on account of some tragically twisted circumstances! – your own family betrays you and throws you out on ‘the streets’ in the most humiliating fashion possible. You are then forced to immigrate to a foreign country where you have zero citizenship rights and then when you finally land a job and make some hard-fought progress, your boss’s wife cries rape and gets you thrown into prison without even so much as a trial!
And yet in the midst of this horribly harsh life-situation Joseph notices faces – notably those of his fellow prisoners and asks them, “why do you look so sad today?” Disappointment with life had not turned Joseph’s gaze inward, as it tends to do for the best of us. Through it all Joseph seemed to know that God was with him and holding on to that one truth had kept his heart soft and responsive…towards God and to those suffering around him.
What follows is a deeper conversation. The men Joseph was speaking to had had disturbing dreams. They were vexed by it till Joseph explains the symbolism of their dreams to them – a gesture of empathy opens the door to conversations about spiritual things..Sometimes, the natural precedes the supernatural…that was the other thing that stood out to me today..
Closing thought: Being a light in this world may begin with something as simple as first noticing the faces of people around us (even in the midst of our own ever-present problems and preoccupations) and then quoting a spectacularly profound biblical verse to them – “why do you look so sad today?”
P.S. For those of us who are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, that one question turned around the events of his life. In due course of time, his unique gift paved the way for him to stand before the King of Egypt who was having some troubling dreams of his own. Eventually Joseph became the most influential man of his time.