Melanie Jasper says her son, Cooper, was born with a smile on his face. The dimple never left his cheek. He won the hearts of every person he knew: his three older sisters, parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends. He loved to laugh and love. His father, JJ, confessing partiality, calls him practically a perfect child.
And Cooper was born to the perfect family. Farm-dwelling, fun-loving, God-seeking, and Christ-hungry, JJ and Melanie poured their hearts into their four children. JJ cherished every moment he had with his only son. That’s why they were riding in the dune buggy on July 17, 2009. They intended to cut the grass together, but the lawn mower needed a spark plug. While Melanie drove to town to buy one, JJ and five-year-old Cooper seized the opportunity for a quick ride. They had done this a thousand times, zipping down a dirt road in a roll cage cart. The ride was nothing new. But the flip was. On a completely level road with Cooper safely buckled in, JJ made a circle, and the buggy rolled over.
Cooper was unresponsive. JJ called 911, then Melanie. “There has been an accident,” he told her. “I don’t think Cooper is going to make it.” The next hours were every parent’s worst nightmare: ambulance, ER, sobs, and shock. And finally the news. Cooper had passed from this life into heaven. JJ and Melanie found themselves doing the unthinkable: selecting a casket, planning a funeral, and envisioning life without their only son. In the coming days they fell into a mind-numbing rhythm. Each morning upon awakening they held each other and sobbed uncontrollably. After gathering enough courage to climb out of bed, they would go downstairs to the family and friends who awaited them. They would soldier through the day until bedtime. Then they would go to bed, hold each other, and cry themselves to sleep.
JJ told me, “There is no class or book on this planet that can prepare you to have your five-year-old son die in your arms . . . We know what the bottom looks like.”1
The bottom. We pass much of life—if not most of life—at midaltitude. Occasionally we summit a peak: our wedding, a promotion, the birth of a child. But most of life is lived at midlevel. Mondayish obligations of carpools, expense reports, and recipes.
But on occasion the world bottoms out. The dune buggy flips, the housing market crashes, the test results come back positive, and before we know it, we discover what the bottom looks like.
In Joseph’s case he discovered what the auction block of Egypt looked like. The bidding began, and for the second time in his young life, he was on the market. The favored son of Jacob found himself prodded and pricked, examined for fleas, and pushed about like a donkey. Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, bought him. Joseph didn’t speak the language or know the culture. The food was strange, the work was grueling, and the odds were against him.
So we turn the page and brace for the worst. The next chapter in his story will describe Joseph’s consequential plunge into addiction, anger, or despair, right? Wrong.
“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” (Gen. 39:2). Joseph arrived in Egypt with nothing but the clothes on his back and the call of God on his heart. Yet by the end of four verses, he was running the house of the man who ran security for Pharaoh. How do we explain this turnaround? Simple. God was with him.
The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man. (v. 2)
His master saw that the LORD was with him. (v. 3)
The LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake. (v. 5)
The blessing of the LORD was on all that he had. (v. 5)
Joseph’s story just parted company with the volumes of self-help books and all the secret-to-success formulas that direct the struggler to an inner power (“dig deeper”). Joseph’s story points elsewhere (“look higher”). He succeeded because God was present. God was to Joseph what a blanket is to a baby—he was all over him.
Any chance he’d be the same for you? Here you are in your version of Egypt. It feels foreign. You don’t know the language. You never studied the vocabulary of crisis. You feel far from home, all alone. Money gone. Expectations dashed. Friends vanished. Who’s left? God is.
David asked, “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run from you?” (Ps. 139:7 NCV). He then listed the various places he found God: in “the heavens . . . the grave . . . If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea, even there you would guide me” (vv. 8–10 NCV). God, everywhere.
Joseph’s account of those verses would have read, “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? If I go to the bottom of the dry pit . . . to the top of the slave block . . . to the home of a foreigner . . . even there you would guide me.”
Your adaptation of the verse might read, “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? If I go to the rehab clinic . . . the ICU . . . the overseas deployment office . . . the shelter for battered women . . . the county jail . . . even there you would guide me.”
You will never go where God is not. Envision the next few hours of your life. Where will you find yourself? In a school? God indwells the classroom. On the highways? His presence lingers among the traffic. In the hospital operating room, the executive boardroom, the in-laws’ living room, the funeral home? God will be there. “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Each of us. God does not play favorites. From the masses on the city avenues to the isolated villagers in valleys and jungles, all people can enjoy God’s presence. But many don’t. They plod through life as if there were no God to love them. As if their only strength was their own. As if the only solution comes from within, not above. They live God-less lives.
But there are Josephs among us: people who sense, see, and hear the presence of God.
Max Lucado, You’ll Get through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).
We have just completed a Bible study to guide through the life of Joseph. It consists of 6 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.
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