As Joseph matured through his detour over time, he eventually saw the hand of God guiding and directing it all. He didn’t say that the Ishmaelite slave traders took him to Egypt years later when he reflected on where he was. He said God brought him to that place.

Because God really did bring him to that place.

Sometimes detours develop us. But sometimes they reroute us to an entire new location we wouldn’t have even thought of going ourselves. It would be nice if God simply spoke to us like He did to Abraham and tell us to go to a land unknown, and we had the heart of Abraham and did it. But far too often we either fail to hear, or if we do hear, we fail to follow because it just doesn’t make sense. So God ties us up behind some camels, and He gets us there anyhow. He’s clever that way.

If you only see the camels, if you only see the ropes, if you only feel the hot sun or the hunger and emptiness night after night, and you miss seeing what God is doing, you will miss the divine purpose of the detour. God allows people to move us, shape us, and take us to our next step on the path He wants us to travel. So never think that just because it’s people you see that it isn’t God directing behind the scenes. God will often use people—even people in your family (even messed-up people in your family)—to move you to your destiny through a detour.

Joseph had many reasons to believe that God had abandoned him. Those feelings aren’t wrong. You shouldn’t feel guilt for responding to a pit with a question mark. Even the prophets were bold enough to question God. The prophet Jeremiah blamed God harshly when he wrote, “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived. You seized me and prevailed. I am a laughingstock all the time; everyone ridicules me” (Jer. 20:7). Even Christ asked why God had abandoned Him on the cross.

In your detours, remember that God is divine, but you are not. Emotions will go up and down, doubt is a natural response to life’s trials, and God is a big God, He can take our words. But also remember as you face these feelings in the darkness of the deepest pit that God uses tests and trials—even detours—for our ultimate good. Ask Him in those times to help your unbelief and to give you trust. Ask Him to open your eyes to see spiritually beyond the physical. Ask Him to show you what He is trying to improve. Like a hot iron on a wrinkled shirt, the heat produces something good.

Joseph had some wrinkles.

He bragged on himself.

Tattled on his brothers.

He was immature.

But the heat of the scorching sun on the long walk from his home to Egypt no doubt began a process of smoothing his pride with the grace of humility and transforming his conceit into a confidence in God instead. God will place the hot iron of His molding grace on the wrinkles of our souls when He needs to. He does this because we have been created in His image and He desires that we reflect Him well. He will allow the fire of testing to bring steam to our hearts.

Tony Evans, Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2017), 1–4.

We have just completed a Bible study to guide your group into meditating on and applying these truths. Detours is our Bible Study based on Dane Ortlund’s book by the same name. It consists of 7 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.