Finding meaning, looking back


When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, they are understandably worried that he will harbor a considerable grudge against them; after all, they did throw him into a pit and sell him into slavery in Egypt!  Joseph, though, reassures them.  Looking back on all he has gone through, he sees not human cruelty but a divine hand in all that has happened to him.  “It was not you who sent me here, but God!” he tells his brothers (Genesis 45:8).  This ability to look back on the ups and downs of our lives and to find meaning in even our most difficult struggles and lowest points seems to be an inherent part of human nature.  Looking forward, we very often struggle to see the structure of our lives, and we can feel at times that we are at an impasse, that there is no way forward.  Looking backward, we can often see the pattern that eluded us at the time, realizing that even the moments that seemed hopeless–like Joseph’s time in the pit–were just one step in a chain that led us to where we are today.  This realization can not only encourage us to take the opportunity to take in that backward view; it can also comfort us when we seem to lose the thread that makes sense of our days.  Maybe one day, looking back, we too will see a divine imprint on our struggles, our own footprints in the sand that lead us ever forward into the unknown future.