Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators: Part V

In today's final post in this series, we're going to talk about how to react and offer support should your child or some other child disclose abuse.

Make a Plan: Learn where to go, whom to call, and how to react.*

If your child breaks and arm or runs a high fever, you know to stay calm and where to see help because you've mentally prepared yourself. Reacting to child sexual abuse is the same. Your reactions have a powerful influence on vulnerable children, so be prepared! Know the number to contact in your city, county, or state regarding reporting abuse of minors.

Don't Overreact!

A key to a child victim's prognosis is how well a trusted family member reacts to disclosure.

When you react to disclosure with anger, disbelief, or out of control emotions the response of a child may be to:

  • Shut-down
  • Change their story even though abuse is still occurring
  • Feel more guilt & shame
  • Change their account if there are too many probing questions

Questions/comments to avoid:

  • "Why didn't you tell me before now?"
  • "Did you tell the abuser 'no,' scream, run" etc.
  • "So-and-so would never do that!"
  • "You must have done something to cause this"

Offer Reassurance and Support:

Think through your response before you suspect abuse. In doing so, you'll be able to respond in a more supportive, calm, and helpful manner.

  • Believe child and make sure they know it.
  • Praise the child's courage and thank them for telling you.
  • Tell them this was not their fault.
  • Encourage child to talk but don't ask leading questions or try to elicit too much detail. Use open-ended questions such as "what happened next?"
  • Assure child that it's YOUR responsibility to protect him or her and that you'll do all you can.
  • Report or take action in all cases of suspected abuse inside or outside the immediate family. Don't try to handle yourself!
  • Don't panic. Sexually abused children who are believed, receive support and psychological help can and do heal.
  • Seek the help of a professional who is trained to interview the child about sexual abuse. Professional guidance could be critical to the child's healing and to any criminal prosecution.
  • Contact National Children's Alliance at 1-800-239-9950 or National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD for information or to talk to staff specifically trained to deal with suspected child sexual abuse.

Finally, I will leave you with two quotes. The first, I quoted in the beginning of this series from Dr. Jim Hopper of Harvard:

"It's so important that adults take responsibility for this [reporting suspected abuse], so that it doesn't depend on the courage of the child."
The second quote is from Jesus of Nazareth:

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones [children] who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone[a] were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes." Matthew 18:6-7 (HCSB)

 

 

 

Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators: Part IV

In today's post we're going to address safety tips for parents and some warning signs in children. As I have already addressed in a previous post, talk to your children and teach them how to respond in specific situations.

Safety Tips for Parents:

  1. Network with your child's friends and their parents to safeguard all children in your community.
  2. Do not let your child spend time in an unsupervised home.
  3. If your child prefers to spend a lot of time at a neighbor's home, find out why and with whom.
  4. Teach your child to go to a cashier, security guard or store employee if separated from you in a public place.
  5. Have your child pay attention to their surroundings.
  6. Teach your children to verify credentials of people when approached. (Children can politely explain they've been taught this--no one who is legitimate will protest or coerce.)
  7. Teach child regarding an abduction to yell: "This is NOT my mom/dad" or "I don't know this person" rather than "help" or "let me go."
  8. Make sure all sleep-overs are supervised by a trusted adult.
  9. Play "what if" games to prep your children: "what if a stranger offers you a ride home or asks you to help find a lost puppy?"
  10. Choose a secret password as a family to be used in an emergency. (Person who says they are authorized to pick up child from event/school must know and say password.)

Listen & Observe

Children typically show signs--it's whether or not we as parents/adults are paying attention to them.

Children of all ages may show physical, emotional, and behavioral signs. Sexually precocious behavior or language which is not age appropriate can be a red flag. If you observe such signs and suspect sexual abuse, have the child seen by a professional who specializes in child sexual abuse.

Warning Signs

            Please note that one of the great dangers in providing a list of behavioral indicators of abuse is that those reading the list will make inappropriate conclusions on the basis of the list alone.  If you have any concerns regarding your child or a child within your family or community, please consult a knowledgeable professional in your area prior to contacting authorities.  Professionals, such as therapists and child protection workers are trained in assessment and can inform you of the legal obligations in your state.

For Children of all ages:

            If a child is overly responsive, preoccupied, or precocious in sexual matters by their behavior, verbal content, or interest level this may be indicative of abuse or exposure to explicit material.

            If a child is under responsive, fearful, day-dreaming or spaced out when appropriate sexual information is being discussed (ie. educational movie, book), this may be indicative of abuse or exposure to explicit material.

Infants/Preschoolers

·      sexualized behavior (explicit sex play, excessive masturbation, inserting objects in sexual areas)

·      fear of being alone, fear of rest rooms, showers, baths

·      being uncomfortable around previously trusted person

·      nightmares, difficulty sleeping

·      dramatic personality changes

·      clinging behavior

·      moodiness, excessive crying or fear

·      uncharacteristic hyperactivity

·      passive, withdrawn behavior

·      bladder problems/genital irritation

School age Children (5-12)(least likely to report)

(Some of the same indicators as above with the following additions)

·      specific knowledge of sexual facts/terms beyond age appropriateness

·      wearing multiple layers of clothing, especially to bed

·      frequent tardiness, absence from school

·      eating disorders

·      self-consciousness behavior, especially about body

·      bed-wetting

·      parentified behavior

·      touching to either extreme (no touch, excessive touch)

·      fear of being alone with men or boys

·      poor hygiene (attempts to make self undesirable)

·      child acquires toy/money with no explanation

·      change in sleeping habits

·      regressive behavior (infantile)

·      difficulty in school (concentration, hyperactivity)

·      running away, especially in child that is not usually a behavior problem

Adolescents:

(Most likely to report if they have a safe environment to disclose.  Unfortunately, they are the least likely to be believed because they may be acting out in socially inappropriate ways and because they are thought to have enough information to fabricate allegations.  Most adolescents are not molested for the first time at this age.  There are usually prior incidents that have gone unreported.)

(Some of previously noted signs also may be present)

·      sexualized, seductive, promiscuous behavior

·      drug, alcohol use

·      suicidal gestures, attempts

·      self-mutilation, cutting

·      eating disorders, obesity

·      delinquent behavior, running away

·      school problems (academic or behavioral)

·      defiance or compliance to an extreme

·      friends tend to be older

·      constant fear or anxiety

·      extreme hostility toward a parent, relative, caretaker or authority figures

·      wearing multiple layers of clothing

·      aggressive behavior (especially in boys)

·      sleeping abnormalities (insomnia, hypersomnia)

·      female reproductive infections/ menstrual abnormalities

·      physical symptoms (headaches, stomach problems, anxiety attacks)

Finally, I tell parents to "trust their gut"-if it doesn't feel right, check it out and take steps of protection for yourself and your child. It may or may not warrant an accusation.

And finally, tell others in your family/community about behaviors that are of concern.

In my next post:

Make a Plan

 

 

 

 

 

Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators: Part III

Minimize Opportunity

     More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in one-adult/one-child situations.

The previous two posts in this series were about the importance of parents KNOWING THE FACTS about abuse and EDUCATING YOUR CHILDREN. Today we're going to talk about ways in which you, as a parent, can play a significant role in keeping your children safe by MINIMIZING OPPORTUNITY.

First, I want you to be aware of some things that you may not have heard before.

  • Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust, and gaining time alone with children.
  • Think carefully about the safety of any one-adult/one-child situations. Try to choose group situations when possible.
  • Be cautious about situations in which older youth have access to younger children. Make sure that multiple adults are present who can provide supervision.
  • Abductors/Molesters prey upon children who: take short-cuts to school; look depressed or timid; are loners; appear neglected, unkempt, or unsupervised.
  • Sexual predators often target children in single parent families because they offer their "help" to a mother or father who is overloaded, stressed, or burned out.
  • Be aware that "over-loving or over-affectionate" type people are potentially dangerous.
  • Be suspicious of someone whose "whole" life is centered around spending time with children and has few, if any, quality adult relationships.

And finally, something I learned from a study entitled "Child Abuse Prevention: What Offenders Tell Us" (Child Abuse & Neglect 1995, Elliott, Browne, Kilcoyne). Offenders who were in treatment offered some advice to warn parents about potential offenders. Here are three warnings worth noting:

  1. Be suspicious if someone seems more interested in their children than in the parents.
  2. Know that we [offenders] will use any way we can get to children.
  3. Be alert to a child's behavioral change--investigate further.

In light of all that I have shared with you, I have some final words of caution:

Don't let this information overwhelm you or cause you to be paranoid.

It's important as a parent to be informed, but balanced. I am saying this from personal experience. As I reflect back on my own parenting, I now realize how my own anxiety over making sure my daughters were protected, actually contributed to them developing more than their fair share of anxiety as adults. Would I change most of my precautions, boundaries, or prohibitions? Probably not, but I would change my underlying anxiety that seemed to leak out upon them imperceptibly. I didn't realize it at the time, but my fears were controlling a lot of my decisions especially as my girls reached adolescence. So, if you tend to go to extremes, make sure you seek help for your own anxiety and get some balanced counsel from good friends, wise counselors, or those mentors in your lives who've weathered parenting well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators: Part II

A child's safety is an adult's job.

"We can and should educate our children--and it's important for them to learn age appropriate information-but it's no substitute for adult responsibility." *

In my last post I talked about Knowing the Facts about abuse and provided a definition of terms. You may have been overwhelmed and aghast over some of the statistics concerning abuse that I listed. But, we all need to be informed in our communities, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and families. It's tempting to think that these things happen in other communities--"certainly not in OURS!" But then, we turn on the news and see how close to home these issues are and continue to be.

Educate Your Children

In 1962 an article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association describing symptoms of child abuse. By 1972, every state in the U.S. had statutes known as "mandatory reporting" laws which required certain professionals such as doctors and teachers to report suspected child abuse to their local Child Protective Services agency.

Today, there are numerous books on educating your own children about sexual abuse in all age ranges. In this post, I just want to provide you with some general guidelines for educating your children; understanding why children are often afraid to tell; and how children tend to communicate when abuse has occurred. Before I do so, I'd like you to read and re-read the following quote by Dr. Jim Hopper of Harvard:

"It's so important that adults take responsibility for this [protecting their own children], so that it doesn't depend on the courage of the child."

So there's my caveat to educating your children. As much as we should educate our children, we as parents, must not look solely to the child to do what it is our responsibility to do.

General Guidelines:

Be matter-of-fact as you discuss these guidelines with your children. Manage your own fears and anxiety. Be calm, confident, and caring.

  • Have age appropriate discussions with your child regarding their bodies, what abuse is, and about sex.
  • Provide healthy information about what good sexual boundaries are
  • Teach children that it is "against the rules" for adults or other children to act in a sexual way with them and use examples. (ie. If you are touched by a person in a way that you don't feel right about, tell me about it. I will believe you and help you.)
  • Talk about how children are often "tricked" or "lured" by abusers. (candy, animals, money, gifts)
  • Tell children not to keep secrets. Tell your children to let you know that if a child or adult plays secret games or tells them something bad will happen if they don't keep the secret.
  • Tell children they have a right to say "no."
  • Tell children that adults are not always right.
  • Help children develop assertiveness skills. Verbal skills- "I'm not allowed to do that"; "Leave me alone. I'll tell." Non-verbal skills- take someone's hand off them, moving or running away, look person in eye, stand tall, shake their head.
  • They can come to you and talk if they don't feel right about something a grown up says or does. (Be sure to mention that an abuser might be someone they know like an adult friend, family member or older child/teenager.)
  • Model proper guidelines at home (modesty/privacy) without shame.
  • Be proactive. If your child seems uncomfortable, or resistant to being with a particular person, ask why.

Why Children are Afraid to Tell:

  • Abuser shames child or implies "complicity."
  • Abuser tells child their parents will be angry with them or threatens a family member
  • Abuser "reframes" incident to confuse child about what is right and wrong. (ie. it's okay or it's just a game)
  • Children are afraid of disappointing parents and/or disrupting the family.
  • Some children who don't disclose abuse initially are ashamed to tell if it happens again.
  • If physical pleasure is experienced by child they feel guilty and complicit.
  • Children fear they won't be believed and instead, will be punished.

How Children Communicate:

  • Children who disclose often tell another trusted adult rather than a parent. (Don't blame child if this happens or ask "why didn't you tell me?")

  • Children may tell "parts" of what happened or pretend it happened to someone else to gauge adult's reaction.

  • Children will often shut-down and refuse to tell more if you respond emotionally or negatively.

In my next post I will talk about how to Minimize Opportunities and how to establish your own set of family rules.

 

 

 

 

 

Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators

Last year I was asked to speak to a "Moms of School Age Children's" at their monthly meeting on the subject of "how to protect your children from sexual predators." It is a topic of both personal and professional interest and one I have been speaking about for more than thirty years.

If you're not familiar with my own story of being sexually abused as a child, you can go to the following link on my web-site to hear about my story and recovery:

http://www.janfrank.org/media/

In this series of several posts, I will be sharing practical safeguards that I've gathered over the years from many resources, too numerous to site. However, I will do my best to give credit to quotes or written material that I drew from as much as possible to give credit to those who have prepared comprehensive facts for parents, educators, and anyone who directly works with children.

In these posts I will be covering the following five major points*:

  • Know the Facts
  • Educate Your Children
  • Minimize Opportunities
  • Listen and Observe
  • Make a Plan *(Darkness to Light; Charleston, S.C.)

Know the Facts:

What is sexual abuse?:
  • Any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when one exerts power over the other.
  • Incest is any sexual contact with parent, parental figure, sibling, or any other family member (perceived or actual)
  •  Molestation is any sexual contact with a person outside the family constellation
  • Exploitation/Covert Abuse involves exposing a child to explicit material either visually (exhibitionism, nudity, pornography) or verbally (inappropriate sexual innuendos, invasive comments regarding sexuality or body development.)
  • Child sexual abuse is illegal in all 50 states, but the precise legal definition varies from state to state.
  • Call your local Child Protective Services Agency to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state concerning abuse, its legal definition, and reporting laws.

Who molests children?

Both males and females can be sexual predators

90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust

Approximately 40% of sex offenders report they were sexually abused as children

Approximately 70% of sex offenders of children have between 1-9 victims; 20-25% have 10-40 victims. Serial molesters may have as many as 400 victims in their lifetimes.

Current statistics/facts:

  • 1/4 girls and 1/6 boys are sexually abused prior to age 18
  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old
  • 1/5 children are solicited while on the internet
  • Approximately 20% of sexual abuse victims are under 8 years old
  • Nearly 40% are abused by older or larger children
  • Most child victims never report the abuse
  • Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who tell and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood.
  • About 80% of children who are victims of sexual abuse have mothers who were sexually abused as children.

I know this is a lot of information to take in. My main objective is for you to be educated and aware of the pervasiveness of abuse in our culture. No community is immune. Therefore, it is vital for you and others you know to be aware of what sexual abuse is, how it is legally defined in your state, and what help is available in your community.

In my next post, we will talk about how to Educate Your Children without instilling fear and what safeguards can be utilized in the protection of your children and others within your community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's Never too Late to Come Home

In my last post, (sorry I've kept you on the edge of your seat so long!), I talked about the book I was currently reading by James McDonald entitlted Come Home: A Call Back to Faith. If you want to read my last post to catch up on the story, here's the link:

http://www.janfrank.org/blog/2016/6/18/do-you-know-a-wanderer

Bill Marx was a co-worker of mine in my early 20's while working at a County Juvenile facility for wards of the court who had been removed from their homes. I'm not sure how Bill knew that I was a "wanderer" who was far away from "home," but he did. As we sat in the staff room or at the staff dining table for a meal, Bill would ask what I did on my days off and I returned the question. He was a gentle, genuine man who loved his family and loved God, so he often talked about them. Somehow the conversation would often turn to what his pastor taught on Sunday or what missions project they were undertaking to help in their community or around the world. I knew Scripture due to my upbringing, and was familiar with certain passages Bill would reference, but I was a bit uncomfortable. The dissonance inside me seemed to mount with each conversation.

Bill was one of the most joyful persons I'd ever met. I can still remember his laugh to this day! He'd throw back his head and seem to enjoy his own laughter. He wasn't pushy, judgmental or a know-it-all. He was just a loving, kind man who felt compassion for a young woman whose life was obviously out of sync. To this day, I don't know if he set out to go get this "wanderer" and bring her back home, or if it was just his nature of following Jesus that drew me. I wanted what Bill had, but I thought it was too late for me. I'd gone too far and sinned too much, and something inside me said "you can never go back."

Bill was also persistent in an endearing kind of way. He would invite me to go with he and his wife to church on Sunday occasionally, but I always seemed to have other plans. He didn't give up. After two years of zealous appeals I finally agreed to go. I remember thinking, I'll go this one time and then he'll stop asking me!

I persuaded a girlfriend to accompany me in case the church members encircled me and held me captive against my will. My fears were outlandishly unwarranted. We met Bill and his wife, Pat, outside the church and proceeded into a small sanctuary where close to two hundred people were gathered. The congregants began singing robustly as a pianist accompanied rolling from one song to the next. I remember thinking, these people are just like Bill. They seem joyful and full of vitality. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it was different than what I remembered about my church growing up. There were no "sour-looking" old ladies and stodgy old men. I looked around at men, women and children of all ages but they looked vibrantly alive.

Then something strange happened. A man came across the stage up front and spoke into a microphone. He said something like this: "You've been like a merchant ship wandering from port to port and God desires that you set your ship to rest today!" And then, he simply walked off the stage. I immediately burst into uncontrollable tears as the music and singing resumed. I sat down and my girlfriend looked mystified at me as if to say, "what's wrong with you?" As tears poured from my eyes, I remember thinking, I have no idea- that man talked about a ship and now I'm a wreck. I looked up at Bill whose gaze was fixed forward, with the biggest grin on his face while continuing to belt out the chorus being sung.

I don't know why I did this, but I shot up a prayer to God in that moment. God, if what that man said about a ship has anything to do with me, have the pastor point me out among all these people. Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? Eventually the pastor took the stage and I had gained my composure, still unsure why my emotions had rushed to the surface. While sitting there, I remember thinking I was probably so emotional because I had not been in church for several years. Or maybe it was just something I ate. I don't remember much of the pastor's sermon, but I knew he was winding things up and I was just thankful I was calm and in control.

That is until the very end. The pastor looked out into the audience and it was as if a beam of light was directed at me and then he said, "There's a young woman here between the ages of 19-22 whose been rebellious with God and her parents. And God desires that you come back to Him today." I am telling you the absolute truth! The waterworks of tears began again and I made my way up to the front of the church after the service where the pastor was waiting. He looked at me with caring eyes and said, "the Lord showed me your entire life--and He wants you to know that it's not too late for you." He shared things about my life that no one else knew-- not Bill, his wife or even my girlfriend. I knew God had shown him and that showed me how much God loved this broken young woman.

I sat on the steps of the stage and prayed a simple prayer:

Lord, if you can do anything with the mess I've made of my life, I give you my life.

This wanderer came home that night. All because a man named Bill was willing to "go get the wanderer."

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

Bill went home to heaven in 2012 and I never got to share with him what God did with that lost young woman's life. But, this is my tribute to Bill Marx and his wife, Pat who loved and prayed for me, invited me to church and let God do the rest. To Him be the glory!

Bill Marx born June 29, 1948, died October 11, 2012, now in the presence of His LORD.

Bill Marx born June 29, 1948, died October 11, 2012, now in the presence of His LORD.

 

 

Do You Know a "Wanderer?"

I’m reading a GREAT book right now by James McDonald.

The back cover copy reads:

“Whether you are the wanderer or your heart is breaking for one, Come Home is filled with truth and direction you need.”

It’s based on a familiar verse to many, but McDonald brilliantly and graciously challenges us to considerate it as an invitation directly from God.

            “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”  James 5:91-20

I don’t want to give the whole book away because I’m hoping you’ll read it, but McDonald admonishes the reader to be “the” someone who goes and gets the wanderer. He makes the case that most wanderers need a “person” not just an ideology or a theological convincing to return “home.” The author invites the reader to pray, asking God to bring to mind one or two specific persons who have wandered away from God. He urges us to “go get the wanderer.” He does have a caveat however. He writes that usually the first person that comes to our mind is someone close to us—a son, daughter, brother, sister, or other family member. He writes:

“But let me make a painful observation. Sometimes the obvious wanderer is not the person you’ll be able to get. Chances are you’ve probably already made a couple moves in that regard…Here’s what I suggest: God is going to have to touch someone else’s heart to go get them. You may come to the place where you realize they’ll have to hear it from someone else. So pray for the obvious wanderer, but go get the less obvious one God puts on your heart. Then trust God to put the one closest to you on someone else’s heart.”

When I read these words I immediately flashed back to a time in my own life when I wandered away from God. It happened somewhat gradually, when at 18, a relationship I was in didn’t turn out the way I wanted. It wasn’t an all out rebellion at first, but a gradual slide that turned into an avalanche by the time I was 22.

When I was in college, I was hired by the Probation Department to work 20 hours a week. I was placed in a unit for wards of the court, children from birth to seventeen, who had been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. I worked with a team of three other staff members, all who were in their thirties or above. I was the “new kid” who thought she had a pretty good handle on life and this type of work. My arrogance and idealism was soon met with reality.

Some of my co-workers had been in their position for years. Many were well-seasoned and some were jaded in their attitudes about trying to help these unfortunate kids.

One man stood out from the rest. Bill Marx was a joyful, easy going guy in his early thirties with a wife and two young kids. There was a peacefulness about Bill. Nothing seemed to rattle him. I didn’t know it at the time, but God sent Bill to “get the wanderer”—and that was me!

In my next post, I’ll share the amazing story that changed the trajectory of my life.

I wonder if God is stirring your heart? Is there a “wanderer” in your sphere of influence that God may be sending you to go get? I’m praying and asking God who he would want me to pursue. Do you want to join me?

 

Joseph's Denoument: Could This Be My Story too?

We’re coming to the close of Joseph’s story. While reflecting on Joseph’s story, I’ve invited you to consider some circumstances and some questions we may ask ourselves when facing such experiences:

·     Are You Where You’re Supposed to Be?

·     Is God with Me or Not?

·     When God Delays His Promise

·     When We Feel Forgotten

·     When Dreams Have Yet to Come True

·     How Long Must I Wait, Lord?

·     Does God Really Care about My Life and Circumstances?

                   ·     Where is Grace When I Need it Most, Lord?

 

In Genesis 47:28 we read: “Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty seven. When the time drew near for Israel [Jacob] to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” Joseph swore to his father that he would honor his request and bury him in the land of Canaan.

As I thought about Joseph’s story, I am struck by the tenderness of God and his timing. Joseph lived with his father in Canaan the first seventeen years of his life before he was sold by his brothers and presumed dead. In God’s graciousness, Jacob lives in Egypt with Joseph the last seventeen years of his life.

Genesis 48 records Jacob blessing Joseph’s sons and Genesis 49 details the blessing Jacob confers upon each of his twelve sons, that become the twelve tribes of Israel and then, Jacob dies. Genesis 50 opens with Joseph throwing himself on his father’s lifeless body weeping and mourning over him for forty days. Joseph is granted permission to bury his father Jacob in Canaan and all Pharoah’s officials, dignitaries and the family accompany Jacob’s body to be buried in cave of Macpelah along with Israel’s forefathers.

Genesis 50: 15-21 expose Joseph’s brothers tendency to “scheme” as they fear, now that their father is dead, Joseph has plans to retaliate. They make up a story saying that Jacob “gave instructions” before he died that Joseph should forgive his brothers. When Joseph heard this he wept.

I could identify with Joseph and perhaps you can too. Have you ever been hurt deeply by someone and sincerely forgiven them only to have them doubt the sincerity of your forgiveness? Or maybe you’re the offender who cannot seem to accept another’s forgiveness, even God’s. I’ve been on both sides. How about you?

Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph stayed in Egypt along with his father’s family until his death at a hundred and ten years old. He said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land [Canaan] he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and then he made the sons of Israel promise to carry his bones with them and bury him in Canaan.

Joseph believed God’s promises. Even the dreams of a seventeen year old boy had been stamped by the very hand of God. And Joseph stayed faithful to his God, his family, and to his God-given destiny. The following quote seems fitting in describing Joseph’s life:

“God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Ross

“O Lord, thank you for the story of Joseph’s life. Thank you that it is a testimony of your faithfulness and mercy in spite of sin, mistreatment, jealousy, lies, and conniving. Thank you that your purposes cannot be thwarted. Help me to have a heart more like Joseph’s; to believe you even when things look hopeless, when my prayers have yet to be answered, when I feel as though your grace is nowhere to be found, and when I feel forgotten. Thank you Father for Jesus who loves me and paid my debt in full.”

 

 

 

Where is Your Grace When I Need it Most, Lord?

In my last post, we saw Joseph in the process of “testing” his brothers and for the first time saw his brothers being introspective about their sin against Joseph nearly 20 years prior.

In Genesis 42: 29- 44:33 we see the brothers finally face the gravity of their sin, as Joseph requires them to leave Benjamin in Egypt while they return to their father. Judah speaks up and pleads with Joseph not to make Benjamin stay in Egypt, as his father, Jacob will surely die if they don’t bring him back with them. He asks, “How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.”

Genesis 45 opens with this: “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” He then made himself known to his brothers and“he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharoah’s household heard about it. Joseph said, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. One commentator writes the word “terrified” here refers to a “paralyzing fear as felt by those involved in war. Their lives are clearly in the hands of the one they thought they killed.”

Joseph then invites his brothers to come close to him and he says, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Joseph throws his arms around his brothers and weeps over them before he sends them back to their father Jacob, instructing them to bring Jacob back with them along with all the family and their possessions. He tells them they will live in the land of Goshen and he will provide for them. He admonishes them not to “quarrel on the way” and they depart. Jacob was stunned at the news but determines to go see his son Joseph before he dies.

G. von Rad comments, “Here in the scene of recognition the narrator indicates clearly for the first time what is of paramount importance to him in the entire Joseph story: God’s hand which directs all the confusion of human guilt ultimately [leads] toward a gracious goal.” Joseph describes himself as God’s agent four times in the account in Genesis. Although, many times throughout his story the reader feels like life is unfair and that God is unjustly inflicting upon Joseph some kind of cruel joke. But Joseph seems to be enabled to choose a different perspective. He chooses to believe that God is working through him to bring about what is good, not just for himself, but for others as well.

I wonder, what kind of difficult circumstance you find yourself in today? Have you tried for years to conceive to no avail? Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with cancer? Do you have a child with an addiction problem who refuses help? Have you discovered your spouse has been using pornography? Were you abused as a child and still suffering the consequences well into your adult life? Have you prayed for a situation in your life or in the life of someone you love only to have it get worse?

Be assured that God’s sovereign grace is at work even though it may be imperceptible now. You might want to read Psalm 86 as a prayer. It often lifts my heart when I’m feeling troubled or forsaken. Here are the last two verses:

            “Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the [daughter] of your maidservant. Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”

May this bless you today!