I was looking round the toy department in Woolworth’s for a gift for my nephew’s first birthday. My first child was coming up to 2, and from the moment she could walk, had insisted on walking, so she was next to me, holding my hand and the pushchair we took for when she got too tired. We found just the right thing, bought it, and set off for home. About half way there, it suddenly started to pour with rain, so I scooped up my toddler, and pulled back the hood of the pushchair to seat her in it. Oh my goodness! There sitting inside the pushchair was the largest rag doll I have ever seen! My darling daughter had obviously taken a shine on it in Woolworth’s, and decided to take it home. And I had walked through the store, paid for my nephew’s gift at the checkout, and walked out – all with one of their largest toys in prominent display in my pushchair. Now the rain was bucketing down, and doll and child would not both fit in the chair together, so doll had to sit on top of the hood, getting even wetter. Now, should I just scuttle home – no-one would be any the wiser? Or trail all the way back to Woolworth’s in the pouring rain, to take the soggy doll back, fess up, and risking having to pay for it (which I couldn’t afford)? I took the doll back to Woolworth’s. But it was a struggle, and all the way back I kept on asking myself what I was doing! They were actually very appreciative and sympathetic. And most important, I set an example for life to my daughter.
Joseph’s brothers found themselves in a rather similar predicament (Genesis 42:25-38). They had gone to Egypt to buy grain, but when Joseph recognized them, he made life a little uncomfortable for them before sending them home minus Simeon, who he retained so they would bring his full brother Benjamin on their next trip. They paid for their grain and went on their way, but halfway home, they discovered to their horror, their silver in one of the sacks. When they got home, it turned out that each sack contained silver. The grain was unpaid for! Their response: “What has God done to us?” When they told their father Jacob the full story his response was, “What have you done to me?”
All victims of someone else’s doing. It’s easy to think that way. “Woe is me, look what they’re doing to me!” “That always happens to me!” But God has empowered us to make good decisions. He promises to guide us on good paths. We are victims of nobody. Life may not always be fair, but we are still required to be responsible for making good choices. When things don’t go well, we just have to seek grace and try a bit harder. Achievement is not a right, and in itself is not a gift of God; but he will help us to develop our character so that we can achieve.