Looking for A Way Out

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream (Matt, 1:20, The Message)

We might have expected quick and decisive action from Joseph.

Anger and humiliation, mingled with grief and a sense of betrayal, do not make for slow and measured thinking. Upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy – and we are not told exactly how Joseph learned this – Joseph might have been inclined to do something immediately: Lash out, strike back, protect his name, exact retribution from the one harming him.

He didn’t do any of that. The reason is quite simple as best we can tell. He loved Mary. The biblical text tells us plainly that Joseph was a just or righteous man and he didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace.

If our emotions are sails that catch the wind and fury of our life experiences, then perhaps character is the rudder that guides the ship. So it was with Joseph. He didn’t do anything rash, nothing knee-jerk. He was thoughtful, maybe even reflective. When emotions run high this is hard to do.

Sleep On It

The NIV and ESV Bibles both say that Joseph’s plan for a quiet divorce from Mary was a ‘considered’ course of action, not merely an act of retaliation. Eugene Peterson’s helpful modern translation, The Message, says that Joseph was ‘looking for a way out.’ It paints a picture of a man thinking through his options, searching for the best when every choice was awful, nothing good to be found.

And then he slept. We know this because the ‘way out’ came from an angel who appeared in Joseph’s dream. There’s something to be said for that old piece of wisdom. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we don’t know what to do is ‘sleep on it.’

When you sleep you are dormant, inactive and still. And with you still, God can move in a powerful way.

Grace Begins Where You End

The story of Joseph offers encouragement to all who overwhelmed with life: facing formidable decisions or trying to sort out perplexing circumstances. Joseph’s story provides a slight glimmer of hope for any and all who feel stuck, unable to see the next step or dreading the next step that seem to be the only way to go.

Don’t rush to action. Pray, think, consider. And after you’ve done that – sleep on it.

This is not to say that an angel will appear in your dream. And this is not an excuse for passive neglect or inaction. This is a simply a word of hope. There is a way forward. There is a way out. There is grace to be found.

But sometimes grace begins where you end. Wait on the Lord and take the words of the angel to heart. Do not be afraid.


Bring us to the end of ourselves, O God, that we might find the grace we need in these days. Guard us from thoughtless and rash action; help us to think well and pray deeply as we seek to follow you in every aspect of our living. Come and show us the way – for whatever we face. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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