Most of us understand the reward-punishment system. We get a reward for doing something good and we are punished for doing something bad. I grew up in a family that used the reward-punishment system for behavior modification. That's a fancy way of saying I was a willful child and my parents used this method to try and control me.

The 'go to your room' system worked until I was thirteen. I invented all kinds of strategies to get what I wanted and circumvent my parents' authority. I didn't really care what they thought as long as I got what I wanted. I recoiled from anyone who tried to control me. I had a strong will but I knew the difference between right and wrong. I did a lot more testing of the wrong as I got older. Like a little kid, I waited for the punishment from God for my wrongdoing.

I thought it made total sense that if I did something good, God would bless me. If I did something bad, God would punish me. I automatically associated isolation with punishment because that's all I knew. But, God doesn't work this way. As a matter of fact, God stuck by me during a very difficult period of my life.

In my mid-twenties, I put a lot of my energy toward being a good Christian and worked very hard to clean up my mess. I paid off my debt, ended a bad relationship, and practiced my daily disciplines. During a period of months, I saved enough cash to buy myself something nice. Just when I felt the strongest and closest to God, I was mugged and my purse full of hard-earned cash was stolen.  I felt totally alone. It didn't make sense. I was doing everything right. Why was I being punished?

It took me a while to figure it out. God was with me even when things went from bad to worse.  He wasn't punishing me. Bad things happen. Good things come our way. In either case, God is with us and he never abandons us.

Take some time to read Genesis 39 and review your own life. God was with Joseph and blessed him no matter what circumstance he faced. Maybe there is something we can all learn from this story. No matter what you face during your darkest moments, God is with you.