Insecurity

Last week, my and some friends got to talking about insecurity.  We started the conversation by talking about how we recognize that we have had experiences with people whose insecurity damaged what would have otherwise been a positive situation or relationship.  The conversation quickly turned to a reflection on our own insecurities and how they cause us to behave in a manner that is outside of the realm of what God has called us to be.

I got to thinking about how this has played out in my own life.  Throughout my life, I have struggled with insecurity in various areas, but all these areas have one common thread.  They all stem from a fear of failure and a fear of being looked down upon by others.  I want to get things right the first time.  I want to be good at everything I set my hands to.  I don’t want to be exposed as the imperfect flawed person I really am.  And the truth is as much as I may say I don’t care about what others think of me, at my core I want to be loved, valued and appreciated for who I am just like everyone else does.

In my attempts to grasp at some sense of security, I have been guilty of building false security.  What does that look like?  I picture myself building a fence.  The fence encircles a very small area of land.  This is where I stay.  What is inside the fence represents everything that is comfortable and familiar to me.  I am not challenged inside the fence.  I know exactly what I am getting into and I know that I am going to rock it.  What lies beyond the fence represents the unknown.  It is scary and unfamiliar.  I don’t know what I’m getting into and I don’t know if I will be successful in it or not.  What lies beyond the fence challenges me and requires that I put my trust in someone way bigger than me.

That’s where God comes in.  God doesn’t want me to confine myself to what lies within the borders of my fence.  Quite frankly, no matter how much I have kicked and screamed in protest, He has never allowed me to.  Anytime, I get comfortable within my space, God knocks my fence down and He draws me out a little bit further.  I’ll be honest.  I tend to build alot of fences.  The fence gets a little bit bigger each time God draws me out a step further, but God continues to knock down the fence every time.  I am so glad I serve a God that doesn’t allow me to get too comfortable and stagnant.  I am so glad that I serve a God that always leads me forward to bigger and better things.  I am so glad that with Him I can do so much more than what I could ever dream of accomplishing on my own.

In all of this, I have learned that the only sense of security I have comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is the only one that loves me without conditions and parameters.  He is the only one who has never judged His love for me based off of my performance or how well I completed the task.  He loves me regardless of whether I succeed or fail.  Even faced with my imperfections, He sees my true potential and all that He has called me to be.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that your security lies in the fences and walls that you build around yourself.  Your security is in the one whose love you can never be separated from.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Surrendering Your Dreams to God

Not too long ago I wrote a post called “The Pain in Promise: The Joseph Story.”  For whatever reason, I have been in the process of considering my dreams, considering the waiting period and reconciling the two.  Although we all anticipate the moment when our dreams become a reality, we spend the majority of our lives in the waiting process.  When one dream is fulfilled, we begin waiting for the next thing.  I know that in my own life I have spent alot of time waiting.  But I know that there is something so special about the wait.  After all, we have all heard it said  that it’s not about the destination.  It’s about the journey.  It’s in the waiting that we learn who we are and who our God is.

Abraham was a man who did alot of waiting.  When Abraham was 75 years old, God made Abraham a big promise.  He told him, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;  I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:1-3).  God tells Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5-6).

However, by the time Abraham is 86, His wife Sarai still hasn’t had any children.  So Abraham and Sarai decide to take matters into their own hands.  Sarai gives Abraham her servant Hagar to sleep with and Hagar bears Abraham a son, Ishmael.  This causes all sorts of problems.  Sarai is consumed with jealousy and Hagar is sent away with her son.  Yet Abraham and Sarai’s mistake does not stop God’s plan for them.  God shows up again and reaffirms His promise to Abraham.  God gives the couple a name change.  He says, “No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5).  Of Sarai God says, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Gen. 17:15-16).  At the ripe old age of 100, Abraham becomes a father again.  Isaac is born.

But this isn’t the end of the story.  It would make a good ending.  Isaac is born and Abraham is on His way to seeing His dreams become a reality.  Things are set in motion and everything goes off without a glitch.  But that isn’t the way the story goes.  You see, in Genesis chapter 22, God asks Abraham to do the unthinkable.  He asks Abraham to sacrifice His son.  After all the hoping, after all the waiting, after the joy of seeing His dream birthed, God asks Abraham to give up the one thing He treasures most in life.  He asks Abraham to give over His dream….Abraham says yes.  He packs up His things and takes Isaac up a mountain.  He ties him down and he raises the knife.  At the last possible second the Angel of the Lord intervenes saying, “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” “Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Gen. 22:12).

I feel like Abraham sometimes.  I wonder, why do I have to wait so long for my dreams to come true?  Why does it seem like God allows me to get so close to my dreams and then snatches them away?  These are tough questions to grapple with.  What I have learned through waiting is that God places a high value on my trust.  God wants me to trust His ways and His timing.  Like Abraham and Sarah, I have the tendency to want to take matters into my own hands and make my dreams happen according to my own plans and my own strength.  Like Abraham and Sarah, I have learned that rushing ahead of God’s timing and doing things my own way only leads to headaches and a mess.

More than anything though, I have learned that God wants to be number one in my life.  He wants to be the only thing that I’m not willing to let go of.  It is so easy to allow our dreams and our blessings to become our focus and to consume our affections.  It is easy to chase after the stuff that God gives us and lose sight of what it is to chase after God’s heart.  We pursue the gifts of God and forget that relationship with Jesus is the greatest gift He has given us.

I remember a time when I was chasing after a dream that seemed so within my grasp.  I felt God leading and all signs pointed to what I thought was a certain desirable outcome.  I had invested so much of myself into the situation, because I felt so strongly that I was following the Holy Spirit.  I remember saying, “If this falls through like everything else always has, it will be very difficult for me to trust God.  I don’t see why God would lead me this far just to let things fall through.”  Well, guess what happened.  Things fell through.  It was a painful process for me, but I realized that I was putting more of my heart into that situation than I was into my relationship with Jesus.  I had made the dream my number one pursuit.  I had allowed my love for the Father to take second place and put conditions on my trust in Him.  Through that painful process, I fell deeper in love with Jesus.

My mindset has completely shifted where it concerns my dreams.  I have learned to place all my dreams on the backburner to pursue my ultimate dream, which is living in relationship with Christ.  I trust Him with it all.  I know that He loves me and that I can rely on Him fully and completely to work out the details of my life, in accordance with His will and His timing, in a manner that is going to be best for me.  He has my future completely under His control.  Jesus is the only thing I hold onto these days.  Everything else I hold with an open palm extended towards the Father.  I’m honest with God about my hopes and my dreams, but at the end of the day all I really want is to follow Him.  Like Abraham, I want God to be able to say of me that there is nothing I withheld from Him.

I love the words to this song “Nothing I Hold On To” by United Pursuit:

I lean not on my own understanding.  My life is in the hands of the maker of Heaven.  I give it all to You God trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me.

I will climb this moutain with my hands wide open.  I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.

There is nothing I hold on to.

Freedom to Step Into Something New

This week I have started to think about what a high value I place on freedom.  It’s so easy to become tangled and to become trapped.  We become trapped in anxiety, insecurity, fear, doubt, sin, and small thinking.  I think lately I have realized that you can become trapped in a web of unfulfilled dreams and circumstances that you don’t understand.  Right now, I’m in a season where so many chapters are closing.  While I’m excited to embrace what’s new, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that wonders why things couldn’t work out right where I was.

When I think about the dreams God has given me and His promises for my life, I always have a certain idea of how things are going to unfold.  Even though I know that God never works according to my plan, I can’t help thinking ahead about how things are going to work out.  God is incredible.  The more and more I walk with Him, the more and more I realize that you can never pinpoint Him or figure Him out.  He has more in store for us than we can ever imagine.  Before I can get too comfortable in any one spot, He opens a new door and closes another.  It’s always bittersweet.  There is something unnerving about stepping into new territory and leaving what’s familiar behind.  I am a person who loves hard and holds on tight, so letting go has never come naturally to me.  Letting go is always the point where I need to trust God the most.

So what does this have to do with freedom?  If I were to do life without Jesus, I know I would never be strong enough to let go of what’s old and familiar.  I would always cling to what I knew, even if it hurt me and made me bleed.  It tells us in 2 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  He doesn’t allow us to stay in bondage to the old at the expense of never experiencing what’s new and beautiful and wonderful.  He cuts out the things in our life that are inhibiting our growth and preventing us from seeing our dreams become reality.  He trims and snips away at those things we hold onto until we are uninhibited and free to live fully alive in Him.

That’s the thing about cutting ties with the past.  Although there is always a certain sadness of letting go of a good season, you are never more alive and free than when you step into the new thing that God has for you.  Your past cannot confine you.  You are not limited by what has always been.  The things of old lose their grip on you, as God makes you more and more beautiful as you take each step into the path He has laid out for you.

When you are tempted to retreat into the past because it is comfortable, choose freedom in Christ over enslavement to the old.  Choose to put your confidence in Him rather than situations that have always let you down.

You won’t regret it.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)

I’m Friends with the Monster: The Importance of Renewing your Mind

The mind can be a scary place.  I’m of the opinion that the majority of our problems are in our head.  That’s not to say that we don’t have problems that are real and that demand attention.  I know alot of us are facing some really hard stuff.  What I am saying is that our problems have the tendency to become intensified in our mind.  What started off as one problem lends itself to fear, anxiety, doubt, confusion, temptation, sin, etc.  Now you have a bigger problem.  What starts off as one problem can very well change your whole state of mind and outlook on life, causing you to view each new situation you encounter through a lens tainted by a previous issue.  As we allow our circumstances to dictate our thought life, our perspective becomes more and more negative.  Are you following me?

In her song “The Monster,” Rihanna sings, “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed.  Get along with the voices inside of my head…” The truth is we all have voices inside of our heads.  We call them thoughts.  Some build us up and some tear us down.  The problem is that many of us have made friends with our destructive thought patterns.  We don’t recognize the damage it does to us to constantly think negatively about ourselves and our circumstances.  We don’t recognize that many of the things that we have accepted to be true are outright lies, whispered into our ear by the voice of the enemy.  Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

I’ll never be happy.
I’ll never get it right.
I’m just not ________ enough.

We all have these kind of thoughts from time to time.  The trick is to not make friends with them, to not allow them to stick around and to not allow them to dictate how we view our lives.  In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).  If we want to kick negativity’s butt, we need to learn how to think more positively, despite our circumstaces.  Living as the new person that God has called us to be requires us to have a new mind.  We need to begin thinking like Jesus and viewing our lives through the lens of His love, but how do we do that?

1. Take control of each thought

I used to struggle with anxiety.  The truth is from time to time, I still feel anxious thoughts start to come creeping in.  I have learned the importance of taking control of each thought.  I learned to discern whether the thought I was having was beneficial or not.  Then I would take each thought that was damaging me to Jesus through prayer.  I began to turn my long stints of overthinking and overanalyzing into short prayers.  I would do this quietly in my head at work, at school or at home.  Eventually, my thought life started to look more like a prayer life then a continual excercise in worrying and negative thinking.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)

2.  Know who you are

I think many of the negative thoughts we have center around our own identity.  We have all battled with thoughts centered around who we are, who we are not and who we wished we were.  We are our own worst critics.  It is time that we started viewing ourselves through the eyes of Jesus and start recognizing how loved and valuable we are in His sight.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:21)

3.  Learn to find the silver lining

Even if we do our best to think positively, we are still going to encounter situations that suck.  Plain and simple.  These situations will shake us and challenge us.  But it gets a little easier to handle once we recognize that we serve a God who uses every situation for our good.  When we walk in relationship with Jesus, there is always the assurance of a silver lining.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to a purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

What you and a diamond have in common

Lately, I have been reflecting on the importance of knowing our own worth.  Honestly, do you understand how valuable you are?  Probably not.  We all go through it right?  The feeling of not being enough, of being a hot mess, of not having our act together all the time.  We are hyper aware of our weaknesses.  And no matter how many cheerleaders we have in our lives, it is probably the voice of that one person that has never loved us the way we deserve to be loved that rings loudest in our ears.

But you are such a fighter!  I don’t even know you, but I know you have endured countless trials, experienced your fair share of sleepless nights and have hit more rough patches than you can probably count.  I know your a fighter because you are still living and breathing and kicking and screaming through this thing called life.

Consider for a moment the diamond, a priceless gem.  Diamonds are considered to be a girl’s best friend and are coveted tokens of affection, generally attached to the highest commitment of love, a marriage proposal.  Before a diamond becomes a diamond, it starts off as mere carbon, with no special qualities.  It is the crushing pressure and heat that the carbon must endure over a long stretch of time that transforms it into a coveted jewel.  God allows us to undergo pressure and heat, in order that the same type of transformative process can take place in our own lives.  I love this lyric from a popular United Pursuit song, “I give it all to you God trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.”  Consider every hardship you are facing.  These are the very things that God is using to make you more beautiful and stronger, even right now in this moment.

There is one more thing I want you to consider about the diamond.  Think about all the times you’ve merely window shopped  looking at the diamonds through the glass, but ultimately never made a purchase.  The value of the diamond never changed, just because you passed it by.  In your life, many will come and go.  Many will admire you for a season and for whatever reason won’t stick around.  Many may move right past you never taking a moment to recognize your beauty and worth.  But your value never changes.  Your worth is never diminished by the opinions of others.

In our society, we measure worth by cost.  We measure something’s value by how much someone would be willing to pay for it.  You were purchased at the cost of Jesus’ life.  He laid down everything so  that He could walk in relationship with you.  There is no price He wouldn’t have paid for you and that makes you even more valuable than a precious jewel.

You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isa. 62:3

Known Fully Yet Loved Completely

Have you ever been through the frustration of feeling like someone didn’t really know you?  They just couldn’t understand you?  There is a deep hunger in every human heart to be known fully and loved completely.

I love Psalm 139, because it depicts the God who knows me.  It says He has searched me.  Stop and think about it for one second.  The God that created the universe took the time to search you out that He may know every part of you.  He is familiar with everything about you.  There is not one thing you could do or one word that you could utter from your lips that would take Him by surprise.

He knows the good things about me and He knows all the areas where improvement and change is needed.  He is aware of all my weaknesses, even the ones I try to hide from others.  Yet, He chooses to never leave me.  In fact, there is no where I could go to escape Him.  How amazing to think that even in my darkest hour, I am never alone.

The God that created me knows exactly who I am, but more than that, He knows exactly who I will become in Him.  I love this verse: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16).  He equips us and prepares us for all that He has planned for us (Hebrews 13:21) and He always finishes what He starts (Phil. 1:6).

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.  To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.  But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.  It is what we need more than anything.  It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. – Timothy Keller

Something Beautiful

Beauty.  We all long for it.  We long to see beauty.  We long to have beauty in our lives.  We want to be beautiful and we want to be seen as beautiful.  The chorus to my favorite song goes like this: “Hey now, this is my desire.  Consume me like a fire, cause I just want something beautiful to touch me.  I know that I’m in reach, cause I am down on my knees.  I’m waiting for something beautiful.”

We are all waiting for something beautiful to blossom. In the midst of messy situations, pain, loss, mistakes and broken hearts, we are waiting for something beautiful to take root.  Even an ounce of beauty in an ocean of trouble, provides a glimmer of hope and the promise of something better.

We serve a beautiful God.  He is the only one that can take a mess and turn it into a masterpiece.  In Greek mythology, the Phoneix was a bird that arose from the ashes of it’s predecessor to be reborn.  God does something similar with us.  In the midst of pain and sorrow, loss and grief, mistakes and screw-ups, God enters the scene.  Into the most hopeless situation, He breathes life.  As a result, just when we think we can go no further and that we can’t bear to go on one more day, He causes us to rise up again from the ashes in His strength.  Through our struggles He makes us stronger, enabling us to look more like Him and equipping us for all the bigger things He has prepared for our future.  As it says in Isaiah 61:3, He bestows on them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.”

I want to speak to all of you who feel like you are standing in the ash heap, entangled in a web of lifeless situations.  Put your trust and your confidence in Jesus.  He is the God that carves beauty out of sorrow.  He is the God that makes everything beautiful in it’s time (Eccles. 3:11).

Being Stamped by God’s Image

I look just like my mom.  Everyone constantly tells me this.  “Theresa, I met your mom today!  You look just like her!”  We have the same face shape and the same eyes.  We share many of the same facial expressions.  I bear her mark.

In Luke chapter 20, the teachers of the law and the chief priests try to back Jesus into a corner by asking Him a tricky question.  At the time, Israel was ruled by the Roman Empire with Caesar as it’s emperor.  The leaders asked Jesus, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Jesus answers brilliantly, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

I once heard it said that just like the coin bore the image of Caesar, we bear the image of God.  When you look at it in that light, Jesus’ mandate to give to God what is God’s takes on an entirely different meaning.  We are to give Him everything we are.  We are to give Him ourselves, totally and completely.

Out of everything that God created, He designed humans with the ability to think and to reason.  We feel emotion and we have free will, just like Him!  We bear the traits of our Father.  We were created in His likeness (Gen. 1:27).  When we discover more of who He is, we better understand who we were created to be as well.

Jesus taught us what it was to be fully human.  He lived His life intimately connected to the Father.  When He was born, He laid aside His divinity to embrace the human condition fully.  Yet He still performed miracles, signs and wonders.  How did He do this?  He did this as a result of His complete 100% reliance on the Father.  He modeled for us what that kind connection with the Father looks like and what it produces.  When He went to the cross and died on our behalf, that kind of connection with the Father became available to us as well.  For this reason, Jesus could say “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things” (John 14:12).

When Jesus died, was resurrected and ascended to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to us.  The Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, enabling us to live our lives in a way that honors God.  Here is the amazing part.  When you accept what Jesus did for you by taking the punishment  for your sins and open up your heart to Him, you become the connecting point between Heaven and Earth.  You become a carrier of God’s presence.  You become the vessel through which God chooses to show His love to the world.  And from that point on, your life becomes a story of adventure, in which He writes a new page everyday.

Give back to God what is God’s.  You won’t regret it.

 

Guard your heart: What the heck does that mean anyways?

If you grew up in the church, there is no doubt that you have probably heard the phrase “Guard your heart” at one time or another.  It comes from the well-known verse Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  We usually hear this in regards to relationships.  When we seek out advice about that particular cutie we are crushing on someone is bound to remind us of this old familiar proverb.  It’s not just with guy/girl relationships though.  It applies to any situation where there is a question of how much of our heart we should be willing to invest and how much of our trust we should hand over.

I don’t know about you, but there are many times I have heard this advice and left with this sense of what the heck does that mean anyways?  How do I go about guarding my heart?  For the most part, in the past, I have taken this to mean that I lock myself up like Fort Knox.  I put up all my walls and my defenses and I don’t let anyone past the guard.  I felt like I was keeping myself protected that way.  I felt like this was my way of remaining safe and preventing myself from getting hurt.

Then I looked at another familiar scripture in a different light: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).  Notice that last part…the peace of God will guard your hearts.  Mind blown.

See the truth is that we have always been lousy guards of our own hearts.  We keep the right people out.  We let the wrong people in.  We subject ourselves to hurt repeatedly or we are so scared to get hurt that we don’t allow anyone to get close at all.  It’s time to entrust Jesus with the responsibility of protector of our hearts.

I’ve learned that the most important thing I can do is to bring every situation to Jesus.  Every good thing and every bad thing.  Every hard thing.  Every relationship and every new opportunity.  With a thankful heart, I invite Him in.  I place my heart in His hands and I trust all the results to Him.  I ask Him to bring wisdom, direction and clarity.  I let Him into every situation and then an amazing thing happens.  His peace begins to stand guard over my heart and my mind.  I no longer have to keep up my walls and my defenses.  In fact, when I am trusting Jesus with my heart, I can let others in.  I can love others better.  Although things are bound to get messy, because after all we are dealing with humans, I know that when I put my confidence in God He will give me the wisdom and the strength to navigate rocky waters.  And I know full well that when I become broken, He will fit the pieces back together.

I am learning that I can’t fear brokenness.  Jesus broke all the time.  His heart broke for the ones He loved, but were still so far from Him.  His heart breaks for all the ones He is waiting for to come home.  What about that one verse where we are told that He wept?  Brokenness is not the problem.  Rather, the problem is brokenness without surrender.  Experiencing pain and loss is all a part of the human experience, but we must bring each hurt and each tear to the only one that can mend us and heal our hearts.

Let’s put our hearts back into the hands of Jesus, right where they belong.

The Pain in Promise: The Joseph Story

Lately, I have been reading up on Joseph.  Joseph was a person who had been given great promises by God, but had to endure great pain and difficulty to get there.  Have you ever been there before?  You just know that God has given you a dream, so you place it in God’s hands, asking him to bring it to fulfillment.  But then in a series of unfortunate events, you are led on a painful journey that seems to bring you further away from your dreams then ever before.  That is the story of Joseph’s life.

We are told in Genesis that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son.  Joseph had been born to Jacob in his old age, which made him the favored child.  As you can imagine, this led to alot of strife among the brothers.  The brothers hated Joseph with a passion.  To make matters worse, Joseph is given these two dreams.  Both dreams indicate that Joseph is going to be given great influence that would one day cause even his brothers to bow down to him.  This was something that Joseph probably should have kept to himself, especially considering the circumstances, but he doesn’t.  He proudly shares it with his brothers.  So they decide then and there to kill him.

Now, they don’t actually kill him, but they do sell him into slavery to some Midianite merchants.  The Midianite merchants in turn sell Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharoah’s officials.  The influence that God had given Joseph shines through in every situation that Joseph was put into.  While he is in Potiphar’s house, Joseph is given a position of great authority.  Potiphar puts everything he owns into Joseph’s care with the exception of his wife.  Unfortunately, the wife decides she wants a piece of Joseph and attempts to seduce him several times, but Joseph, being a man of integrity, always refuses.  One day they are left alone in the house together and Potiphar’s wife rips off Joseph’s cloak.  He runs out of the house leaving the cloak behind.  She uses the cloak to frame Joseph and he is put into prison.

In prison, Joseph rises to a position of influence again.  Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and all that went on there.  While he is there, the cupbearer and the baker to the Pharoah are thrown into prison.  One night they both have strange dreams and Joseph is able to interpret them.  The dream of the cupbearer signified that he would be restored to his position to the Pharoah.  The dream of the baker signified that he would ultimately be impaled (ouch).  Joseph asks the cupbearer to remember him and to help him get out of prison, but he is forgotten about.  The boy can’t catch a break!

While Joseph is in prison, the Pharoah has two dreams.  The cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and Joseph is called upon to interpret.  The significance of both dreams is the same.  Egypt would experience 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine.  Joseph advises Pharoah to store away grain during the 7 years of abundance, in order that the people would not starve during the 7 years of famine.  The Pharoah perceives that Joseph is discerning and wise and puts him in charge of his palace.  Joseph is now second in command over all of Egypt.  He steps into his dream and calling.

But why did it take so long for God to bring Joseph into the fulfillment of his dream?

1.  God uses seasons of waiting to test our character

In the season of waiting, Joseph’s character is tested.  If you remember, at the beginning of the story, Joseph has a bit of pride issue.  Instead of keeping his dreams to himself and waiting on God, Joseph blurts them out to his brothers, who already have an issue with jealousy.  I could be wrong, but I think there was some gloating involved there.  God uses a season of testing to refine our character.  He exposes the darkness buried deep in our hearts, so that He may align our motives with His.  He exposes each lie we believe about God and our identity in Him and confronts it with the truth of His Word.  God allows us to wait so that we may learn to trust Him fully, in order that our relationship with Him becomes our number one priority and pursuit.

Like many other girls, one of my biggest dreams is to get married someday and have a family.  I am still not married or dating, but God has used the season of waiting to refine me and make me more secure in Him.  Several years ago, I was crushing on this boy.  We had begun to text back and forth, nothing crazy just cute funny texts. The first time we interacted in this way I had the thought flash through my mind, “Stop while your ahead Theresa.  No one will ever see the value in you.  You will never be good enough.  Anyone, who gets close to you will ultimately decide to leave you.”  Whoa!!!!  That begun an intense season of me discovering who I was in God.  Until that happened, I wasn’t even aware that all that negativity was lurking inside of my heart, but now that I was aware of it, it was something I had to address.  I began seeking God and studying scripture to discover what God said about my worth, my beauty and my value in His eyes.  It brought me tremendous healing and brought me closer to Jesus than ever before.  I don’t know when I will get married, but I’m not too worried about it because I know that’s in God’s hands.  However, I do know that when I get married, I won’t be the same insecure girl that I was back then.  I am a girl who knows her value and significance in Christ.

2.  God uses seasons for waiting to prepare us for what lies ahead

God used every circumstance that Joseph was in to prepare Him for the fulfillment of His dream as a ruler of Egypt.  In each season, God gives Joseph a little more influence.  From Potiphar’s house, to the prison, to Pharoah’s palace, God gives Joseph more and more authority.  In Luke 16:10, we are told “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”  Through each experience, God is preparing Joseph.

God does the same thing with us.  He uses each situation to grow our strength in Him and our confidence in Him.  He teaches us important lessons and equips us with everything we need for the next step in the journey.  When you find yourself waiting, ask God what are you teaching me?  How are you equipping me?

3.  God uses seasons of waiting to work a greater good that is bigger than us.

At the end of the day, Joseph’s dream comes true.  His brothers come to Him looking to buy grain during the season of famine.  He rules over them, but Joseph doesn’t gloat this time.  He finally understands God’s greater purpose in all of His pain and waiting.  Even in his position of leadership, Joseph humbles himself.  He tells his brothers, “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…So then it was not you who sent me here but God.” (Gen. 45:5 & 8).  At the end of the day, God used everything that happened to Joseph to save not only his family, but all of Egypt.  God’s purposes prevailed.

I am convinced that God does the same thing in our seasons of trial and pain.  His deliverance in our times of struggle not only affects us, but it also touches the hearts and lives of those around us.  God’s work in our life has a ripple effect.  Our journey with Him, through seasons of triumph and defeat, is powerful and is designed to bring hope and life to those around us.  At the end of the day, God’s purpose is so much bigger than us.