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.