Sometimes life is difficult. In the hardest seasons, I have allowed myself to sink deep into the dark, believing things will never change. I have learned, though, that God exposes a crack of light in the darkness when I least expect. What I believed impossible slowly comes into view. My heart begins to warm with hope, like cold hands by a crackling fire.
This week, the why question has me mulling over why it is hard for me to wait for God. I have been thinking about all the times I was close to giving in and prematurely giving up on change.
I have had some long seasons of waiting. Have you?
When the wait is pushing me to despair, I pick up my Bible and turn to the story of Joseph. In the waiting, the story of Joseph resonates beyond comparison. I have found these later chapters of Genesis generate hope and comfort, especially when the wait becomes long.
As I read, I imagine Joseph waiting in the pit his brothers threw him in. I imagine him waiting in the dank, dark pit while they callously sat above on solid ground enjoying a meal. I imagine Joseph’s shock, his heart beating out of his chest, wondering, would they end or spare his life? (Genesis 37:24-25)
After Joseph is sold into slavery by his siblings for twenty shekels of silver, I imagine him waiting for his brothers to change their minds. I picture Joseph shackled, walking forward but continuing to turn around, hoping to glimpse his brothers, pursuing the Midianite traders for his rescue. (Genesis 37:28) Unfortunately, they never come, and he is sold to Potiphar in Egypt.
Under Potiphar’s control, I imagine Joseph working hard all the while waiting- waiting for something to change and bring about a turn of events that would rescue him from a life of slavery. Joseph was only 17 years old when he was sold.
A glimmer of hope rises in Genesis 39:2 “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.” As we read the opening verses of chapter 39, our hearts lift, and we imagine change coming to Joseph. We expect he will be rewarded because he has done nothing wrong. We expect something to change for his good, as we imagine he too searching his days for a change. Eventually, something does change, but the change brings more chains to Joseph, not less. Potiphar’s wife wrongly accuses Joseph of forcing himself on her. Potiphar learns of her accusation and quickly throws Joseph in prison. (Genesis 39)
It is tempting to lose hope as we read on, but Genesis 39:21-23 shines another small light:
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.”
Honestly, the idea of succeeding in prison doesn’t exactly feel like success to me. I know it was, but I wish Joseph didn’t have to be there, if I am honest. I don’t treasure this part of the story. My heart aches for Joseph. I want his story to be different because it all seems unfair. Growing up, I believed if we do good, our life will only produce good things. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. God is good, but sometimes life is hard.
In thinking through the why question this week, I know I struggle to wait on God. I want to step in and fix things and make things right. I realize with Joseph’s story; the hardest times of waiting for me are when I feel like the situation is unfair.
What seasons are the hardest for you to wait on God?
I have many examples in my own journey with God. For instance, I look back on a terribly hard season Shannon and I had in our marriage. It was devastating. In fact, it was so overwhelming; I didn’t think our marriage was going to survive. At the time, I felt it was all terribly unfair. Childishly, I blamed Shannon for all of our difficulties. Later I realized we were equally at fault, as it usually is in strained relationships. The work we endured during that time led us to understand ourselves and our marriage better. I desperately wanted God to fix our problems overnight, but it took dedicated time for us to work through not only our marriage struggles but our own individual struggles too.
In Joseph’s story, he encounters Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker, thrown into prison and put under his care. (Genesis 40:1-4) After some time, both men have vivid dreams which leave them troubled. Joseph recognizes they are upset and inquires as to why. As they explain, Joseph says God will interpret their dreams and explain what they experienced. (Genesis 40:5-8) Joseph rightly interprets the dreams- one favorable and one not. (Genesis 40:9-19) Joseph asks the chief cupbearer to remember him. Joseph asks that once the chief cupbearer’s job is restored, he mentions Joseph to Pharaoh. The chief cupbearer agrees, but once he is back in the palace, he quickly forgets Joseph. (Genesis 40:20-23)
In my opinion, this had to be the most difficult time of waiting. If it were me, the temptation would have crept into my heart, calling me to give up and give in to the idea that things will never change. I confess, if I were Joseph, the prison walls would have swallowed me whole.
Two years go by, but then, the chief cupbearer remembers. This time Pharaoh has a dream that no one can interpret. Joseph is brought from the prison to interpret the dream and does, making sure to give all the credit to God. (Genesis 41:1-36)
I wonder if I would be so calm? I wonder if I would beg for Pharaoh to set me free instead of waiting for him to explain his intentions after the interpretation? I hope I would. I hope I would humbly wait for God to work through the situation, but I know sometimes I am quick to jump in and try to save the day myself.
Joseph’s life completely changes at this moment. (Genesis 41:37-57) God places on Pharaoh’s heart to move Joseph from prison to second in command in a matter of minutes. On paper, it doesn’t make sense, but this is the beauty of God. His ways are not our ways. All the difficulties Joseph experienced prepared him for this future he could not see. Joseph is now 30 years old.
I am learning that in the waiting, God is at work in my inner being. He is preparing me for a future I cannot see. When I foolishly rush ahead, beg Him to remove the hardship, and expect immediate answers, I miss the bigger picture.
Do you find this to be true in your life? Do you find it hard to wait on God?