Waiting. If you are anything like me, waiting is not something you enjoy, especially when the waiting isn’t in a situation that you want to be in. However, regardless of whether we enjoy where we are or not, God has a plan and a purpose in our waiting and often that may involve him training us to step into the future he has for us. God gives us a vision or a dream and while we want to run out and do it our way and in our strength, God has a different idea. He wants us to let him take the lead so that he can prepares us. God-given dreams and/or visions are best handled God’s way and in His timing.
We see this often in The Bible. We read about God giving a dream, vision, or promise to someone and then the recipient needs to to go through a time of preparation before God makes it a reality. Abraham and Sarah waiting to have a child is one of the first stories that comes to my mind. Abraham was 100 years old when he finally held Isaac in his arms, the child God had promised him so many years before. But my favorite “waiting” story has to be the story of Joseph. It has always been one of my favorite Old Testament stories but I don’t think I ever appreciated the depth of the story until I found myself in one of the most difficult waiting periods of my life. There are so many things that we can learn about waiting on God from this story so let’s look at a few of them.
1. God is sovereign in the darkness
Joseph was 17 years old when he had dreams that showed him a hint of what God had in store for him. I am sure Joseph was excited, we see a glimpse of his excitement, and perhaps even a bit of youthful arrogance, as he recounts his dreams to his brothers and father in Genesis 37.
So Joseph has a couple of dreams pointing to his future and it often makes me wonder what was going through his mind. I mean he probably felt on top of the world. After all, he was his father’s favorite son, walking around in a beautiful coat his father had made especially for him, he was strong and handsome, and now he was being shown dreams of his family bowing down to him. Sounds like things are pretty good for Joseph. I am sure he was not expecting his life to take the turn it then took. Starting in vs 12 of Genesis 37, we see that the next thing that happens to Joseph is that he ends up in a pit and then, is sold into slavery, all at the hands of his jealous brothers. Well, looks like God’s plan is on hold, or is it? What we come to realize in the story of Joseph, as we often come to realize in our own lives as well, is that sometimes when God gives us a dream or a vision he then brings us into a dark time, a time of total dependence on Him, a time of training and preparation. In Psalm 139:16 we read that God has planned every day of our life. Nothing happens except through him and by his will. So wait, that means that God knew that Joseph was going to be sold into slavery and allowed it to happen? Yes! Joseph himself reveals this truth in Genesis 45. We read in verse 5, and 7-8 that Joseph tells his brothers not to worry, it was not them that sent him to Egypt, it was God. He even goes on in Genesis 50:20 to tell us why.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 NLT
We see in the story of Joseph a clear picture of the sovereignty of God. Nothing is out of his control and he often brings about his purposes in ways that are beyond our understanding at the time.
Ok so we know that God is sovereign even in the darkness, nothing happens unless he allows it, but does he just send us there and leave us? Absolutely not! That brings us to our next point….
2. God is with us in the darkness
As we read on in the story of Joseph in Genesis 39, we see he is brought to Egypt and bought by Potiphar, the captain of the guard. The bible clearly tells us in vs 2 that the Lord was with Joseph. Not only was He with him, but Joseph prospered and so did the household of his master on account of Joseph. This was noticed by Potiphar, he realized that God gave Joseph success in everything that he did so he then made him his attendant and put him in charge of his household and all that he owned.
At this point, things are looking up for Joseph. He runs Potiphar’s house with such precision that we are told in vs 6 his master didn’t have to worry about anything.
Then, a storm strikes Joseph again. He is wrongfully accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown in prison. Yet, the bible clearly tells us in vs 21 that the Lord was WITH Joseph. Even in that dungeon, Joseph was being looked after by God and found favor in the eyes of the prison warden. What a great reminder to us that regardless of where we are, God is with us!
Now I am sure that Joseph may have been content in Potiphar’s household, he was obviously very successful. I am sure being sent to prison was not on his agenda, but God had bigger plans for Joseph.
Sometimes, we can’t understand why something tragic happens just when things seem to be going good in our life, we have a good marriage, a career, a nice house etc. then out of nowhere the rug is pulled out from under us and we begin to tumble down into darkness. At those times we must remember God’s ways are not our ways, His plans are higher than ours(Isaiah 55:8-9). He loves us more than we can imagine and even if we don’t understand how or when, we know that He works everything that happens in our life for good(Romans 8:28). God is with us each step of the way in darkness too, so all we need to do is focus our eyes on him, trust him and in faith, follow Him.
3. Keep hope alive
Now Joseph is in prison and those teenage dreams must have seemed light years away. However, God was at work. Two servants from Pharoah’s household end up in prison with Joseph, the cupbearer and the baker. Each has a dream and God gives Joseph the interpretations of those dreams. Joseph tells the cupbearer that in 3 days Pharoah is going to restore him to his position, and he asks him to remember him. I am sure at this point Joseph is excited, he is probably thinking, finally, I am going to get out of this prison. But, the cupbearer does not remember Joseph.
I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for Joseph. After it seemed like for sure the end was near, he has to wait even longer. Maybe that has happened to you. You are in the middle of bad circumstances when in the darkness you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Time goes on and what you thought was the end was just a bend in the tunnel and a new stretch of darkness looms ahead of you. What do we do when that happens? How do we go on? The same way Joseph did. We keep hope alive by remembering that God is in control no matter how dark things look. We remember that not only is He sovereign in darkness, but He is with us no matter where we are and He has a plan and a purpose in everything.
Two years go by with Joseph still in prison. Pharaoh, the ruler of all Egypt, has two consecutive dreams and he is very disturbed by them. He sends for all the magicians in Egypt but none of them can interpret the dreams for him. It is then that the cupbearer remembers Joseph and how he interpreted the dreams of himself and the baker. He tells Pharaoh about Joseph and on Pharaoh’s orders Joseph is brought before him. At this point, we see how much Joseph, now 30 years old, has grown, not only in age, but in wisdom. When Pharaoh asks Joseph to tell him what his dreams mean Joseph replies,
” I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” Genesis 41:16
Here we see that Joseph is completely reliant on God, he recognizes that apart from God, he can do nothing! We see a young man who has been through success and trials yet never lost sight of the fact that God was ultimately in control of his life. What a change from the 17 year old that was all to eager to announce his dreams to his brothers and father.
Pharaoh himself recognized that the spirit of God was in Joseph. He knew that it was God who had revealed the mystery of his dreams to Joseph and in seeing all of this, he knows of no one better to place in charge than Joseph. In verse 40 of Genesis 41 we read this:
“You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Wow, that is a lot of responsibility and power. Thankfully, Joseph has learned to rely on God in all things.
That brings us to our last point,
God had big plans for Joseph. He gave Joseph the vision, but God also knew that Joseph needed to get ready for the future He had planned for him. In his devotion titled “Visions Becoming Reality” from His book: My Utmost For His Highest Oswald Chambers writes:
“God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience…. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision.”
From the moment Joseph entered that pit, he was in training. Training to one day lead all of Egypt. By the time God places Joseph before Pharoah, Joseph is ready. He has learned to completely rely on God, he has learned that he can do nothing apart from God and he has learned perseverance, trusting that even when dark times come, God is sovereign and never leaves him.
So today, if God has given you a dream or a vision and then has led you into a season of waiting, draw close to him, learn from him and remember, He loves you more than you can imagine, He is sovereign even in darkness, He will never leave you and He will bring about his purpose for your life through the waiting.
One of the things I most love about the story of Joseph is this: one day Joseph was in a prison and the next day he was in a palace, one day he was a slave and the next a ruler, one moment he was in rags and the next, dressed like a king. Wherever you may be right now, whatever season of waiting you may be in, remember the story of Joseph and let God have His way and lead you into the future He planned for you from before you were born.