"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." –Genesis 50:20
The world, our country, and our communities are experiencing unprecedented times. It is easy to feel disillusioned and overwhelmed. None of us are immune to the unique challenges and turmoil these times have brought us and we can feel stuck waiting for better days. Whether you’ve been affected by job loss, health issues, stress, trauma, isolation, or any other types of struggles, it can be difficult to imagine these hard times leading to better ones.
A large section of the beginning of the Bible is dedicated to the story of a man who faced repeated difficulties and had to trust and wait to see what God was doing. Through all of the highs and lows of his life, he learned that God was working all of these things together not just for him, but for the whole world.
In Genesis 37–50, we see Joseph’s life play out one difficulty or victory at a time. It pieces together a puzzle that reminds us that it’s worth the wait to see God’s good work
in our lives.
After Joseph’s brothers sold him to slave traders when he was 17 years old, he was taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. He worked for Potiphar over several years, earned favor in his sight, and became his personal assistant and household manager. After years of earning even more authority and trust, Joseph was framed by Potiphar’s wife and wrongfully thrown into prison.
After earning authority and trust with the guards and other prisoners, Joseph was again betrayed and spent several
more years in prison. He was then given an audience with Pharaoh, to interpret dreams and show that God was with him.
Joseph was again given authority and trust, and eventually helped save the Egyptian people during a terrible seven-year famine. This led to confrontation and reconciliation with his own family and the brothers that sold him to slave traders all those years ago.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As Joseph learned over the course of his life, submitting our circumstances to God and trusting Him with the long-term plans He has for us is worth it in the end. As you read Joseph’s story you see patience, endurance, and commitment. That is what God was building into Joseph’s life over those years.
In the waiting, God was purifying Joseph, preparing Joseph, and shaping Joseph into the man He wanted him to be.
While we can’t wait to get to the other side of these challenging times, we also don’t want to miss the incredible opportunities to grow what we have right now. God has you where you are for a reason. When we faithfully wait and follow Him…when we’re patient with the process…God will do amazing things in, and through, us.
Even right now, God is using the difficulty of our lives and these situations to shape us and prepare us for something so much more. We can always know that God uses the difficulty around us to refine us. If we want our souls to become whole and become all that God wants us to be, we’ve got to embrace faithfully waiting.
God is at work and doesn’t want us to become bitter; He wants us to become better. It’s easy to be frustrated and discouraged by continual changes, canceled activities, slow processes, and dead ends. In our bitterness, we might grow angry when people lash out or say hurtful things on the news or social media. We might even let disagreements harm our relationships with each other.
However, if we work to become better instead, we learn to demonstrate patience and grace. We value our time with those we love and grow in our kindness, love, and forgiveness of others.
God wants us to not just go through something but to grow through something. If we will be willing to be patient with the process, God has good works planned out for us.
"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
In every valley that Joseph found himself, it would have been easy to forget the peaks of his personal timeline. Processing the repeated betrayal of those he trusted and struggling through those difficult resulting circumstances would make it challenging to trust the bigger plans God had for him. There are many circumstances of Joseph’s life that were very painful, but through it all, God used those things to prepare Joseph to be able to accomplish an incredible purpose.
What we see looking back at Joseph’s life from our perspective is that God orchestrates circumstance after circumstance. Not only that Joseph and his family were saved, but hundreds of thousands of other people, and ultimately the world, because the person of Jesus Christ came through the line of Joseph. What a great discovery that must have been for Joseph to finally understand when he entered Heaven!
One day, when we get that experience, there’s going to be a great discovery. We’re going to learn that God used all kinds of difficult things in our lives to shape our story to bring about His glory.
To get to that point, we have to realize that spiritual maturity, real growth, and true character are not a result of a quick pill that we can swallow. They are the result of a process in which we must involve ourselves. In Joseph’s life, we see that the place where God finally put Joseph was a place where Joseph would have failed if he had arrived there any earlier. If we remember Joseph’s patience, endurance, and commitment, we have examples of how to gain perspective on our stories and how God is weaving them together.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Joseph’s experiences were full of God’s faithfulness. We see this when he entered into Potiphar’s household rather than another place, when he was thrown into prison instead of executed, when he was given opportunities for authority and trust, and eventually when he was brought before Pharaoh and put in a position of power that led to his success and family reconciliation. We see God protecting Joseph and using terrible circumstances to bring about long-term good for Joseph and the world.
It would have been impossible for Joseph to know what would happen when he was walking through these experiences. Along the way, he likely could have been asking, “When is this all going to end?” When we are in a pit or valley, many times we lose a sense of God’s love for us. Taking Joseph’s life in perspective is a great way to remember that when it appears that God is not working around you, trust that He is working within you and for your good.
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt from Scripture, Joseph’s story, and our own experiences, that God is good. God is powerful and He can redeem these days that we’re going through and use them to shape us and prepare us to accomplish His good purpose in this world. He is in the business of redemption and can take all of the broken pieces of our lives and turn them into something beautiful.
Nothing is ever too broken or busted that God, in His grace, can’t turn it around and use it for our good and for the good of the whole world.
"Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken."
As Joseph walked through difficult times in his life, he could have thrown in the towel and given up. He could have felt stuck and lost hope. Instead, as we look at his life, we see that he consistently lived in a growth mindset. He worked hard to earn the trust of those around him and to be faithful to what God had asked him to do.
We are reminded by Joseph, and by God’s faithfulness, that we might not get to choose our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to them as God works. We can respond with disappointment or, when we find ourselves in a time of crisis, we can think about what we can learn and grow in the midst of our waiting.
Joseph grew from a place of pride in his relationship with his brothers to eventually humbly coming before Pharaoh and letting God have all of the credit for his gift of interpreting dreams.
God has given us incredible testimonies throughout the centuries of his faithfulness to work things together for good. Because of this, we can trust His goodness through whatever hardship or brokenness we have experienced. We never have to give up.
"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." –2 Peter 3:9
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.
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