Joseph. I know this story backward and forwards, and yet just the other day I read it through in a completely new light. Somehow or another, I’d started to only look at Joseph’s story in light of how he handled it and viewed God’s role to be of secondary importance. Obviously, that was a foolish choice on my part. God is not just the main character of any given Bible story, he’s the story. Putting him back in his rightful place transforms Joseph’s story from one of surviving sibling rivalry to a powerful testimony to the work God does in our lives.
So where do we start with Joseph? How about with the story Joseph thought he was going to live? When we meet Joseph, he’s just a teenager and life is good. He’s living out in the countryside with his huge family. Of all the children in the family, Joseph is his father’s absolute favorite and is gifted a gorgeous robe to show off that favoritism.
Then Joseph starts having dreams, and not just any dreams. Deeply meaningful, prophetic dreams. Dreams that indicate he will one day be ranked high above the brothers that absolutely despise him. This isn’t just “My brothers finally respect me” ranking. This is total reverence and submission and the dreams tell him that reverence and submission will be directed to him. Joseph had to be feeling pretty great. He knew God was planning great and wonderful things for his life. That’s not such a terrible future to be looking forward to.
But here’s the thing, Joseph’s heavenly vision for his future had just landed on earth. Earth, with all it’s depravity, backstabbing, ugliness, and betrayal. Our world sizes up heavenly gifts with the hungry eyes of a predator. Thank God (literally) that heavenly hosts are no meek prey. The world tends to bite off way more than it can chew.
It can’t destroy the vision, but it can and does insert heartbreak and sin into the narrative. So instead of Joseph’s vision of greatness being a near reality, the powers of evil that exist set about to immediately slash that dream to pieces, and they did so by absolutely poisoning the hearts of Joseph’s brothers.
We’re not even to chapter two of Joseph’s story and there are already those bent on his destruction. His brothers see him coming and they can’t even stand the sight of him in all his favoritism, finery, and dreaming. It boils their hearts against him and before Joseph even knows what’s happening he’s been thrown down a well, left to die there, and pulled up only to be immediately sold into slavery. In the blink of an eye, Joseph finds himself an unwilling captive with his homeland and family disappearing on the horizon.
For all intents and purposes, it looked like Joseph’s brothers absolutely succeeded in cutting his heavenly vision short. So much for his brothers bowing down to him...
We live in an ever-increasing age of immediacy. Packages arrive in twenty-four hours. Information downloads in minutes or even seconds. Food is delivered to our doors before we can even finish setting the table. Heck, we even get entire tv seasons all at once thanks to streaming services like Netflix.
We’re so engrossed in our desire for immediacy that we are completely thrown when anything takes time. I can’t tell you how often I’ve joked that I want to throw my work computer out the window when it takes more than a few seconds to load a page and I know for a fact that I’m not the first person to make that joke. If watching a rainbow wheel spin is enough to put us in a bad move, how ill-equipped are we for life events that take time to build? The big life events that pull us sideways like Joseph?
Poor Joseph. I’m not sure anyone has more right to speak to having the rug pulled out from under your feet than him. One minute he’s frolicking through pastures in his best coat, dreaming about the future down the road and the next he’s being dragged from his homeland after being sold by his own brothers. If he was anything like me, his first thoughts probably went not to anger, not to sadness, but confusion. What went wrong? How did I get here? This isn’t how this was supposed to be!
We have these moments in our lives when we hear God so clearly and we feel absolutely invincible when he lets us in on his vision for our lives. There is nothing quite like being called to hop into the story he’s telling. Like Joseph, we revel in the glory of what’s going to happen. So much so that we forget to remember the world still has its piece to say and that God never said all these wonderful things were happening tomorrow.
The moment the reality of that crashes down on us it stings so badly it’s sometimes enough to shake our faith completely. We may even doubt the legitimacy of that first enlightening conversation with God. What’s going on God? Maybe I misheard you but I’m pretty sure you said you had a plan for me. This doesn’t feel anything like it. I must have gotten this all wrong! The problem with this thinking is that it assumes you were told when all those great things were going to happen, but a simple search of our memories usually reminds us that we’ve been told no such thing.
You have the vision, not the timeline.
Don’t confuse knowing where you’re going with an obsession to already be there. It’s not going to speed up the process. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but I don’t think God has ever consulted a human being on earth for timing advice. The good news is, our timing is in the best hands imaginable.
If God, the inventor of time itself, is asking you to trust him with yours, I truly believe you can’t go wrong following his lead.
As we’re going to see, Joseph’s captivity did not mean God had made a mistake or his plans had been foiled. Our human judgment on the pace of life does not reflect God’s glory. We do not serve an Amazon Prime, one-day delivery God. After all, where’s the growth in just twenty-four hours? God isn’t just delivering instant satisfaction. He’s delivering growth, and that tends to take more time.
Right now, you may be feeling a lot like Joseph, a little lost, a little far from home, and a little unsure how everything could have gone so sideways. But know this, if you are actively seeking God’s will for your life, there is no way that your heavenly calling has just been destroyed by the ugliness of this world. It just means that you’re looking at the wrong timeline. Your timeline is not God’s timeline, and he’s going to be doing some big work in your world. Dig in deep.
Big growth requires big timelines
Joseph was about to find out just big that timeline can be.
Let’s find some joy,