I often hear from people that it seems God isn’t moving in their lives or that He is moving so slowly. It feels like things are coming together at a snail-like pace. I used to be one of these people thinking that God was so slow and my life was coming together at a sludgy pace — until recently.
The Bible is full of examples that could be used for this, but the one that struck me most recently is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but see so many characteristics in Joseph worth imitating, as well as a glimpse into God’s mysterious workings and ways.
I want to break this down into two parts. Part One will be focused on God’s side of the situation and Part Two will be focused on Joseph’s side. I’ll do a fly by of the story, but I encourage everyone to read it themselves (Genesis 37-50).
Joseph had a wild ride that all started with some dreams. His dreams insinuated that Joseph would one day rule and have power. That’s not exactly what his older brothers would care to hear from a seventeen year old — especially since Joseph already told their father of their bad behaviour in the fields. Joseph was perhaps a little too cocky and maybe a bit prideful (he was 17…), but he was confident in his dream and shared it freely, despite the fact that he was young and clueless as to its ultimate fulfilment.
Joseph’s brothers conspired against him with many ideas, including murdering him, but ultimately sold him to a group of passing slave traders who then took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, a chief officer to Pharaoh. God was with Joseph and he gained complete trust and power in Potiphar’s household because of his hard work and integrity. Even Potiphar saw that God was clearly with Joseph, and because God was with him, Joseph succeeded at all that he did.
Joseph was a dime piece though, so it was only a matter of time before Potiphar’s wife started getting the hot’s for him. She was shot down many times, until she couldn’t handle the heat anymore and grabbed his robe forcefully. Joseph, knowing that it was honourable to deny her, not only because Potiphar had entrusted so much to him, but because it was expected by God too, fled au natural after being torn out of his robe during his escape attempt.
Potiphar’s wife laid false claims that he was attacking her, not the other way around, and Potiphar got cheesed. Next thing you know, Joseph finds himself in prison as a wrongly accused convict. God was still with Joseph though and God was impressed that Joseph was full of integrity. Before you know it, Joseph was befriended by the prison keeper and became a leader at the prison. He was once again entrusted with all the responsibilities possible because of his hard work, integrity, and, most importantly, God’s blessing.
Despite the circumstances, God was always with Joseph.
Long story short, Joseph was able to interpret some dreams of fellow prisoners who were close to Pharaoh and he gained a great reputation. One of those prisoners was released and restored to his original position close to Pharaoh, but forgot all about Joseph — despite promising to remember him because of his service of interpretation. Years went by and Joseph was still in prison, wrongfully convicted, until Pharaoh started having nightmares. Pharaoh summoned all the magicians and philosophers of the land to help him understand what the nightmares were all about, but none of them could interpret it.
After the failures, the former roomy of Joseph in prison remembered Joseph and all that he did years prior and Pharaoh had him summoned to interpret the nightmares. Through God, Joseph did so successfully, claiming that the dreams signified a period of great abundance in the land with a period of great famine following it. God was still with him and Pharaoh removed him from prison to place him in a role of great leadership.
The years of abundance occurred, as did the years of famine. The famine not only struck Egypt, but also the surrounding regions. Word spread that Egypt was prepared for it and had extra food and supplies, so many travelled to find a way to survive. Some of those who travelled included Joseph’s brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. Much drama occurred and the family was ultimately reunified, but that part of the story isn’t so important now.
What is important is how God worked throughout all of these events and how it can apply to us.
It’s often difficult to comprehend the timeline of events in the Bible. We can read through an entire lifespan of an individual within a few chapters. At one point a woman even gives birth twice within two verses! That’s 18 months within ten-seconds of reading. It’s so easy to forget that things take time. Joseph went from being seventeen and enslaved, to being a thirty-year-old powerful leader within 4 or so chapters that takes us minutes to read.
I feel that God experiences us in a similar way that we look at the Bible.
There is a quote by Frederick Faber that really sums up this concept for me: "In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by his slowness. He is slow; we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and he has been for eternity …"
God is living outside of time and space and that is impossible for us to truly comprehend. A lifetime of ours is only a blip on the radar of God. God is moving lightning fast by his standard of time, but we perceive it to be snail-like slow. God has His ways and He has His plan. The plan might feel slow, but it is perfectly organized by Him. The plan may also feel brutal, like Joseph’s was at times, but it is perfectly organized by Him.
It’s extremely hard to comprehend why certain things happen to us. Things that can be considered unfortunate or bad. Sometimes these things are because we made decisions that led down a certain path, and sometimes these things happen for no apparent reason. Sometimes it was intended by God and sometimes we took too much control and turned off His path. God works in such crazy and incomprehensible ways and, no matter what, all things can turn out well when surrendered to Him.
As humans, we naturally long for comfort and smooth going, but Joseph was called upon to save Egypt from the famine and it was a wild ride to get to that point. God tested Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity through many difficult situations, over many years, and God also opened doors for Joseph through difficult situations.
The more God could trust Joseph, the more God entrusted to Joseph.
It’s hard to understand, but sometimes God allows difficult things to happen in order for the ultimate outcome to occur — like saving Egypt and the surrounding region from mass starvation. We are all destined for an ultimate outcome in our lives and each individual’s call will look different and play out on different timelines, but as you travel on this journey, remember to surrender to God’s plan and trust that He has your back — through the times of abundance and the times of famine.