Has God given you a promise that has yet to be fulfilled? Perhaps, while reading the Bible, a verse lit up. You blinked, having never really noticed before; the words jumped off the page and pierced your heart. Or maybe you received a specific answer to a request while you were praying.
But then nothing happened. In fact, your circumstances turned for the worse. Did you misinterpret God’s intentions? Was it all in your head? Where are the promised blessings?
God gave Joseph, the son of Jacob, (see Genesis 37-48) a promise that one day he would rule. But then, for the next thirteen years everything went exactly opposite to the promise. His brothers, who hated him, sold him to the Egyptians. As a slave in Potiphar’s house, he was falsely accused of raping his master’s wife. Then he was thrown into prison and forgotten.
Joseph refused to let his circumstances shape his outlook. He allowed no self-pity or bitterness to rob him of energy. Instead, he chose to use each circumstance ― whether at home, at Potiphar’s house, or in prison ― as God’s appointed place where he would serve him with all of his heart. God eventually blessed Joseph and made him a blessing to others.
Instead of using the delayed promise as a reason to grumble against God, Joseph kept it in the back of his mind to give him courage and strength. He let go of expectations of how and when God would carry out the promise. In the meantime, God was up to something much bigger than he could have imagined. In time – God’s time! – Joseph’s life changed. His wisdom and loyalty was recognized. Eventually he became Pharaoh’s right-hand man, the second in command over all of Egypt. In this role, Joseph ended up saving the lives of his whole family and became reunited with them. He also saved most of Egypt from starvation.
God has a good plan for our lives also. They may not be as grand as that of Joseph, but God has a purpose for each of us: “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” (Jeremiah 29:11). These are not just words written down for people thousands of years ago. They resonate with us today. God’s promise is real in any age and time. We might have to wait for that promise to come to fruition, though.
Trust him even when life doesn’t make sense. There is a purpose in what you are going through. Perhaps God is trying to correct your course. It could be that he is using these trials to teach you to lean more on him, trust his timing, and strengthen your faith. You may be going through this because how you respond may influence others in their decisions to follow Christ. It is possible that wading through all of this mess in your life will help you lead someone else through a similar circumstance later on. Like Joseph, we may not see the purpose for our struggles until much later. But also like him, we should remain faithful and trust that God knows what is happening.
God may seem silent but that doesn’t mean he has walked away. He is actually at work in the background. Like a building going up behind a wall, we can’t always see the progress. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. God’s good plan is being carried out and this set of circumstances is needed to prepare you for those plans. As Joseph’s life points out, even tragedy and evil can be part of God’s plan for good. “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” (Romans 8:28).
A delay is not denial, but a time of preparing you for the promise. It is very hard when we cannot “see” God in action. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t acting on our behalf. I am sure there may have been times while he was in prison that Joseph quietly called out to God for strength. It’s okay to do the same.
But, like Joseph, never give up on God because ― whether you see evidence of it or not right now ― God will never give up on you. Whenever you feel discouraged or start to wonder if God is still there and cares, you can say this prayer:
Dear God, cleanse my heart of self-pity and resentment. I want to trust that your good plan for my life is being carried out in my present circumstances. I know you love me and have my best interests at heart. Help me to be patient, and in the meantime, help me to endure and keep my heart and mind focused on your promises. Amen.