As I sat in a cute little tea room, I listened to a friend recount her story of pain. She had taught Bible studies, blogged, and led in the women’s ministry at her local church. Leading, writing, and speaking energized her as she felt equipped and called of God to use her gifts to serve others. After a series of misunderstandings, a group of women’s ministry leaders asked her to step down from her position of teaching.
She questioned herself, wondering how things had come to this and exactly how she was to use her God-given gifts. After some time to process and pray, she humbly asked the women’s leaders for a path back into ministry. They confirmed her call and her ability as a teacher and gave her constructive feedback. However there was no place for her to teach in women’s ministry at that time. As we sat having tea several months later, she was still waiting for the path back to become clear.
Joseph knew what it was like to wait for people to remember him. He was waiting for his God-given dreams to come true with no evidence that things would change anytime soon.During periods of waiting and isolation such as Joseph experienced, we have much time to think and process our circumstances. These are days when bitterness is knocking on our door, bidding us to nurse unforgiveness and thicken the walls to keep others out. Joseph couldn’t control his circumstances, but he could govern his own spirit. Though initially he may have flaunted his father’s favoritism, he learned to work hard, honor God, and maintain integrity even during his time of captivity. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit / Is like a city broken down, without walls” (NKJV).
Of course, Joseph was human, just as we are. He probably didn’t respond initially to the challenges and hurts in his life with thoughts such as these:
- My brothers’ betrayal is such a great opportunity for personal growth.
- It was worth it to be tempted by Potiphar’s wife every day and then falsely accused when I chose to do the right thing.
- I’m so glad the cup bearer forgot me so that I can suffer longer here in prison.
I’m guessing Joseph had to work through the hurt and the hate. However, he was able to move toward healing and right responses as evidenced by his attitude of concern for the baker and cupbearer. If he had lingered in his own personal pity party, he probably would not have been able to help the two prisoners he encountered. As we see with other biblical characters, God is more concerned with Joseph’s character than with his comfort.
I find that the same holds true in my life. God seems more concerned about my character than He is about my comfort. Can you relate?
In our times of waiting, God prepares us for new beginnings. Whether they are big or small, we all have realities that we can’t change in life. Like Joseph, the only variable we can control is how we will choose to respond to these events and the people involved in them.
- Will we maintain our integrity when no one is looking?
- Will we choose joy even when our circumstances go from bad to worse?
- Will we posture ourselves for forgiveness or vengeance?
If you are in a time of waiting, ask God to soften your heart and identify any areas where you might have seeds of bitterness taking root. Ask Him to reveal areas of unforgiveness that need to be brought to light.