The Path to a Promise
God gave Joseph dreams, a picture of the future. That picture happened to be offensive to his brothers, but that didn’t make it any less true. Joseph knew God had spoken, and God keeps his promises. The future was certain.
Or was it? Almost immediately, circumstances seemed to begin moving in the opposite direction of the promise. That often happens when God speaks, and it gives everyone around you the boldness to tell you how naïve and misguided you were for thinking you heard him. You become a fool—for a while.
Joseph must have seemed so as his family members betrayed him and sold him into slavery, far away from anything that looked like God’s design for anyone’s life.
Joseph found himself at the bottom of Egypt’s social order for the next few years, spending much of that time in prison. He must have wondered what had gone wrong. Did he mishear God? Did God change his mind? Had Joseph blown it by telling everyone the dreams? Clearly God wasn’t doing what he had said—if he had even said it in the first place.
According to the psalmist, the word of the Lord tested him—stretched him, disoriented him, forged him in the fire—until it came to pass (Psalm 105:19).
That’s a common dynamic when God has given a promise or direction. It isn’t just friends and enemies who think you’ve lost your mind. You start to think so too. The visible world seems to stretch you in uncomfortable directions while you wait for God to do his part. In the meantime, you ask questions.
Did he really speak?
Did I hear him correctly?
Did he change his mind?
Did I mess it up somehow?
These questions are real; it is possible to mishear. But it’s also possible to hear him perfectly and still wonder about the questions in the waiting.
The wait can be painfully long, and many give up before the fulfillment. But when he has really spoken and we have really heard, waiting in faith is the right response. Even if the wait is excruciating.
We have to understand the dynamics of promise if we want a deep relationship with God. He often gives us a view of the end of a matter, not a view of the process. Our choices in the interim say a lot about what we believe about his goodness.
As we cling to hope, maintain faith, and learn patience, he works his character into us. We eventually receive the fulfillment, but we receive more than that. We get a changed nature in the process.