dealing with trials hardships

Living in the In-Betweens

10:11 AMHeather

Some time later.

Three little words. One little phrase. Innocuous on its own.

Until we look more closely. Until we consider what it summarizes.

A child receives a medical diagnosis. Some time later, the treatments work.
A husband and father loses his job. Some time later, he finds employment.
A teenager feels bullied and ostracized. Some time later, things improve.

A marriage hits a rough patch. Some time later, redemption and healing bring better days.
A college graduate can't find a job in his career field. Some time later, his dreams become reality.

An addiction takes hold. Some time later, recovery comes.

A couple struggles with infertility. Some time later, adoption completes their family.

Grief and loss and trials consume. Some time later, a tiny ray of hope breaks through the darkness.

Genesis 40 begins with the phrase "some time later." We tend to gloss over such words when we read historical and Biblical accounts, for they are a placeholder of transition. We forget that these are real people experiencing "some time laters." These are actual people who endured the day-to-day wrestling, waiting for the next thing. Living in the middle. In the in-between. Fighting to keep walking in all of the struggles of the "some time later" when relief and answered prayers are yet unseen.

The story of Joseph tells us a poignant story of an every day person walking in faith toward an unseen God and an unclear future. Through Joseph, we see a chapter that can inform our own stories of how to respond to the "some time laters."

So much of our lives are lived in the "some time laters." So many of our days are spent living in the in-betweens. When we are stuck between the now and the not-yet. Grappling with the tangible and hard, wishing for the invisible. Fighting to press on through it all, because the "some time laters" are the places where we battle for faith through the fear of the unknowns.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Joseph, as you may recall, was the beloved and favored son of Jacob, who proudly sported a coat of many colors. One day, in his teenage immaturity, he dared to boast to his older brothers about the dream he had where they would all bow at his feet. Angry and vindictive, they threw him in a well, intending to kill him. One of the brothers convinced the others to instead sell him into slavery when a group of Egyptians came upon them. The brothers took the coat, dipped it in the blood of animals, and convinced their father that Joseph's demise came through an animal attack, covering up their own betrayal.

Here's a truth to note through this turn of events. When we arrogantly strut our "status," it just may be stripped from us and stained as a souvenir of our downfall.

As Joseph endured his life of slavery, he experienced the favor of God, who went with him into this unknown. Joseph landed in a position of honor, becoming the overseer of his master's household and living within it. But, as his principles dictated that he deny his master's wife, she pressed false charges and Joseph was thus imprisoned.

To recap. Joseph is betrayed. Enslaved. Promoted. Falsely accused. Imprisoned. 

"But the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did," (Genesis 39:23). Even there.

Even when his family betrayed him. 

Even when he found himself in a foreign land, in a lowly position.

Even when things went well.

Even when things fell apart.

The Lord was still with him. Here, as we consider it, we see Joseph enduring in his belief in the God of his fathers. In a foreign land, with foreign gods, Joseph shows us that despite all that is stacked against you, you can press on. Joseph is living out his faith in the unfair, the unjust, and the lonely in-between.

And then, we see the phrase "some time later." Some time later, a cupbearer and a baker end up in prison with the Israeli slave. While it sounds like the start of a bad joke, it's actually the random details that God was weaving together for a kingdom purpose. On the exact same night, the two new prisoners have disturbing dreams. 

Joseph, in his steadfast faith, responds by announcing that even the dream interpretations belong to God. What a statement of faith that is. 

I will choose to trust that it all belongs to God. 

This faith is not misplaced as he is able to accurately interpret each dream, and perhaps for the first time, he sees an opportunity for justice and freedom from his plight.

As he informs the cupbearer that he will be restored to his position, he confidently requests, "WHEN [not if] all goes well with you, remember me with kindness, mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison," (Genesis 40:14-15).

Do you see the irony that the arrogant dreamer might be freed through the dreams of others?

However, "the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him," (Genesis 40:33).

The bookends of Genesis 40 are "some time later," and "he forgot him." 

Then, two full years passed.

730 days. 

730 days of getting up, living in a dungeon, and going to bed.

730 days of being falsely accused in a foreign land.

730 days to relive the betrayals. To dwell on how he was forgotten by the one person he thought would help him.

730 days to wonder if God has forgotten him as well?

730 days waiting for rescue. Losing hope that redemption will come.

730 days of living again and again in the "some time laters." Living in the oppressive and difficult in-between, with the tangible and seen, longing for what might be, what is yet unseen.

How did Joseph do it? What can we learn about enduring our own seasons of "some time laters?"

Joseph endured 730 more days simply day-by-day. 

Daily, Joseph, in the hard and mundane and difficult, wrestled for faith. Day-by-day, he tackled the tasks at hand. Day-by-day, he tended to the small and the right in front of him, with his eyes fixed on the God he knew. And when his gaze strayed, as surely it did, he chose to turn his eyes back to God. 

He continually refocused his mind and his heart on the God above the circumstance rather than the circumstance itself.

When he was lonely and discouraged and angry and distraught, he surely told himself the truths he knew from his upbringing.

In these seasons, there are two questions we must ask ourselves before we can give ourselves permission to despair.

1. Is God still God?
2. Is God still with me?

Until one of these cannot be answered in the affirmative, we have no need to lose hope. For they are the framework within which to define our situation.

While man disappointed Joseph over and again-- from his brothers to his master's wife to the cupbearer -- Joseph found, in the dark and dank prison, that only God is our rescue. He alone will not disappoint. He alone is worthy of us throwing our full weight of hope and trust and belief at him.

At the end of those 730 days, Pharaoh himself has a troubling dream. Suddenly, the cupbearer's memory is jogged, and Joseph is pulled from the dungeon, cleaned up, given new clothes and shaven, before he is brought before Pharaoh.

As the dream is described and interpretation is requested from Joseph, we see three resounding words that tell us all we need to know about how to endure the "some time laters." Joseph offers his own emphatic three word answer to the three word question.

Some time later... "BUT GOD WILL," (Genesis 41:16).

The prideful favored son has been humbled and refined to develop a deep and abiding faith, as he tells the Pharaoh that he cannot provide the interpretation, but God will.

Joseph was still looking to God and relying on him and turning to him. This is a pivotal moment in history, when Joseph will be elevated to second in command in all of Egypt. He will be uniquely positioned to become the one who saves both Egypt and his own people in the days ahead. 

Because day after miserable and hard day, for some time later plus two years, Joseph chose to trust the God he knew. 

God was using the some time later plus two years to prepare an arrogant show-off to become a humble leader in a key position to save his people. 

God was molding and refining Joseph to the point of such profound belief that he would look his brothers in their eyes and say, "what man meant to harm me, God meant for good," (Genesis 50:20), and then he would offer his brothers forgiveness and provision.

Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery. He was 30 years old when he was made second in command. In those 13 years, Joseph came to know God as the One who made him forget his troubles and the One who made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. 

God was the One who sustained Joseph in his personal famine, and redeemed him to become the man who would sustain Egypt and his own people in the time of actual famine.

You see, we are fed and sustained in our wilderness wanderings so that we can feed and sustain others.

When we sit in the ashes, we say but God will turn it to beauty.

When we wander in the desert, we say but God will be our manna.

When we feel alone and rejected, we say but God will never leave us or forsake us.

When we face illness and disease, we say but God will be our strength.

When we are waiting and stuck, we say but God is moving and acting.

When we are forgotten and mistreated by man, we say but God will defend our cause.

When we feel our lives and contributions are insignificant, we say but God will use it all for his kingdom's good.

When we are wanting and lacking, we say but God will provide.

The truth is that just because we cannot see does not mean that we are unseen.

God is with us through every bit of it, through every day of the in-between.

And we must choose, in every "some time later" to respond with a definitive "BUT GOD WILL."

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