When I get to heaven, I am hoping there will be a chance to see behind the scenes of some of the accounts in the Bible. I have been reading in Genesis, about Joseph, and I really, really wish that I could ask him about those years in prison. We know that he was sent there unjustly, and that "The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed." (Genesis 39:23). We know that the cupbearer of the Pharaoh was also imprisoned, that Joseph interpreted his dream, and that Joseph said this to the cupbearer: "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house." (Genesis 40:15) We also are privy to the fact that the cupbearer forgot Joseph and didn't remember for two years.
What did Joseph think right after he spoke to the cupbearer? If he were like me (which he probably wasn't, since he had much more faith than I do, but surely he had his weak moments?), he would have been thinking, "Wow, God, so cool that you sent this cupbearer here, and that I could help him, and that he's going to tell Pharaoh about me, and I'm going to get out of here soon. Yep, any day now, I'll be free." And then he waits for two more years.
What's difficult about circumstances like that, at least for me, is to not just rely on the hopeful part of the situation: "Look at this circumstance. Surely God heard me and will answer me soon.", but to rely on God's grace for the unspoken (and unthinkable) part: "Okay, Lord, I think this looks good, but I am going to trust that IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT WHEN OR HOW I THINK, then that is also the answer from you and it is the better choice." It's the choice we have after the sixteenth job interview: "I trust you that if this is your plan, I'll get the job, but if it's NOT, then that is your good work in my life as well." It's the attitude we choose after another month goes by with no pregnancy, or another date ends with no relationship, or another year passes of estrangement from a loved one.
If I were Joseph, I would think that of course the Lord wants me out of here now. However, the timing wasn't right yet. Pharaoh had no need of him. The circumstances had not yet fallen into place to bring Joseph to a place of leadership so that he could save many lives: "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors." (Genesis 45:7)
It can be so hard to trust in God's timing, because when we are in the middle of the story, it can feel lonely and sad and pointless. I so want to know how Joseph handled the two years of waiting in prison. How long did it take him to rest in God's goodness and trust Him that He would work all circumstances together for good? How was he able to choose a peaceful and calm attitude, walking in the truth that God was at work even if He was silent? The irony is that Joseph knew far less of God than I do, and yet came through his circumstances knowing that God had purposefully orchestrated his life. May I learn to trust as well in the God that I KNOW is at work on my behalf:
"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me. The Lord's lovingkindness is everlasting. Do not forsake the works of your hands." (Psalm 138:8, NAS)