God’s Plan In Our Waiting

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“God has a plan for you.”  “God works all things for good.”

These are words that we often hear in our times of waiting, but while I believe they are true, (and I even said them in my last post) I think they can be thrown around carelessly at times. People say these words with good intention, but they are not always helpful to hear.

The problem is that there are times when we just can’t see it, when we look at our life and our situation and wonder how this could possibly be part of God’s plan if God really is a good and loving God.

In our suffering or in our waiting these questions confront us.  Does God really have a plan?  What does that mean?  Is it always a good plan?

Let’s take a look at the story of Joseph and some of the events of his life:
(If you’re not familiar with the story this video gives a fun summary in less than 4 minutes, or you can read the full version in Genesis 37-50.) 

  • He is favoured by his father and given a special gift which makes his brothers jealous.
  • He has dreams of greatness, of his brothers bowing down before him.
  • His brothers plot to kill him but change their minds at the last minute and instead he is sold as a slave and taken to Egypt.
  • He is faithful and successful in his job and placed in charge of the whole household.
  • He is falsely accused and put into prison.  Once again he is faithful but he remains in prison for several years.
  • He is called to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams and God enables him to do that.  He predicts seven years of good crops in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine.
  • He is made governor of Egypt and, through his wisdom and organisation, many lives are saved during the famine.
  • He is reconciled with his brothers, he forgives them and the whole family relocates to Egypt.

As we look at Joseph’s story, it seems clear that God was at work, that he had a plan.  He gave Joseph dreams which came true several years later in ways none of the family would ever have imagined.  Through a series of events, both good and bad, Joseph ended up in the right place at the right time and was able to save the lives of many people.

We have the advantage of looking back and seeing the big picture of Joseph’s story, but it’s interesting to consider how it would have looked from the middle of the story.  When Joseph was at the bottom of the well, or on his way to Egypt or sitting in prison for years, do you think he had a sense that God had a great plan for him?  We know that he trusted God and that he was faithful, but I doubt he had any idea how things would turn out.

This gives me hope. As I sit in the middle of my story- not in a bad or desperate situation like Joseph, but in a place of waiting and uncertainty- it encourages me that God knows what he’s doing.  Or as Margaret Feinberg puts it: “No matter what always remain suspicious that God is up to something good.”

But I do want to make something clear: this is a series about waiting so that is my focus, but I am not suggesting that we should always automatically accept our lot in life as being part of God’s plan.  There is a time to take action: Moses going to Pharaoh to free the Israelites, Esther approaching the King to plead for the Jewish people…  I’d suggest that if we are falsely imprisoned or in an abusive situation, for example, we should be taking action to change things if there’s something we can do.

I am also not suggesting that God causes our pain to accomplish a higher purpose.  God is a God of love and justice.  I don’t believe it was his will for Joseph to treated that way by his brothers or to be falsely accused and imprisoned, just as I don’t believe it is God’s will today for people to be abused or children to die.  People’s sinful choices and the wider effects of living in a broken world cause these things, but they are not what God wants for the world.  Otherwise why would Jesus teach us to pray, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?  (Matthew 6:10 NLT)

Having said that, God is a master at bringing beauty from the ruins, and that’s what I think we see in Joseph’s story.  He somehow takes even the sinful actions of Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife and works them into his plan for good.

Once they are reunited, Joseph reassures his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”  (Genesis 50:20)

The tension between God’s sovereignty and human free will is a difficult one, which I doubt we will ever fully understand, but Joseph’s story reassures me that God is ultimately in charge and that even when our situations are difficult and messy he can redeem them so we should “always remain suspicious that God is up to something good.”

This is a complex topic which is impossible to cover adequately in a short blog post. I realise it is also a topic where people have different views. Consider this a starting point for thinking and discussion. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, but let’s show respect to one another.

Join me throughout November and December as we explore the topic of waiting.  Click here for an index page of all the posts in the series.

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dreamtogether-linkup      Holly Barrett     purposefulfaith.com           

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47 thoughts on “God’s Plan In Our Waiting

  1. I always have such a visceral reaction to Joseph’s story — so much injustice and frustration, so many setbacks and disappointments. And then, the glorious forgiveness he demonstrates at the end. So often I have flunked the waiting test. Thanks for giving me the life of Joseph this morning as a challenge and reminder.

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  2. Joseph’s story is such an amazing one of responding to injustices in a way that invites redemption. This is the sentence that spoke to me this afternoon > “God is a master at bringing beauty from the ruins.” Often it is a needed reminder while we wait. Glad to have stopped here for the reminder to wait on Him as He works out His plan. Blessings to you today!

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  3. Hi Lesley! I think it’s true that to see God’s life in ours, we have to take the macro view. If I were Joseph, I’d be despairing at the bottom of that well! But that was only a small part of Joseph’s journey, there is so much more to the path to being the #2 guy in Egypt. Seen as a whole, the big view, you can clearly see God.
    It’s a good reminder not to give up when the hard times come, they might only be a small step in the whole story.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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  4. Beautiful post, Lesley. I love Joseph’s story and it was one I read through and reflected a lot on just after Mum died. And like you I don’t think God is the one inflicting the pain, but the One who keeps bringing life and healing and restoration from awful circumstances. Thank you for this good reminder to “remain suspicious that God is up to something good”. I know I’ll be needing to hold onto that these coming months.

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  5. It can be so hard to see what God is up to when we are stuck blind imprisoned by waiting. That’s why I’m so adamant about having a tangible reminder of what God has already done in my life to bolster my strength and courage in that space before I can see what He is doing presently. Blessings to you!

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  6. I think it is important to recognize when you are in a season of waiting. It also honors God when you invite Him into your place of waiting. He wrote our stories and He knows what is next. The beauty of waiting is that God never stops working in us even if we cannot see or feel that is happening. Thank you for highlighting a season of life that we all experience.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. Yes, it is encouraging to remember that God is always working in us and our situation even when we can’t see the evidence of it at the time. Sometimes it’s easier to see looking back.

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  7. There is so much hope in Joseph’s story and in your words, Lesley. What a blessing that God has given us the full picture of his story. How true, too, that sometimes well-intended words are thrown too carelessly at times. When a person is in the midst of grieving and can’t see God’s way in it, they just need someone to listen and to cry with them. Sometimes words like “God has a plan in this and He means it for good,” can just make the burden heavier. I know for myself it has at times added guilt to my pain. Am I not trusting God enough? Do I have such a lack of faith? Anyway, in God’s own time He shows us, right? I love that you are always so sensitive and compassionate towards the plight of the abused. That in certain times, action is required, not waiting. Advent blessings to you! Hugs!

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    1. Thanks, Trudy. It does give hope to read Joseph’s story and see such a powerful example of God at work, even in a messy situation.
      It is sad when well-meaning words make people’s burden heavier or cause them to feel guilt. After my last post I just knew I needed to look in more detail at what we mean when we say “God has a plan” as I didn’t want to leave anyone feeling that way.
      Blessings and hugs!

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  8. What a wonderful post and one that I needed to read today! I love the quote you shared by Margaret Feinberg. I will try to remember that one. Thank you so much for sharing what God placed upon your heart, as it was really a blessing to me. So thankful I visited you from Jennifer’s link-up. God bless you and yours with a Merry Christmas!

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  9. I’ve been blessed to be at the bottom of the well several times. I’m also blessed to know what the bigger picture was in one of those ‘bottom-of-the-well’ times (my husband almost died from cancer, lost his job, couldn’t find another one in his line of work, worked in construction and other areas, went back to school, now has a job as a principal in a school that needs someone who has knowledge of building and construction). Sometimes God blesses us with the bigger picture during our life; sometimes, we’ll have to ask to see it when we meet him face to face :).

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    1. Thanks for sharing part of your story here, Anita. I love those times when we do get an idea of the bigger picture and what God is doing. It gives us hope that he is at work in the times when we can’t see it.

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  10. I think in the heat of life’s trials for me personally I have to think He has something good for me otherwise I loose hope. I still struggle and feel frustrated but I know His way is perfect 2 Sam 22 and He knows all my days psalm 139. I enjoyed reading this. Very insightful and most definitely what I am going through now. I love how God does that

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    1. Thanks, Kristina. I’m glad God led you to this post and that it was helpful. I love those verses from Psalm 139 and 2 Samuel. It does give hope to believe that God ultimately has a plan for good, but I agree, it’s never easy.

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  11. Beautiful post, Lesley. In the harder times I tend to use the scripture at the top, because I need to hear myself say it aloud. I am like a small child who needs reminding God is sovereign and nothing throws Him, ya know? He is so complex we can’t begin to understand it all or explain everything and ironically I think that is my greatest comfort; knowing His ways are higher. Your breakdown here is great. I remember the story of Joseph when things look bleak and need a Hope reminder. You are such a faithful writer!
    I pray you are well, friend! Blessings~

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    1. Thanks! It is a big comfort to know that God is sovereign and that we can trust him even when we can’t understand. Romans 8:28 is one of the first Bible verses I learned and it is definitely one I’ve held onto in hard times. The story of Joseph is also a great reminder that God is in charge. Blessings!

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  12. Lesley, that’s a great point about not automatically accepting our lot in life as part of God’s plan. Often it is, sometimes it’s not. If it’s not, we have to act in God’s timing, not ours … I’m so thankful He gives us wisdom when we ask. 🙂 I loved reading the comments with this post too … you’ve initiated a wonderful discussion here!

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  13. Hi Lesley,
    I just love the story of Joseph since it shows us how deeply God is involved in the details of our lives! Waiting and walking through uncertainty is so difficult but trusting that God has all of OUR details in his hands, can help us take the steps and do the work we need to so we can keep moving forward!

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    1. Hi Valerie! I love how God can see both the big picture and the little details at once and that he cares for both. It’s beyond our understanding but it’s amazing, and knowing that God has everything in his hands definitely helps us hold on to hope and keep on going.

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  14. Lesley … I appreciate that you decided to make this into a series. One post couldn’t contain all the insight and wisdom you’re sharing.

    Truth be told, most of us are in some kind of waiting room … or will be before long. How good to know we have faithful companions alongside.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I’m glad I did this series too. I didn’t really know where it was going when I started but writing it has helped me a lot and I love the discussions that have been sparked. I think, as you say, it’s a topic that everyone can relate to in some way.

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  15. Lesley, what a wonderful post…I so agree with you…My daily relationship with our living Lord Jesus reinforces my belief in the sovereignty of God, that nothing comes into my life that is not filtered through God’s hands of love. As an adult who was given up for adoption at birth, I believe there are no “accidents.” I believe God planned who my birth parents would be and who my Mom and Dad would be, and both influences, plus His, are needed to help me become all that He created me to be. I believe that God sees the end from the beginning. He knows me intimately, He knit me together in my mother’s womb, one day I will see Him face-to-face and I will know as I am known…until then, I will expect a mystery. It is His plan that’s important, not my desire. I didn’t bring myself into this world, and I can’t take myself into heaven. I really don’t know what is best for me or for those I love. I ask God to make me sensitive to the reality that He is in control, and that He is using this–even this–to conform me to the image of His Son. I want that most of all. I train my mind to acknowledge God’s hand in whatever it is I’m living with. I practice words like, “I don’t know,” “I will trust,” “I can’t explain,” “I release it all,” because God is sovereign. He is the beginning, He will be the ending, and in between, by His grace, He lets us be part of His perfect plan, for His glory and for our good. In the meantime, I will expect a mystery….many blessings to you!

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    1. Thanks for sharing these reflections, Beth. So true that in this life there is much that will remain a mystery, but we can trust that God is good and that he has it all in his hands. Blessings to you too!

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  16. Lesley, you share so many good thoughts here. And this? “Always remain suspicious that God is up to something good.” I love that. I confess, too many times, I’ve been suspicious that God had other things in mind for me besides good. 🙂 The more we get to know Him, the more we realize the truth of Margaret Feinberg’s statement. 🙂

    I’ve found that it’s in the waiting where I’ve learned to trust Him, His goodness, and His plans.

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    1. Thanks, Jeanne. So true that the more we get to know God the more we trust he is planning for our good even when we can’t see it. And yes, I think the waiting is often about learning to trust.

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  17. Joseph’s story brings so much comfort during uncomfortable times of waiting! When I can grasp the truth that nothing can separate me from Christ’s love (Romans 8:35) then the waiting becomes less a test of endurance that I fear will break me and more an opportunity to lean into His love. Thanks for sharing this beautiful truth about trusting God in the midst of the waiting!

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    1. Thanks, Christine. Yes, I love that we’re not alone in our waiting, and I agree, it is often in the wait that we get to know God more deeply. Coming to read your post now!

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