God’s plan is rarely the straightest or easiest. Following it doesn’t guarantee immediate success the way we look at it. If you look at the story of Joseph in Genesis, you’ll see a young man who was given a pair of dreams. In one dream, eleven stalks of corn, representing his brothers, bowed down to his. In his next dream, eleven stars and the sun and moon, representing his parents, bowed down to his star. He shared his dreams and was ridiculed. His brothers threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused and sent to prison where he was forgotten. It was around fourteen years before the dreams came true. Fourteen years of hardship before God’s plan came to fruition.
In Judges 20, the tribe of Benjamin had done an evil thing. The other eleven tribes joined forces to attack Benjamin. They asked God which tribe should attack first. God told them Judah. They went out to war and 22,000 died. They fasted and prayed, then asked God again if they were to go to battle. God told them yes again. They took positions the next day again. They were beaten again. This time losing 18,000. They cried and prayed to God again. A third time He told them to fight. This time they won. They routed Benjamin and nearly wiped out the entire tribe. Even though they followed God’s orders, they were defeated twice losing around 40,000 men.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds us, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (NLT). Following God’s plan will not always yield instant success, nor will it make your life easy. You may be pressed on every side, feel perplexed by what’s happening and get knocked down or back. However, we do have God’s promise that we will not be forsaken or abandoned in these times. We will not be crushed, driven to despair or destroyed. Keep going back to God seeking His will through the hardship. Keep making sure you’re following His orders and what He promised will come true. Don’t give up in the struggle. Victory is near.
The story of Joseph in Genesis is one of my favorites. As a late teenager, his brothers beat him up, threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. The brothers told their dad that he was killed by wild animals. God was with Joseph through the trials he endured giving him favor with the people he met. Things were going well with Potiphar, but his wife wanted Joseph. When he refused her, she accused him of trying to rape her. Without a trial he was sent to prison for life. Many years later the pharaoh’s wine bearer and baker joined him in prison. For a long time, Joseph waited on them. They both had a dream one night, Joseph interpreted them and they came true. It was two more years before Joseph would be freed from prison and placed second in command to pharaoh.
After nearly twenty years since his brothers sold him, they traveled to Egypt looking for food. Joseph recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him. They were hungry and out of options. They begged Joseph for food, but we’re treated harshly by him. After accusing them of being spies Joseph put them in prison for three days. He released all but one as an incentive to get them to bring their other brother to Egypt. When Jacob found out, he was distraught. In Genesis 40:36 he said, “You have bereaved me [by causing the loss] of my children. Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin [from me]. All these things are [working] against me” (AMP).
Many times as God is working out His plan in our life, things appear to be working against you. For years nothing seemed to be going right for Joseph. For years Jacob grieved his son and then ran out of food. In those moments, the feelings of doubt, fear and that everything is against you are normal. In the case of Joseph and Jacob, they were in a place of preparation. We don’t see them curse God or even question Him. I’m sure they spent many sleepless night crying out to God wondering why. However silent God might have been, they stayed faithful in that place and God honored it. He honors our faithfulness as well. The place of preparation can be dark, lonely and hopeless, but while everything seems to be working against you, God is working things out for your good.
Joseph’s adult life was marked by many afflictions and sufferings. His brothers turned on him to kill him. They decided to sell him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt where he was sold. He worked as a slave until he was falsely accused of raping his master’s wife. After spending many years in prison, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker only to be forgotten. For 13 years his life spun out of control and seemed to be going away from the dream God gave him.
What he didn’t know was that God was setting him up to fulfill that dream. Through it all, he developed the character necessary to be a leader that would lead a nation through a crisis. We don’t know about the dark nights he must have questioned God. We don’t get to read how hopeless he felt at times. We don’t even get to find out the depth of his affliction, but we know it was there. He went through these things because he was human like us.
We get a sense of it by the names of his children after being made second in command of Egypt. His first son was named Manasseh which means “God has made me forget all my troubles.” The name of his second son is even more telling. Genesis 41:52 says, “And the second he called Ephraim [to be fruitful], For [he said] God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (AMPC). Not only did God help him to leave the past behind him, He helped him to become fruitful where he suffered.
Whatever pain or suffering that you have endured or are enduring, know that God has not forgotten you. He is fulfilling His plan in your life and will cause you to be fruitful and prosper because of what you are enduring. Even if the pain is unbearable, in time God can help you to forget these troubles like a mom forgets labor pains. The joy that comes after is greater than the pain you endured because life is born. Just as God developed Joseph, He is developing you so you can be fruitful in the land of your affliction.