Genesis 41:17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; 18 and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19 Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt…(Joseph said) God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven (plentiful) years, and the …seven lean and ugly cows …are seven years (of famine)… 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. 35 Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” 37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?”… 40 (Pharaoh said to Joseph) You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Later in the chapter we’re told that Joseph was 30 years old when he became second in command of all Egypt. He was 17 years old when he was initially sold into slavery by his brothers, which means he spent 13 long, difficult years being prepared for this purpose. That’s a long time. Moreover, there’s no indication in the narrative that Joseph was aware of WHY he was going through that difficult season.
Over those 13 years we see a change in Joseph – a maturing if you will. He was no longer the boastful, spoiled boy who was his father’s favorite. He was humble and wise and ready for the challenge of saving his people from famine, along with many others.
This past weekend some friends and I smoked some chickens in preparation for a couple of church events. There is something special about the flavor and tenderness of chicken that is slow cooked for several hours at relatively low temperatures while bathed in flavorful wood smoke. We could have baked the chickens or fried them or prepared them some other way that would have been much faster (it was cold outside!), but it’s just not the same. There are some things which take time. There are no shortcuts.
The grooming of people is similar. It takes time to learn, to mature, to grow, to be prepared for the purposes of God. What makes it doubly difficult is that we often don’t know that’s what’s happening while we’re experiencing it. To us it can just seem like some hard years. It’s often not until later, after we begin walking in the purposes for which we were prepared, that hindsight gives us understanding. I’m thinking this was true of Joseph. When Pharaoh appointed him as second in command, the hardships he endured all those years began to make sense.
Some of you are in that space, by the way. You’ve been in a difficult season for some time for no apparent reason. If only God would tell you in advance what he is up to it might be easier – but that’s not generally how it works. It’s often only in hindsight that the meaning of hardship becomes known; when we see the lessons learned in difficult times bearing fruit.
Is it possible that you? Could there be purpose in your struggle?
If so, take heart dear brother/sister. God is up to something in you. Through you. Don’t give up now.
Lord, give us grace to endure that we might serve you well. Amen.