Those Extra Two Years


The story of Joseph in the Old Testament has always fascinated me. What a guy! First he was beat up by all those awful brothers, then sold as a slave, and finally tossed into a dungeon for something he didn't do.Yet, we see no record of his pouting, growing bitter, or giving up on life.

Then, just when he thinks it's about over (One of the king's men is sooo grateful for Joseph's help, he's gonna be sure to remind the king to release his good buddy Joseph. Yeah, right!) the door slams shut again and he sits in the dark for another two years.

I've wondered about those two years. What was the point? Hadn't the guy suffered enough? Wasn't that pouring salt on the wound? Why would God do that to the poor guy?

In a way, the extra two years are the worst of it. What's worse than having your hopes raised only to see them dashed to pieces again?

Imagine him pacing every day before the locked door, rubbing his palms. He just knew that today was the day! Any minute the guards would open that door and...

Day after day, pacing, hoping, praying...It had to be the Lord's will to get him out of this place, didn't it? If he just had enough faith, those prison doors would swing open...

And then--nothing happened.
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Hope deflated like last summer's pool toy. Time dragged on and God seemed very far away. Had God forgotten him? How tempting to grow angry and bitter. He had every right.
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But still he did not give up on himself or on God. He went right back to doing what he'd been doing, which was his very best with such a good attitude that everyone noticed. He didn't understand why he was still there, but he left the understanding up to God and simply trusted.

Are you in the middle of a seemingly pointless "two years"? You thought you knew where you were going, what God was gonna do in your life. You thought you could see the plan shining before you like a superhighway, and then--wham! The door slammed shut.
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The medical report came back. The job prospect fell through. The friend you thought would support you turned fickle. Your family disintegrated before your eyes. Life fell apart around your ears and you wondered where you went wrong.

You paced and you hoped and called it faith. But in reality, you were just hoping REALLY hard that what you wanted to happen was about to happen. That's not faith. That's just hoping-really-hard.

The kind of faith God is looking for is not faith in a situation or an event. We don't show him great faith by assuming that what we want is going to happen. The kind of faith that pleases God is a faith in Him. The kind Joseph had.
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Only that kind of faith let him endure another two long years in an Egyptian prison when he should have been let out long ago. He had the strength to take it with dignity because he wasn't putting his faith in man's memory, in a king's sense of justice, or in what should have happened. He simply trusted his God.

Thousands of years later, we get to see the whole picture. We can see why God left him there longer. He ended up saving all of Egypt, as well as his own people. But he didn't know that when he was scrubbing prison walls. He didn't know that when his prayers seemed to go nowhere.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is when Joseph tells those shame-faced brothers, "What you intended for evil, God meant for good."

One thing I'm learning lately is that I may never understand the detours, the roadblocks, the outright wrong turns my life sometimes takes. But as long as my faith is fixed on God alone, not on what I think he plans to do, then everything in my life works together to create good.

Everything. Even those extra two years.
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