Meanwhile, God …
by Tracie Miles
This was not my finest hour. When the “update” hit my inbox, I was ready and waiting. Out of all submissions of late, I knew I’d nailed this one. I just knew it. Except that update proved me wrong — again.
Sadly, I didn’t receive it well. I was beyond disappointed. I was frustrated. Am I just wasting time? Confused. Wasn’t this my perfect assignment? Disillusioned. Why not me, then? And angry, too. Did You call me to a lot of work for nothing? In short, I was one hot mess.
Worse, I layered on shame. I wanted to celebrate others’ success. That’s what good Christians do, right? When my congratulations fell flat, I had to admit an ugly truth. Down deep, my unhappy-for-me outweighed my happy-for-her. Where was the generosity of spirit to which I’ve often laid claim?
Meanwhile, God was silent. More likely, I was raging too loud to hear Him. A leaden lump settled in my chest as I wrestled with the reality of my non-success. Desperate for a diversion, I dug into yard work and tore through basement cobwebs. I steamrolled distasteful chores neglected far too long. For a full week, I did anything but write.
Then two things happened. Actually, three.
First, I was reminded of Joseph’s story from varied sources. This was no coincidence. What did the world’s most annoying little brother have for me? Hmm. A lot, as it turns out.
Joseph’s story is of false starts, false accusations and false hopes. Early chapters reveal a painful journey. (Genesis 37-41) In hindsight, it’s clear God was present and working things for good. Joseph was never forsaken. Even in prison, he was elevated to a position of authority. By Genesis 42, Joseph is an unqualified success. The remainder of his story is a revelation of redemption, reconciliation, restoration — and a fabulous read.
But how? I wondered. How did Joseph go from an obnoxious, abandoned youth to second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt? A quiet voice responded: Joseph had to go through, just as you do. Through indentured servitude, public disgrace, many disappointments and imprisonment. How many times might Joseph have questioned what in the world God was calling him to? Were those dreams real?
As Lysa TerKeurst gently reminds us, God was in the meanwhile. Joseph’s story spotlights God behind the scenes. In the moment, circumstances often seemed bleak. Meanwhile, God was at work. Ultimately, God’s purposes prevailed — as they always do. His ever-ready presence, strong arm of protection, and higher purposes are promises we can count on, too.
That week I had to wrestle “meanwhile, God” to the ground. Blasting through that long-lost list of chores gave me time to think on such things. Finally, I was listening more and talking less.
I realized that, just as it is my choice to live under God’s authority, it is His prerogative to use me — or not. “Or not” sticks a bit. That’s because Joseph’s primary problem was mine, too. He had to get over himself and out of his own way. Only unentitled and genuinely grateful did he move into the fullness of his calling. It was humbling to acknowledge I needed to do the same.
Then I had to accept the ugliest of inner truths: I’d coveted a sister’s success. Ouch. I couldn’t begin to celebrate her if I was not genuinely “thankful in all circumstances,” as Paul urges (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT). Humbled again, I laid my ingratitude at the foot of the cross. I left shame there, too.
Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi is famous for his fabulous aesthetic — think Sagrada Familia. Another of his buildings, La Pedrera, is curiously unremarkable. To appreciate the layers of architectural brilliance, you must go in, through and up — all the way to the rooftop.
God’s truth is similar. The further we sojourn, the more we study His Word, the more evidence we find of His handiwork. It’s all His show, don’t we know?
I’m walking much lighter now. I’ve committed to do my best with talents and time He grants. Meanwhile, God will do what He will do. I will trust Him gratefully as I cheer for you, dear sister. In grace and peace, write on!
Written by COMPEL Member, Sondra Smith
November 22, 2022