Five Elements of Waiting on God: insights from the life of Joseph

When looking at the life of Joseph in Genesis 40-41, I noticed some striking aspects about the timeline of Joseph’s journey.

Joseph was sold into slavery at 17 years of age according to Genesis 37:2. By the end of Genesis 41, Joseph is 30 years old (41:46). Two years pass between the end of chapter 40 and 41 (41:1), so roughly 10-11 years of Joseph’s life were spent in Potiphar’s house or in prison. It is likely that the majority of that time was spent in prison. Many of us grow tired waiting a day or two, or a week, or a month for God to show tangible answers to prayer. We wait for a response but grow tired when our waiting stretches for months or even years. If you are in that place take comfort from Joseph’s life. His descent into suffering left him in a holding pattern for nearly thirteen years. I’d like to share five elements of waiting on God that we can see from the life of Joseph and throughout Scripture. While his list is not exhaustive, I do believe that these elements are critical to us actively waiting on God.

  1. Waiting on God means believing God is still our God. Joseph’s words to the chief cupbearer and the chief baker help us see that even though he suffered he did not give up his faith that YHWH God is still God. This theme is echoed in the psalms: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation” (Psalm 62:1-2, ESV). In seasons of suffering we are tempted to put ourselves or other people or things into the place only God deserves. Certainly we need trusted friends and other resources during these times but we must hold onto the reality that God is still the King even in our suffering.
  2. Waiting on God means actively calling out to God. We cannot take for granted the power and vitality found by pouring our hearts out to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). When we call out to God, He draws near to us, even in the times of long waiting or extended suffering.
  3. Waiting on God means drawing strength from the Lord. Like a seed planted in the soil whose roots extend deep before any green breaks the soil’s surface, or like a dormant fruit tree draws nutrients before any fruit graves the limbs, so in our spiritual lives we must draw upon the strength that God gives. This is perhaps even more true in the extended times of suffering or waiting. We cannot make it without God’s strength. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).
  4. Waiting on God means moving forward by faith even when we cannot see. We must move in obedience to what we already know and not do nothing. Joseph did not sulk in some hidden hallway or back room of Potiphar’s house or the prison when he suffered. Instead, we see that he stepped forward, eventually rising to responsible positions in both places. Wallowing in self-pity does not lead you there. Rather we must live out what the Apostle Paul wrote to an early church: “for we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
  5. Waiting on God means letting God build perseverance and maturity into us. An athlete who wants to become stronger must work to the very edge of their ability in order to move beyond that. The same is true with a pianist or an engineer or a businessperson. It is a life principle that growth comes through stretching ourselves. That same principle applies to life with God. We will not grow spiritual muscles or produce greater fruit for God in our lives without being stretched in our discipleship. The Apostle James writes about that truth this way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Joseph experiences a transformation of perseverance and maturity that arises because he has actively walked with God in the midst of his suffering and waiting.

Joseph waits on the Lord and we see God do a new work in Joseph’s life. So, too, in our lives God will do new things in our lives as we wait upon Him in the midst of our seasons of suffering.

“Come, Follow Me” – a prayer poem

Inspired by Matthew 4:18-25

Come, follow Me—
all you at work and at rest,
all you burdened with responsibility
all you with no sense of direction.

Come, follow Me—
all you living in another’s shadow
and all you trying to prove something,
all you who belong and all you on the outside.

Come, follow Me—
all you sick with diverse diseases
and all you who think you are well,
all you searching and all you wandering.

Come, follow Me—
all you afflicted by demons inside and outside
and all you in pain or paralyzed,
all you at ease and all in a state of dis-ease.

Come, follow Me—
all of you, regardless of your challenges or joys,
all of you, in every place you find yourselves,
each and every one of you.

Come, follow Me—
let it begin right now,
let it begin again all through the day,
let your life be shaped by following Me.

The Weekend Wanderer: 3 September 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


robert-bye-VkZuNpXxdIg-unsplash“A Life Lived Upward Toward God” – Eugene H. Peterson at Renovare: “An old tradition sorts the difficulties we face in the life of faith into the categories of world, flesh and devil. We are, for the most part, well warned of the perils of the flesh and the wiles of the devil. Their temptations have a definable shape and maintain a historical continuity. That doesn’t make them any easier to resist; it does make them easier to recognize. The world, though, is protean: each generation has the world to deal with in a new form. World is an atmosphere, a mood. It is nearly as hard for a sinner to recognize the world’s temptations as it is for a fish to discover impurities in the water. There is a sense, a feeling, that things aren’t right, that the environment is not whole, but just what it is eludes analysis. We know that the spiritual atmosphere in which we live erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love, but it is hard to put our finger on what is wrong. One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgments….For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. A disciple is a learner, but not in the academic setting of a school-room, rather at the work site of a craftsman. We do not acquire information about God but skills in faith.”


webRNS-Climate-Change1-082922-1536x1024“Evangelical group releases climate change report, urges a biblical mandate for action” – Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service: “The National Association of Evangelicals unveiled a sweeping report Monday (Aug. 29) on global climate change, laying out what its authors call the ‘biblical basis’ for environmental activism to help spur fellow evangelicals to address the planetary environmental crisis. ‘Creation, although groaning under the fall, is still intended to bless us. However, for too many in this world, the beach isn’t about sunscreen and bodysurfing but is a daily reminder of rising tides and failed fishing,’ reads the introduction of the report, penned by NAE President Walter Kim. ‘Instead of a gulp of fresh air from a lush forest, too many children take a deep breath only to gasp with the toxic air that has irritated their lungs.’ But the authors admit persuading evangelicals is no small task, considering the religious group has historically been one of the demographics most resistant to action on the issue. The nearly 50-page report, titled ‘Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment,’ opens with a section that insists protecting the environment is a biblical mandate.”


MLK monument“Black Americans Have a Clear Vision for Reducing Racism but Little Hope It Will Happen” – Kiana Cox and Khadijah Edwards at Pew Research Center: “More than a year after the murder of George Floyd and the national protests, debate and political promises that ensued, 65% of Black Americans say the increased national attention on racial inequality has not led to changes that improved their lives.1 And 44% say equality for Black people in the United States is not likely to be achieved, according to newly released findings from an October 2021 survey of Black Americans by Pew Research Center. This is somewhat of a reversal in views from September 2020, when half of Black adults said the increased national focus on issues of race would lead to major policy changes to address racial inequality in the country and 56% expected changes that would make their lives better. At the same time, many Black Americans are concerned about racial discrimination and its impact. Roughly eight-in-ten say they have personally experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity (79%), and most also say discrimination is the main reason many Black people cannot get ahead (68%).   Even so, Black Americans have a clear vision for how to achieve change when it comes to racial inequality. This includes support for significant reforms to or complete overhauls of several U.S. institutions to ensure fair treatment, particularly the criminal justice system; political engagement, primarily in the form of voting; support for Black businesses to advance Black communities; and reparations in the forms of educational, business and homeownership assistance. Yet alongside their assessments of inequality and ideas about progress exists pessimism about whether U.S. society and its institutions will change in ways that would reduce racism.”


webRNS-Kallistos-Ware“Remembering Kallistos Ware, revered Orthodox Christian theologian” – John Chryssavgis in Religion News Service: “Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, without a doubt the most renowned and popular Orthodox Christian theologian of recent decades, died on Wednesday (Aug. 24) at 87. A convert to Orthodox faith, he became bishop of the see of Diokleia and was considered the most prolific and proficient communicator of patristic theology and Orthodox spirituality in our generation. For more than 30 years until retiring in 2001, he taught at Oxford University in England (where I studied with him for three years) and was known as an assiduous scholar, punctilious lecturer and conscientious adviser. He also served as parish priest at the Oxford Orthodox community that housed the Greek and Russian congregations. Indeed, what drew many, including me, to Oxford was his rare combination of the scholarly and spiritual, academia and asceticism, of patristic literature and profound liturgy — of Orthodox Christianity as a living and life-changing tradition.”


Matt Chandler“Matt Chandler Steps Aside After Inappropriate Online Relationship” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler announced on Sunday that he had an inappropriate online relationship with a woman and is taking an indefinite leave of absence from preaching and teaching. The relationship was not sexual or romantic, Chandler told his church, but the elders believed the frequent and familiar direct messages exchanged over Instagram were ‘unguarded and unwise’ and ‘revealed something unhealthy in me.’ Chandler said he agreed with their assessment and was grateful for the spiritual oversight. ‘We cannot be a church where anyone is above the Scriptures and above the high heavenly call into Christ Jesus,’ Chandler said. ‘The Word of God holds me to a certain standard. And I fell short.'”


_126477935_57024a47-535b-4c2d-9b8c-c62a53e638bb“‘Man of the Hole’: Last of his tribe dies in Brazil” – Vanessa Buschschlüter at BBC News: “The last remaining member of an uncontacted indigenous group in Brazil has died, officials say. The man, whose name was not known, had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years. He was known as Man of the Hole because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces. His body was found on 23 August in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence. The man was the last of an indigenous group whose other remaining six members were killed in 1995. The group lived in the Tanaru indigenous area in the state of Rondônia, which borders Bolivia. The majority of his tribe were thought to have been killed as early as the 1970s by ranchers wanting to expand their land. The Man of the Hole is thought to have been about 60 years old and to have died of natural causes.”


Music: Fernando Ortega, “Trisagion,” from Come Down, O Love Divine

A Prayer on the Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

Blue sky sunshine

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Jesus Christ. We could not buy or earn this favor but have received it from You as a generous gift. We don’t take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. Thank You that we can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, adoption, and being able to call on You? All these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we pursue with our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning. Yet here with You we find all we most need given as sheer received gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within our spirits what the Scriptures tell us is true and our new reality.Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ. Thank You that we are privileged to share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship with Christ Jesus. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with abounding praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, and recipients of the Holy Spirit. We choose to yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Strengthen us to deny ourselves that we might also find the abundant life in You. Give us power each step of this journey that we might live a long obedience in the same direction. Again, today, Lord, we declare that we are Yours.

“Mary, a disciple of Christ”: a word from St. Augustine of Hippo

A good word from St. Augustine of Hippo on Mary as a disciple of Christ. This reflects some themes from my message this past week, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”

But look here, my brothers and sisters, concentrate more, I beg you, on what follows, concentrate more on what Christ the Lord said as he stretched out his hand over his disciples: This is my mother and these are my brothers; and whoever does the will of my Father who sent me, that person is a brother to me and a sister and a mother (Mt 12:49-50). Didn’t the Virgin Mary do the will of the Father? I mean, she believed by faith, she conceived by faith, she was chosen to be the one from whom salvation in the very midst of the human race would be born for us, she was created by Christ before Christ was created in her. Yes, of course, holy Mary did the will of the Father. And therefore it means more for Mary to have been a disciple of Christ than to have been the mother of Christ. It means more for her, an altogether greater blessing, to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been Christ’s mother. That is why Mary was blessed, because even before she gave him birth, she bore her teacher in her womb.

Just see if it isn’t as I say. While the Lord was passing by, performing divine miracles, with the crowds following him, a woman said: Fortunate is the womb that bore you. And how did the Lord answer, to show that good fortune is not really to be sought in mere family ties? Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and keepit (Lk 11:27-28). So that is why Mary, too, is blessed, because she heard the word of God and kept it. She kept truth safe in her mind even better than she kept flesh safe in her womb. Christ is truth, Christ is flesh; Christ as truth was in Mary’s mind, Christ as flesh in Mary’s womb; that which is in the mind is greater than what is carried in the womb.

Mary is holy, Mary is blessed, but the Church is something better than the Virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is part of the Church, a holy member, a quite exceptional member, the supremely wonderful member, but still a member of the whole body. That being so, it follows that the body is something greater than the member. The Lord is the head, and the whole Christ is head and body. How shall I put it? We have a divine head, we have God as our head.

St. Augustine, Sermon 72/A, 7.