Letting God Develop Us

“Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them— Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” (Psalm 105: 17-19, NLT)

From the moment I was allowed to sign up for classes for my junior year of high school, there was one class that I was dying to take: photography. Little did I know, as I sat down on my first day, that I was about to learn an art that took a whole lot more work than the point-and-click photography I was accustomed to.

Oh, no. This photography class dealt solely in film. We learned every step of creating a photo, leading up to the ever-exciting experience of using a dark room. Even up to that point, there were days of work put into taking a picture and preparing the film before you can even get to the point where you can process the picture to see the full picture.

The whole notion of film is that it uses light to take a picture. So if you prepared the negative in daylight without first chemically setting the image, you would ruin the film, essentially over-writing the image to a blank, white nothing. After taking a picture, you’d have to throw the film and a metal container into a black bag with holes for your arms and tie your hands into the bag to keep light from seeping in. From there, you had to remove the film from its canister and load it into a spiralized reel so the film wouldn’t rest on itself while you were chemically setting the images. The challenge was, you were doing a very involved process that only became more involved because you couldn’t see what you were doing.

Once the film was loaded into the reel and you chemically set the images, the negatives had to dry and the next day, they could go into the dark room, where even more steps included exposing photo-sensitive paper to your negatives and repeating the chemical process to set the image on the paper. All in all, the whole process takes several steps, waiting periods, and lots of chemistry knowledge, but every step is important in seeing the moment you captured with light and lens.

Each step is important. To skip a step would risk ruining the end result.

And that reminds me of the story of Joseph. When we first meet him in Genesis 37, Joseph is a young dreamer who is not afraid to boast about his God-given gifts and the favor he holds with his father. He’s unrefined and prideful, a braggart and slightly tactless. All of these things, lead to his brothers selling him into slavery. No doubt, the brothers wronged Joseph, but what none of them know in their youth, is that Joseph’s being enslaved would be the first step of many that would humble him, test his character, develop his gifts for dream interpretation and administration, and prepare him to be the– for lack of a better term– prime minister to Egypt. Along the way, he is bought as a slave in Potiphar’s house, where Potiphar eventually gives him free reign in his home in running his affairs. Before too long, Joseph is accused of trying to seduce Potiphar’s wife– a situation that was in all reality, the other way around– but results in Joseph’s being thrown into prison. In prison, Joseph eventually becomes head of the prisoners, appointed by his guards. Ultimately, his talent for interpreting dreams earns his release from prison and gains himself an audience with Pharaoh to interpret his dreams foretelling of a massive famine.

By this point, Joseph has been humbled, refined, tested, and molded into a man that not only interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, but accredits the translation to God and offers a solution to the issue of the famine.

If we look at the full scope of Joseph’s life, this much is glaringly obvious: God takes all things and works them together for the good of those that love Him. But every single high and low of Joseph’s life is necessary to make him into the man that would save not only the nation of Egypt, but the nation of Israel. Without Joseph’s time in Egypt, there would be no solution to the 7 year famine that ends up pushing his family back together. Without the solution to the famine, Joseph’s family would have died in the famished land of Canaan of starvation. The line would have ended there.

Abraham’s promise would have died, the line of Jesus would have died out hundreds of years before He came.

So yes, there were a lot of steps. From the land of Canaan, to a slave in Potiphar’s house, to a criminal in prison, to the right hand of Pharaoh… each season in Joseph’s life was necessary in developing him into the guy God would use to save Israel. And sure, the waiting was hard. Joseph was away from his family for about 20 years. But in all that time– the ups, downs, and waiting– God was testing, developing, and strengthening Joseph’s character knowing that there was. Even skipping one step would have left Joseph emotionally stunted when God deemed it time to use him.

God was developing Joseph like camera film in a reel. And like the psalm above notes, God was testing Joseph up until the very minute that God fulfilled the dreams of his childhood.

I read that verse and look at my life and see the same things. I see all the things I counted as setbacks: humbling myself enough to give up a career that made me miserable, a full-scale attack on my character in 2018 from someone I trusted, family stress that severely tested every area of my life and beliefs. I look back on it all, and I see where God was developing me. I see the days where He was beckoning me into the dark room, meticulously working on my character and refining those things in me that would leave me coming up short in the moment where God needed to use me.

Here’s your encouragement today: If you feel like you are in the middle of the worst days of your life, just remember that the Bible says that until it was time for Joseph’s dreams to come true, God was testing his character. In other words, God isn’t finished with you until the exact moment He’s done working. And for some of us, the work is going to be long and rough. But even in the lowest of lows, God is developing something within you that won’t be seen until the moment it is time to see the full picture.

If you’re going through something, keep going. Let God work his process in you. You’ll be happy you did when the time comes.

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