We find in the book of Genesis the story of Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons. I’m sure you know the story, at least, the part about his technicolor coat. His whole story is told in chapters 37 through 48, but in summary it goes like this. Joseph had several dreams in which his brothers would be bowing down to him – his older brothers no less. His brothers did not appreciate what they perceived as arrogance and insolence so they first threw him into a pit then sold him as a slave to Egyptian traders. He was then sold to an Egyptian man named Potiphar and there succeeded until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. He resisted and she falsely accused him of attempted rape. This landed him in prison. There he found favor with the jailer and fellow inmates who later deserted him and forgot about him.
At this point, I would have expected Joseph to be really bitter against his brothers and none too happy with God for letting all those bad things happen. He’d be saying something like, “God what about the dreams you gave me? What about my family? Why am I stuck in Egypt? This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. What did I ever do to deserve such bad treatment?” But this isn’t the end of the story.
In prison Joseph languished until the day one of his former fellow inmates recommended him to Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed he promoted Joseph to administer his kingdom. Joseph achieves greatness! In the meantime, back home his family was experiencing a famine and they go to Egypt to buy food from none other than their brother Joseph who they did not initially recognize. When they approach Joseph to ask for food, they all bow down to him – just like in the dreams. In the end, Joseph was reunited with his entire family as they moved to Egypt under Joseph’s care and protection.
Here’s my point, God had indeed given young Joseph a calling, a mission, if you will, for his life. He would achieve a place of authority. But to fulfill his calling, Joseph would experience abandonment, deprivation, accusations, and betrayal. And his path to greatness would be delayed by decades. Yet Joseph ended up in the right place and time to help his family and assure that God’s people would be provided for. God’s great plan of salvation was in full swing. God’s ways are inscrutable and, from our perspective, seem random and frustrating. We want a direct line from now to then on a path of ease and comfort, but that is not how He works. He never has and I don’t think He ever will because He sees things further down the road than we could ever imagine. He knows which zigs and zags are necessary to carry out His plan. We don’t.
I believe we all have a calling, a calling to some level of greatness in the Kingdom. We just don’t know what path we will need to take to get there. I’m not saying that we will experience everything that Joseph did, but the path will certainly not be what we imagine – or even prefer. That doesn’t mean we won’t end up in exactly the right place at the right time. In the meantime, as we wait on God, what do we do? We simply live our lives in a way “worthy of the calling” (Ephesian 4:1) and not minimize the impact we are already having on those around us. After all, that is part of the greatness of the Kingdom, here and now.