I have been reading the story of Joseph again lately, and I can’t help but think of the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Joseph was the baby of the family, or at least almost the baby. He was also the favored son of his father, a position which earned the wrath of his jealous brothers. I can imagine that when the brothers were all away from the watchful eyes of Jacob, Joseph received all of the grunt jobs. He was probably picked on and mistreated, and never really got the upper hand. He never received respect.
Joseph had his dreams, though. In those dreams, the big brothers bowed down to him. He liked that thought. Being a ruler would give him the upper hand! Even if he didn’t necessarily have their respect, at least he would have their submission and their obeisance. That was enough, wasn’t it?
As an immature seventeen-year-old, he probably thought that was what he wanted. But how would his desires have changed if he had foreseen what it would take to become ruler over his brothers? Would he have been willing to pay the price had he known it in advance?
Obviously, Joseph did not choose his path. His brothers chose it for him, or so it seemed on the surface. I’m sure he would have preferred a much easier route to the fulfillment of his “may all your dreams come true” blessing. Even so, when the dreams were finally fulfilled, Joseph deemed every bit of the suffering to be worthwhile. The kidnapping. The slavery. The imprisonment. And even the continued separation from his beloved father and younger brother as he served Pharaoh. All were worthwhile.
Even in fairy tales, dreams rarely come true without a cost. How much more so in real life! Battles are fought. Hardships are endured. Failure seems much more imminent than fulfillment. Then, just when all seems lost, the tables turn and the dream is realized.
Do you ever find yourself wishing your dream could come true without all of the struggle and heartache? Silly question, I know. But, I wonder what Joseph’s answer would be if we were to ask him the same question. Joseph, in all his wisdom, knew that his suffering led directly to the fulfillment of his dreams. He probably also remembered the cockiness of his youth, and I think he realized just how much his imprisonment and enslavement contributed to his ability to both lead and forgive when the time came. Would he have surrendered the growth to have avoided the struggle?
I have seen many dreams fulfilled over the course of my life. Some required only a little struggle, while others demanded much of me. Some were simply delayed; immense heartache preceded others. None came without a fight, though, and none came without growth because of the fight.
What if I were to regard the difficult journeys as highly as the dreams themselves? What if I were to see great riches in the growth wrought only by the struggle? What if I were to recognize that fulfillment is infinitely more beautiful because of the difficult path? That is the person I would like to become, the person who expresses as much joy in the journey as in the dream. I’m not that person right now, but I can see that I am making progress in that direction. I’m determined to progress even more.
What are your dreams? What struggles are you enduring as God moves you toward those dreams? The road will be hard. The experiences painful. But I pray that when you come out on the other side, you will be able to see, as Joseph did, that God ordained each step of the way intentionally and according to His plan. May you look back and find joy in so much more than the dream!