Earlier today, my husband and I took our boys for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Our youngest is struggling to learn to ride on two wheels. After many falls, he whimpered and said, "I'm never going to be able to ride my bike because I keep falling down." I assured him that he would as long as he stayed focused and did not give up. I told him that he would fall sometimes, but that didn't mean he would never learn. In fact, the falls would help him learn.The three steadfast rules I shared with him were this: Stop looking behind you, always look in front of you, and don't be afraid. As I spoke to him I was struck by the similarities of our conversation to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
This week, I studied the story of Joseph and learned about his perseverance and faith to achieve his dreams in spite of some tough setbacks and deep disappointments. Can you imagine the heartbreak Joseph must have felt after being sold into slavery by his own brothers? (Genesis 37) Then, thrown into prison for avoiding temptation and doing the right thing? (Genesis 39) I read in my Bible notes that Joseph was in prison two years before he was brought before the Pharaoh to interpret his dream. Two years! I can't help but wonder how I would have responded to such adversity and hardship. Would I have lost hope? Would I have questioned God and His plan for me? Would I have been consumed with bitterness, hate and unforgiveness towards my brothers? I'm afraid to answer that. I can get frustrated with God the moment I see things deviate from my own plans. I begin to question and doubt Him, and wonder if He still cares about me and my dreams. I'm not talking about major hardships like slavery or imprisonment either.
We can learn so much from Joseph's response to the tough times he endured. He never gave up on His dreams or threw his hands up at God in exasperation and anger. He kept his faith in God, surrendered to God's plan, and was obedient and pure in spirit. My setbacks and failures feel small and insignificant in comparison to Joseph's. How much more, then, should I be able to successfully model Joseph's example?
What About My Dreams?
I truly believe that many of us are in a state of waiting right now, wondering where God is in whatever it is we are going through. Wondering if He has forsaken our plans. Or, perhaps, feeling like we have fallen too far for Him to use us. Maybe some of you have given up on your dreams because you feel like you are too far away from accomplishing them. Maybe you feel like you missed it or you are too late to achieve them.
At my son's young age, his dreams are pretty basic. Learning to ride a bike like his big brother is at the top of his list. As a parent, I know that if he keeps pressing forward, he will achieve his dream. So, I continue encouraging him to listen, stay focused, and keep getting back up. Isn't this how our Heavenly Father is with us? And, how much wiser is He? Our Creator and the Maker of all things sees your future, knows your potential, and lovingly crafts all things together for His plan. His patient love for us is unending. Even when our life detours from our own plan or we are distracted from reaching our dreams, God is always in control. He is never caught by surprise, even when we are. He is the Master Architect of our lives, and nothing will prevent Him from finishing His works in you.
He Never Gives Up on Us
Sometimes we fall down and become discouraged. Sometimes we face unplanned setbacks. Sometimes our own sins or the sins of others can change our course. But, God is faithful always. He is with us in our dark times and our periods of waiting. His hand is always there guiding us. In fact, we never leave His hand. When these setbacks happen, or our apparent failures consume us, it is not the end. God is still there putting the pieces back together, weaving them back into His perfect plan for you. I am so thankful that our God is for us. As I sit in a tough period of my life, trying to understand what God's plan is for me and wondering if my own dreams will ever take shape, I must hold on to the truths of God's word:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
because His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord. ~Lamentations 3:22-26
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27:14
This last verse I have taped up on my desk at work as a daily reminder that God has a plan for me and is working it out in His time. While I'm waiting to see my dreams fulfilled I glance at this scripture for His reassurance. I can look at it when my doubts start to creep in, when I begin to feel defeated, and know that God is working on me, preparing me to accomplish my dreams.
If you are finding yourself in this place, I want to encourage you to continually seek Him and His will for your life. Spend time with Him sharing your dreams, thoughts, and frustrations. Turn to scripture and allow Him to speak to you. If you shift your focus from your frustrations to the power and love of God, you can receive strength and joy in the midst of your circumstances.
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“If anyone desires to come after Me, - let him deny himself, - and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but - whoever loses his life for My sake will save it - Luke 9:23-24