1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
“Life is what happens while we’re busy making plans,” so the old saying goes.
Joseph learned this the hard way. His big dreams did not work out anything like he wanted. None of the details or timing were predictable (or even imaginable, for that matter). The turning points all lay in God’s hands. One moment Joseph was thrown in a pit to die, the next he’s lifted out and sold to a wealthy Egyptian who gives him run of the household. He was thrown into prison, then called to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh was impressed enough to give Joseph the keys to the kingdom.
None of this was predictable, and none of it went according to any plan (except God’s, perhaps). And none of these wrenching turns of events diminished Joseph's faith, or stopped him from dreaming big or working hard and serving his bosses. He continued to trust in the Lord, our one and only source of hope [Romans 5:5]. The repeated observation that “the Lord was with Joseph” [Gen. 39:2, 21, 23] is the Bible's only significant clue as to how he managed to succeed.
So if Joseph’s life story teaches us anything about career planning, it’s that we can’t control what we can’t control. All the key turning points, both the ups and the downs, were out of Joseph’s control. But God was with him. God was present. The living God is also present with you and me, in the midst of our own trials and successes.
So go ahead and dream big, like Joseph did. Let the dream guide your steps, but submit your steps to the Lord in trust. When we step out in faith, he will guide us, but we have to take action. As the saying goes, “God can’t steer a parked car.”
This lesson from Joseph’s journey demonstrates the wisdom of the Proverbs:
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. [Proverbs 16:9]
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. [Proverbs 19:21]
We make plans, but events are beyond our control. The Lord will direct our steps. One of the fundamental paradoxes of Christian life is the intermingling of personal will and God’s will; we make plans, but we walk by faith and trust God to guide us through the uncertain twists and turns.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014