Wisdom for Waiting: Ten Lessons from the Life of Joseph

It’s become a cliché, really.
“Wait on God.”
In the glib heart, it’s an all purpose non-answer.  It’s what we say when we don’t know what to say.

In Waiting on God:  What to Do When God Does Nothing, Wayne Stiles opens the lens of Scripture to take in the Old Testament life of Joseph and de-formulizes that formulaic phraseBecause Joseph spent so much of his life waiting for God to do something, Wayne helps us to see that “we apply sovereignty by waiting on God,” and that every single fruit of the Spirit can be linked in some way to waiting.  He offers much practical wisdom in every chapter, but I plucked ten fruitful principles for my own heart to remember when I’m waiting for God to act:

  1. Mind the gaps!  What we don’t see in biblical narrative is the large gaps of time between the great moments.  Biblical lives were not non-stop action any more than ours are, and it is during these God-orchestrated gaps that we do our waiting . . . and wondering.  For better insight into Joseph’s life, be sure to follow Joseph’s story found in Genesis 37-50, and available with just a click at Biblegateway.com (#bgbg2).
  2. If you’ve spent a lifetime in a family that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, it takes more than promises to keep from repeating their failures.  God is at work in this kind of challenging commitment to change.  He rescued Joseph from resorting to unhealthy patterns, and He will meet us in our waiting times to bring about changes that will move our hearts away from generational sin.  (Genesis 37:19,20)
  3. The hunger that gnaws at your heart during times of waiting will not be satisfied by a quick fix.  Don’t short-circuit God’s good plan by settling for Satan’s short-cut.  (Genesis 39:9)
  4. Judah, Joseph’s brother,  left home and used sex as a sedative for a disappointing life.  Joseph’s denial of Potiphar’s wife was a decision NOT to gratify himself, but, instead, to wait.  Like Joseph, we may have to wait (long and hard) for a glimpse of God’s reasoning behind His assignment of waiting,  (Genesis 39:20, 21).
  5. The pit of waiting is God’s stop-light where we build character for what lies ahead.  Deep rootedness is a higher priority than present-day productivity.  (Psalm 105:18,19)
  6. Obscure faithfulness in our daily walk with God is not a path to immediate maturity or success.  Joseph may have felt forgotten for two years, but he did not forget God.  While Joseph’s abilities were on the shelf, God was preparing him for later success.  (Luke 16:10)
  7. While we think of waiting as the problem, God intends the time of waiting to REVEAL the problem.  God used time to create space for forgiveness among the sons of Jacob and also to open their father Jacob’s own heart.  (Genesis 43:14)  Wayne Stiles challenges his readers to “consider the joy you would have if you surrendered the life you want and embraced the life God is waiting to give you.”
  8. God devotes three chapters to the twenty-four hour waiting period before Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.  It was the climax of a twenty-two year wait for reconciliation.  In his father Jacob’s case, he did not even realize that he had been waiting — the blessing of seeing his son alive again was completely unexpected!  (Ephesians 3:20)
  9. Joseph was quick to give God credit for the plot-line of his life:
    “God will interpret your dream, Pharaoh.”
    “God meant your evil for good, brothers.”
    Recognizing God at work made it possible for Joseph to forgive whole-heartedly.  Reconciliation followed even after all the lost years.
  10. By the time Jacob passed away, the long view had proved him joyously wrong in his lament that “all things are against me!”   Hopelessness has no place in our lives, even in the midst of agony like Jacob experienced.  When his sons buried him, these Old Testament saints died “without receiving the promises.”  We, too, live with continual hope of promises that we have yet to see.

And so we wait.  The Christian life is one of obedience which requires an eternal perspective during the moments when it appears that God is inactive.  Joseph’s story is our story, but it is also true that his hope is our hope.  As we wait individually, in whatever tiny narrative is unfolding on the home front, we wait for the fulfillment of Jesus’ words:  “Surely, I am coming quickly.”
To this, we reply from our deepest heart:  “Amen.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
And while we wait?  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”


This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

38 thoughts on “Wisdom for Waiting: Ten Lessons from the Life of Joseph”

  1. Love this! Love this story and your wise insights into it. “Mind the gaps”! So true…the years Joseph spent waiting, not knowing, as we do, how his story would turn out, often get absorbed into the overall narrative. So glad to have found you and this post via Blessings Counters!

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  2. Michele,
    I just received an offer for this book yesterday! You have inspired me to get a copy soon and read. I am always encouraged by the story of Joseph in Genesis. In spite of all those incredulous circumstances, he kept His eyes on God. It is something that I strive for daily. Thank you for sharing this review. I am so glad I found your link on Grace & truth. May God richly bless you and yours. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  3. Michele,
    I hadn’t ever thought about every fruit of the Spirit being linked to waiting, but it’s oh so true. I loved the truths on waiting that you shared from this book…will need to check it out. I’ve been in many periods of waiting and am in one now…nothing like lessons learned while in the “gap”.
    Blessings to you,
    Bev

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  4. ‘The pit of waiting is God’s stop-light where we build character for what lies ahead. Deep rootedness is a higher priority than present-day productivity. ‘
    Oh Thank-you Michele! For this timely review. We are at present in a pitstop. The issue of productivity and what that should look like is a daily issue I struggle with. This was encouraging!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! My natural tendency is to choose productivity over everything else, so this deep-rooted, sit still and wait for God posture comes very hard for me. I was really encouraged by this book.

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  5. Sounds like a great book. The waiting can be so difficult and hard to see God at work, yet taking that long view shows us He’s there time and again.

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  6. I’ve been in such a long season of waiting and it hasn’t been easy. You’ve given my some great points to ponder. Thankful to have you at the Weekend Whispers community.

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  7. Oh waiting can be hard! Keeping an eternal perspective definitely can help though.

    I also wanted to say thank you for your sweet comment on my For the Love review. I appreciate it! It helped me be more confident that my not-all-positive review was just fine. 🙂

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  8. Joseph is my all-time favorite Bible story and I love, absolutely love, some of the points you drew out. I might just have to go buy yet another Joseph book! 🙂

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  9. I thought #3 spoke to me the most, but then I read #7:
    “While we think of waiting as the problem, God intends the time of waiting to REVEAL the problem. “
    Excellent insights! Thanks for sharing all 10 of these, Michele. I want to do better at waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find waiting to be the most difficult part of Christian life. I know it something holy and purposeful to God however. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays this week. I hope you keep visiting us with your great posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “While we think of waiting as the problem, God intends the time of waiting to REVEAL the problem.” This is a good way to look at our times of waiting. So often we want answers fast, but God in his wisdom knows we need those times of waiting. For one thing, they remind us we are not in control but we can trust that God is and will do what is best in his timing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I enjoy books that dive deep into a biblical character’s life to tell about a theme. I may have to check this out.

    Also this sentence stood out to me: “every single fruit of the Spirit can be linked in some way to waiting.” There is much to mull over there.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. There is a book that is more on pain and trouble and grief than anything else, by Max Lucado, that is centered around the Joseph story and what lessons there are to take from it. One of the things Max talks about is similar to this – that we never quite clearly see, because of how quickly Joseph’s story moves, just how. many. years. pass between the Big Moments of his life. He spends so much time in the jail, and then simply serving, living each day out just as we live ours.

    We’re a people who live for right here, right now – and the idea of waiting can be a hard lesson to learn.

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