In this case, literally.
The Bible recounts the life of a young man named Joseph, who had an impressive pair of dreams at the age of 15 or 16. In the dreams, sheaves of grain and stars representing his older brothers (as well as the sun and moon, representing his parents) bowed before him, signaling that in the future he would rise to more importance than the rest of his family.
As usually happens, this news didn’t go over well with the rest of Joseph’s family. His brothers first thought to kill him, but settled for selling him into slavery. (After all, why commit a mortal sin when you can commit a lesser sin and turn a profit in the process!) Joseph spent the next 15 years of his life (give or take) as a slave and a prisoner – all of it under circumstances which made it less than likely, by worldly standards, that his dreams were anything but the fantasies of a youthful mind.
Until, in prison, Pharaoh’s servants had dreams, which God enabled Joseph to interpret – and some time later, the dreams came true. Even then, Joseph remained in prison (though perhaps with a renewed hope that his interpretation of his original dreams might not have been mistaken). But then, the year Joseph turned 30, Pharaoh himself had a pair of dreams that nobody could understand. Nobody but Joseph, who was called from prison to tell Pharaoh what he knew. Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, but as a result of the interpretation God allowed Joseph to give, and Pharaoh’s gratitude for the enlightenment, Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt – then the most powerful nation in the world.
Joseph’s dreams came true. (Literally, if you read the rest of the story…but I’ll refer you to Genesis 40 et seq and let you read it for yourself.) And he had to wait a very, very long time for it to happen.
I have often wondered how Joseph managed through the dark days (and months, and years) when it seemed almost impossible for God’s promises to come to pass. I imagine him standing in a prison cell, staring at the stars, praying and reminding himself that nothing – nothing – is impossible with God, no matter what the world says or thinks about it. I consider how the people around him must have laughed at his faith, or dismissed it with shaking heads. Joseph, you fool. You’re a prisoner and a slave. The only things bowing down to you are the sheaves of wheat your scythe cuts down.
But Joseph knew what God had told him, and he never lost faith that God was true.
Recently, I prayed a very serious prayer about some things I know to be true, as clearly as Joseph knew the interpretation of his dreams (and not much less impossible, if looked at by the world). Like Joseph, I am waiting and trying to remain obedient and faithful until they come to pass. Like Joseph, the years are passing, and like Joseph, I have reached the point where faith and patience are a matter of choice. My faith is not weakened by the passage of time, but at some point we must decide whether or not we still believe our understanding is correct. I have made that choice. I still believe.
But last week I began to pray about these things I know to be true, and asked – if it wasn’t inappropriate, or too much trouble, or outside the rest of the Master Plan – if I could have some reassurance, some indication that I had in fact understood these things correctly, and that God had heard my prayers. If it wasn’t too much trouble. Some kind of little sign.
Every night for a week, I prayed this prayer. I prayed it in confidence, knowing that I would continue to believe even if I didn’t receive a sign, but also knowing that the Bible tells us to place everything before God in prayer, because he cares for us.
This morning, the sign came, in an unexpected and dramatic form. I received news that another prayer – one I now confess I prayed more from diligence than from belief that my words would make a difference (though I truly wanted them to make a difference, and hoped they would, I just considered the matter very, very difficult to achieve) – was granted, in a fashion that was nothing short of miraculous.
When I heard the news, I almost fell out of my chair.
I can’t tell you the exact nature of the proof at this time – that story isn’t mine to tell. I can’t tell you – yet – the deeper things that prompted the prayers in the first place, though in time I may not have to. Like Joseph’s dreams, they will be evident to all who know me when they actually come to pass.
But I would shirk my duty if I didn’t post to confess the truth I learned again this morning, in a form much more dramatic than I ever expected to see.
God is there. He is listening, and when you speak, He hears you. I will not hate you if you don’t believe that as I do, but if you don’t I offer you this challenge: Try. Sit down tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, and say an honest prayer to the God who answered the prayers of the Yak – the Creator God of the Universe. Ask Him to prove to you that He exists, and that he’s heard your prayer. Don’t ask it as a challenge, or a dare. Ask it from an honest wish to know if I spoke the truth.
He’s already promised He will answer. Try it and see.