Jesus said something enigmatic to Peter that I try to mull over ever so often. The event took place as Jesus was washing Peter’s feet (John 13:7)…
What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.
Doesn’t it seem like more time is spent trying to understand what God is doing than “getting it” in the moment? One of my goals is to… in the moment… comprehend God’s activity rather than in retrospect. But alas, 99.9% of the time I can only know THAT God is at work but not WHAT He is doing. Joseph got is… in retrospect. John Piper wrote about this in what he calls “Future Grace”:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is a great lesson in why we should have faith in the sovereign future grace of God.
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, which must have tested his patience tremendously. But he is given a good job in Potiphar’s household. Then, when he is acting uprightly in the unplanned place of obedience, Potiphar’s wife lies about his integrity and has him thrown into prison — another great trial to his patience.
But again things turn for the better, and the prison-keeper gives him responsibility and respect. But just when he thinks he is about to get a reprieve from the Pharaoh’s cupbearer, whose dream he interpreted, the cupbearer forgets him for two more years.
Finally, the meaning of all these detours and delays becomes clear. Joseph says to his long-estranged brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. . . . As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 45:7; 50:20).
What would have been the key to patience for Joseph during all those long years of exile and abuse? The answer is: faith in future grace — the sovereign grace of God to turn the unplanned place and the unplanned pace into the happiest ending imaginable.