I honestly don't know how I missed it. I've read Genesis more times than I remember. It's one of my favorites, probably because it's the biblical version of People magazine. The only thing I can think is that I was never in a place in my life where I thought I needed to notice it. Here it is:
"Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. After two whole years..." (Gen. 40:23-41:1a)
Let me back up. In the book of Genesis Joseph is the beloved son of Jacob. Parents aren't supposed to have favorites, but Joseph was it. His brothers knew it and hated him, especially since they thought he was arrogant (Gen. 37:5). So they threw him in a pit intending to kill him, but decided to earn a little cash by selling him into slavery instead. Joseph ended up working for a wealthy guy in Egypt who trusted him implicitly — he finally caught his break, hurrah! Except ... the wealthy guy's wife wanted Joseph's hot bod and when he refused she lied about what happened and got Joseph thrown in jail. Just when you're thinking, sucks for this guy, God clearly abandoned him, he gains favor with the prison guard. We're told that this is because, "...the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love..." (Gen. 39:21).
After some time, Pharaoh's chief cupbearer (yes he tested the wine for poison) and his personal baker (can I be Pharaoh?!) get thrown in jail. They both have dreams they can't explain and Joseph interprets them. Bad news, the baker was going to get killed; good news, the cupbearer would be restored to his position. Naturally Joseph asks the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him so he could get out of prison. But, as we read earlier, the cupbearer "did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." (Men, am I right?!)
Then we read "after two whole years" the cupbearer remembers Joseph (um, hi) and tells Pharaoh he can interpret his dream ... which he does and then he becomes uber powerful and saves a bunch of people from famine.
My point here is, TWO YEARS PEOPLE. Maybe you're thinking, hey, two years in prison isn't that bad, other innocent people have been imprisoned longer. I get it (especially because I just listened to a really intense fictional audio book about exactly that). But, I'm also pretty sure, since Joseph was human, that he got his hopes up thinking the cupbearer would be his big break, springing him from prison for a crime he didn't commit because a hussy lady falsely accused him of trying to rape her since his brothers sold him into slavery. Whew.
Joseph had a lot of waiting in his life, but here's why these two years stood out to me. One, Joseph was patient and faithful in a place he clearly did not want to be even when his hopes seemed dashed. And two, even in that place, especially in that place, God was still there.
Now, we millennials get a bad rap for our impatience. Sometimes it's justified, and sometimes it's not. In truth, most of you probably weren't even patient enough to get through this two paragraph retelling of the story of Joseph. I have always known, although am realizing even more acutely in a season of job hunting, how impatient I can be. I quit my job two months ago and most days I go stir crazy. Two months. Yikes. If I'm honest with myself, when I gave up my job I thought I should quickly be rewarded with a new one. Turns out though, nothing in the Bible supports my theory of expediency.
Abraham and Sarah were promised a kid and didn't conceive until they were one hundred and ninety. Jesus waited until multiple people were already dead in order to bring them back to life (see Lazarus, and Jairus' daughter). He healed people who had been blind or lame after they lived with their ailments most of their lives. The Israelites struggled in slavery for 400 years then spent 40 years in the desert before making it to the promised land.
His timing is not my timing. In fact, by expecting instant gratification, I've turned Jesus into a genie.
Joseph's two years made me realize I've been looking at things all wrong. It is not our current or even past circumstances that lead us to patience, it is God's unfailing character and promises. (See Isa. 40:28, Ps. 27:13; Matt 28:20; Jer. 29:11; Matt. 11:28-29; Romans 8:37-39; John 14:27.) This does not make patience easy, virtues rarely are. But, it does give me a place to turn in the midst of uncertainty. Whether it takes two years, forty years, or even if my circumstances are never changed in the way I want, I'm working every day, hour, and minute to hand my concerns over, trusting that patience will come.