When Dreams Are Dashed
How do we relate to a guy like Joseph? He was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, betrayed, imprisoned, forgotten. But his story is closer to our stories than we may think at first glance.
Have you ever been abandoned? Left behind? Sold out? Ever had your hopes run dry? Have you ever been stabbed in the back? Maybe you had just got things going in the right direction, and then your life took a sudden downward spiral. It’s amazing that Joseph went through all this and yet had the perspective to understand that God was at work the whole time.
That’s the bigger story of Joseph. Even after he’d begun to do well a second time, it was all pulled out from under him again. Can you relate to feeling like everybody else is getting ahead and you’re falling farther behind? That’s exactly where Joseph was, but he never lost sight of God’s work in his life.
We can pull at least five principles from Joseph’s experience. First, Joseph understood the overall purpose of his life was to fit into a small part of God’s larger plan for the world. Joseph knew that his life’s purpose was bigger than simply playing out his own dream, even a God-given dream. He knew he was on earth to be part of God’s story.
Second, Joseph knew God would go the distance with him. God was with him when he was sold to the traders, on the auction block, in Potiphar’s house, and in jail. He was with Joseph when he was in Pharaoh’s court, through years of plenty and years of lean, and when his brothers returned. God was with him the whole time.
Third, Joseph knew he had to offer God his very best. Joseph certainly could have done his roles as a servant halfheartedly. He could have cut corners at every turn. But Joseph realized God was right beside him in the process, so he wanted to keep doing his best in every situation.
Fourth, Joseph understood comeback isn’t about payback. He told his brothers that God was in charge of his life, not them. He didn’t say all the consequences of their actions disappeared, but he forgave them because he recognized he was in God’s story.
Finally, Joseph recognized he was part of a salvation story. Joseph said: “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). Take hold of that little phrase: to preserve life. That’s supernatural, I’m-in-a-bigger-God-story thinking. That kind of thinking says my job every day is to put my life in God’s hands, and God’s job every day is to use my circumstances for his glory.
Joseph teaches us that our struggle is always for someone’s salvation. That doesn’t mean we should say, “Bring me more struggle because more people will get salvation.” None of us runs eagerly into that battle. But when the battle comes to us, we know God is working a great purpose.
Joseph went from dreamer to slave to prisoner. How do you relate to his story?
How do you think Joseph felt when he was in prison and things seemed to be falling apart? How do you cope when things are falling apart in your life?
What do you think enabled Joseph to never lose sight of the fact that God was working in his story? How did his circumstances shape him for the work God wanted him to do?