Sometimes our dreams are dashed in front of us. We had all kinds of dreams, were convinced that we were doing exactly what God wanted in the place he wanted us, and life is not going as we had planned.
All of us face disappointment. All of us will have times of discouragement. But sometimes the load seems too much. We consider giving up and moving on to something else. We feel that those close to us don’t understand how big the load is that we carry. We feel very alone. We may feel God has given up on us.
I’m reminded of the story of Joseph in the Bible, which begins in Genesis 37 and goes on for a few chapters. Joseph had eleven brothers. They hated him because they saw that he was Daddy’s favorite. Joseph had a few dreams that made it look like the rest of the family, all the brothers and their Dad, would bow down before Joseph. Sharing those dreams didn’t help his brother’s hatred. A few of them arranged it to look as if wild animals killed him, and then sold him to some slave traders. Those slave traders brought Joseph to Egypt and sold him to one of the Pharoah’s top officials.
That would be a terrible experience for anyone. No one would be shocked if Joseph became angry. Instead of being a rebellious and belligerent young slave, Joseph served his master well. In fact, his effort was rewarded by the master making him his attendant in charge of the whole household. Jospeh overcomes being sold as a slave and manages to do good for his master. What an amazing example of overcoming disappointment. Instead of letting the disappointment of the situation he finds himself in, causing him to dwell on his own terrible misfortune, Joseph rises above that to continue to do his best as a person – and as a slave.
Then his master’s wife tries to seduce him, but he runs away in order not to sin in this way. The master believes his wife when she accuses Joseph, and he sends Joseph to prison. A second wave of disappointment must have hit Joseph. No one would have been surprised if he was angry at God or became a hardened criminal in prison. Instead, he overcomes that disappointment by doing good in prison. Like when he arrived at the official’s house, his abilities and attitude are soon recognized, and he is placed in charge over all the prisoners. Yes, God is with him, His blessing is evident, but Joseph overcomes what would have been a terribly disappointing situation and is rewarded. Again, instead of letting the situation push him into despair or anger at God, he continues to do his best in the situation he finds himself in.
After some time, Joseph becomes aware through a dream, that one of his fellow prisoners will be soon released and return to his position as Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Joseph asks the cupbearer to please remember him when he returns to Pharaoh’s palace. Joseph begs him to speak up on his behalf and get him out of prison. The cupbearer gets his position back but forgets about poor Joseph back in prison. As time goes on Joseph realizes the cupbearer didn’t speak up and he remains in prison, experiencing yet another disappointment.
Two years later Pharoah has a dream. Finally the cupbearer remembers Joseph, and how he was able to interpret dreams for him. He recommends that Pharoah speak with Joseph, and Joseph is brought in to explain Pharoah’s dream. When Joseph favourably explains the dream, Pharaoh ends up making Joseph his second in command!
Joseph survived a few waves of disappointment – terrible things to endure. He made it through and God placed him over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.
Some time later, when famine hits the homeland, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food. Since Joseph is in charge of the grain, they bow down before him – just like the dreams Joseph had as a youngster! And then Joseph makes an incredible statement in Genesis 50: 20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Not only did Joseph survive all the terrible disappointments, he saw that God used what others did to him as a means to accomplish great good!
Some lessons to help us survive disappointments:
1. Trust that God is the same God in both moments of triumph and moments of despair. Joseph never blamed God for what was happening. He even ended up saying God was in all of the things he suffered.
2. Be faithful where you are, no matter how disappointing. Joseph did his best in every situation he found himself in. And God blessed him and rewarded him. Whether the disappointments result in goals left unreached or a position terminated when you still had dreams to pursue, be faithful to God wherever you find yourself next.
Be the person God wants you to be no matter what the circumstances are around you.
3. Find your sense of well-being in your relationship with God rather than in your circumstances. Whether Joseph was head slave in an important official’s house or a lowly prisoner, he did everything to the best of his abilities.
4. Trust that God will look after the future. Serve God faithfully right now, wherever you are, trusting that God knows all the next steps and future twists and turns, and that you are safe in His hands.
Disappointments will come. Sometimes they are small, often they are big. We can survive them if we continue to trust God and know we are safe with Him.
When your dreams are dashed and life is not meeting your expectations, continue to hold onto God in the middle of the frustration and pain.
Keep looking up,