Life seems to be full of disappointments. Our expectations for life seem to be repeatedly dashed. Plans are made but not fulfilled. Ideas of how life will go are regularly challenged. Every movie we watch as a child seems to tell us that every one lives “happily ever after.” Yet how rarely this happens.
Joseph is in an Egyptian prison because he faithfully rejected the seduction of another man’s wife. However, she lies and charges him with attempted rape which is the reason he sits in a dungeon with no hope of release. Joseph is now 28 years old. It has been 11 years since his brothers sold him into slavery. It has been 11 years since Joseph has seen his father and enjoyed the blessings of family. I want us to think about all that Joseph has lost. Not only think of the loss of family and relationships, but think about the loss of youth. All of Joseph’s life plans are vanishing before his eyes. He has spent the majority of his 20s in prison. Imagine what things you did in your life during your 20s and now imagine losing that time. Joseph sits in prison with no hope of release.
A Fresh Encounter
We are told at the end of Genesis 39 that Joseph has been put in charge of the all the prisoners who were in the prison with him because God was with him. A large amount of time passes by as Joseph continues to serve in the prison. There are two men who work for Pharaoh who both commit an offense against Pharaoh and are thrown into prison. We do not know their names, but we know their jobs. One was a cupbearer to the Pharaoh and the other was the baker for Pharaoh. Both of these men held privileges in the royal court and would have been greatly trusted by Pharaoh. In those days many people tried to kill a king so that they or one of their family could reign instead. The baker would be trusted because he made the food for the king and the cupbearer would be trusted because he tested the food and drink for the king to make sure it was not poisoned. Both of them have broken Pharaoh’s trust somehow and now they join Joseph in the royal prison.
One night both the cupbearer and the baker had a different dream but they do not know what the dreams mean. As we noted in Genesis 37, dreams were not considered as we do today as mere nonsense, but were considered a message from God. So both men are upset and distraught because they both have had a dream but do not know the meaning. I find it amazing that Joseph sees that these two men are upset and begins to serve them. He asks them why they are upset. Joseph does not sit down and compare sob stories. Joseph does not try to trump their sorrow by showing them that Joseph has had a worse life. Instead, Joseph asks what is troubling these men. They both say that they had a dream but do not know the meaning. Joseph tells them that interpretations of dreams belong to God. Again, I am amazed by Joseph. Joseph could have said that he is not in the dream business anymore. The last time Joseph had a dream it got him thrown into a pit and sold into slavery. Rather, Joseph asks to hear their dreams.
In verse 9 we read the cupbearer telling Joseph his dream. In the cupbearer’s dream he saw a vine with three branches. From the branches grapes blossomed and ripened. In his hand was Pharaoh’s cup and he took the grapes, pressed those grapes into the cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh. Joseph gives the interpretation that in three days Pharaoh will restore the cupbearer to his position. But Joseph asks for a favor in verses 14-15. Joseph asks that he be remembered and speak his name to Pharaoh because he had done nothing to deserve being in prison.
When the baker heard the interpretation of this dream, the baker is anxious to tell Joseph his dream, which is recorded in verse 16. In his dream he saw three cake baskets on his head with all sorts of baked goods in the basket. Birds were eating out of the basket that was on his head. Joseph gives the interpretation that in three days Pharaoh will lift the baker’s head off the ground by hanging him on a tree and the birds will eat his flesh. In verse 20 we see that the dreams come true. Three days later the cupbearer is restored and the baker is hung. But listen to the words of verse 23. “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
Think about how the hopes of Joseph would have risen as the cupbearer returns to his position before Pharaoh. “He’s going to tell Pharaoh about me and how I served in prison and was falsely accused.” Yet one week goes by and nothing happens. Another week goes by and nothing happens. A week turns to a month, and a month turns to many months, until it has been more than a year. The disappointment that must have struck Joseph as he remains in prison, forgotten again. First forgotten by his family, rejected by his master, and forgotten by his peers. Just when it looks like deliverance has come, Joseph continues to be forgotten. Yet another discouragement moment in a series of discouraging moments over these 11 years. Joseph continues to do what is right and live a life honoring God, and doing right continues to get him nowhere. He served the cupbearer faithfully and showed care and concern for his life. Yet he is forgotten and left to grow old in prison with no hope of release.
Is God Good All The Time?
We have a wonderful saying that is true and worthy of our confidence: God is good all the time. When prayer is answered, we may rightly say, “God is good.” When God does something good, whether it be healing the sick or helping the downtrodden, we rightly say that God is good. But here is the more important question: do we believe God is good when life disappoints? Is God still good when tragedy strikes? Is God still good when prayers are not answered? Is God still good in the midst of suffering and pain? Friends, when we suffer, God is still good and worthy of our full faith and dependence. It is when we are going through miserable, disappointing circumstances that we must take the opportunity for faith! When you and I are disappointed today because of what someone else has done or what has happened in your life by some circumstances, we must tell ourselves that God is still good!
Disappointment Can Lead To Sin
What I want us to see is how disappointment is often a trigger for us to sin. Disappointment can lead to all kinds of wrong emotions and responses. When life disappoints us we become prone to anger, bitterness, self-pity, withdrawal, depression, resentment, and more. We feel justified to exhibit these selfish responses. But disappointment is another test of faith. It is not just trials and not just suffering and not just abuse that are trials of our faith. It is not only when someone sins against us that our faith is tested. Disappointment by life is another test of faith. We cry out, “Unfair” and want to quit. We think God owes us a “better life” or “better outcome.” But does God owe Joseph anything at this moment? Joseph’s life is a profound disappointment, but that does not mean that you are owed something better from God. Your marriage may not have been what you planned it to be. You thought you had Romeo but you married a wretch. You thought married the beauty but you ended up with the beast. Your family is not what you thought it would be. Your life is not what you thought it would be. What does God owe you in your disappointing life?
Unfortunately, the last thing we tend to think about is really the first thing we need to think about: what is God doing in this situation? Is this not the great message from the life of Joseph? God is moving things around in Joseph’s life in a disappointing and painful way. But the thing for Joseph to look for and seek after is: what is God doing in all of these things? What is going to be my role in the plans and purposes of God? How is God going to be glorified and others served through this? I am amazed that Joseph is serving the prisoners in the prison. Those prisoners deserve to be there but not him. Yet he is serving them anyway because he is going to live a life that honors God. Since God is good all the time, what is God doing in my life so that I can glorify him and serve others? We must not allow disappointment in life to move us to sinful reactions, feelings, and decisions.
Disappointment Qualifies Us For Service
Rather than degenerating into selfish thoughts of anger, bitterness, self-pity, withdrawal, depression, and resentment, consider how you can use your disappointment for God’s service so that he is glorified. What will you do with your disappointment? You can serve God and serve others through that disappointment. Rather than falling into sin yourself, serve the beauty that has turned into a beast. Serve your family. Live a life that honors God through the disappointments. Show that God is good even when life does not match expectations.
Disappointment is a tool to break our pride that causes us to think that we know how our lives ought to go better than God does. We need disappointment in life so that we move our faith to the one who does not disappoint: our Lord Jesus. Don’t be disappointed in the life God has given you to live. Are we greater than God to tell him how our life is supposed to go? Job thought he could do that. God rebuked Job for that thinking and Job despised himself for thinking and speaking this way (Job 42:6). Naaman made the same mistake with his disappointment in the way that he thought he would be healed by the prophet of God. Are we going to tell God how life is supposed to be?
Don’t waste your life living in disappointment. Are you just going to live disappointed each day? Or are you going to do something for God with your disappointment? Know that God is working and you can use this for his glory and for the good of others. Let your heart be changed by your disappointment to look forward to an eternal home with God that is free from disappointment.