A sweet little brick ranch sits on twenty acres of land in the good ole’ state of Kentucky with a white fence and the sunset fading in the backdrop, prettier than a painting it seems. Wife and husband savor the moments outside on the porch swing as their two children play ball in the yard and eat popsicles while baby number 3 kicks away in her belly ready to join the fun, her due date just a few weeks away… Bedtime routines filled with bubble baths and laughs, Daddy’s infamous stories and Mama’s sweet songs, and the dear prayers of all as they snuggle in their beds for the night. Before they can blink, the weekend is over and Monday morning is on the horizon, yet for both their adventures are not “work” but their loves, making a difference in the lives of others and their large circle of friends… Daddy to build and Mama to put her many degrees to use in teaching…
Do you have a mental image like such of how you thought your life would be at a certain age? Maybe it was three degrees by thirty… Traveled to two continents by forty two… Married by twenty one… The description above is a glimpse of what I grew up imagining my life would be like at twenty-five. Although looking back on the year as I quickly approach turning twenty-six in a few days, this is not the picture I’ve found.
Rather than the surprise of a ring, twenty-five surprised me with two spinal strokes and sepsis… Rather than running a marathon or purchasing a new car, a power wheelchair and a transfer board have become my modes of transportation… Rather than gaining weight with the excitement of bringing a life into the world, I gained diagnosis after diagnosis, tube after tube… Rather than traveling and exploring new restaurants with friends, my source of nutrition became a bag of TPN administered through my veins and my closest companion, my Epipen…
I share such not for self pity, although to make the point that our lives are filled with disappointments. They may look different for each of us, although the blow stills remains and can truly be all so depressing leading to our ultimate defeat if we allow it.
This talk of disappointment reminds me of a story we find in the Bible in the book Genesis about a man named Joseph… In chapter 37, where the story begins, we learn that Joseph is 17 years old. He is the youngest of all of his brothers and his father’s favorite. Therefore when Joseph starts having dreams in which depict he will rule over his brothers, they get upset with him and come up with a plan to get rid of him by selling him for twenty shekels. Stripping him of his robe and dipping it in blood, they hand him over and then tell their father Joseph is dead.
Let’s pause for a second… Can you imagine the disappointment that Joseph must have felt in realizing his own brothers, his own blood, hated him so much they sold him as though he was an animal or an object, not a human being? When have you experienced disappointment in people, particularly someone very close to you… It would be wonderful if we could guarantee that hurt would not come, although unfortunately that is not the case… So rather than trying to stuff it away or gloss over it with a statement like “People will hurt you but God never will”, I want to encourage you to grieve. Tell God all the things you wish were different about the relationship, all the things you think this person had done wrong, and what you wish this person would do differently. Often times it is by grieving that we are able to move beyond the disappointment and then in wisdom decide how to respond to the person who disappointed us as I am sure Joseph did.
Continuing with Genesis 39, we learn that once Joseph arrived in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s attendants. It didn’t take long before Potiphar realized that the Lord’s favor was with Joseph. Therefore he put him in charge of his entire household. Although when Potiphar was away, his wife approached Joseph day after day, wanting to sleep with him. Standing firm against temptation, Joseph says in verse 9, “No. How could I do such a wicked thing against God?”. Even still, Potiphar’s wife was relentless and again attempted to coerce him to sleep with her. He refuses although one night as he is fleeing from her, she steals his cloak and makes up a story falsely accusing Joseph. As a result Joseph is put in prison…
So here we see Joseph facing yet another disappointment, particularly in his circumstances… He had worked his way up and earned the favor of Potiphar. Although in a matter of an instant, he is put back to the lowest of lows: jail, behind bars, in the dirt with chains on his arms and legs. And the thing was he really hadn’t done anything wrong. Joseph probably felt his hard work had been a waste and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t make any progress… Have you ever felt like that too? Have you been dealt an unfortunate set of circumstances or maybe you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? We may not always be able to control what is going on around us, although I believe we can control our response. Thus when life hands us a bad set of cards, be sure to tell the truth and make right any wrong. Then instead of wallowing in it, make a plan to move on as we see Joseph do here, eventually earning his way back up to be in charge of the entire prison.
I also want to point out here that there may be times we disappoint or feel as though we have disappointed people whether a coach, parent, teacher, spouse… Although unlike humans, God never casts us aside or considers us too far gone. He is more concerned with our heart. So even though we might not meet our own or others expectations, if we are in line with the will of God and seeking to follow him, He will show us favor just as he did Joseph.
Moving on in the story in Genesis chapter 40, Joseph uses his gift of interpreting the dreams of the Baker and the cupbearer. Although they promise to remember him, they forget. Yet Joseph continues to remain faithful. Two years pass and one night Pharaoh has two dreams and is very troubled… Therefore the next day Joseph is sent for and after getting cleaned up, interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. We see in Chapter 41, Pharaoh is so impressed with his plan that he places Joseph in charge of all the land of Egypt and furthermore, all events happen as Joseph prophesied.
Moreover, years into the famine, Joseph’s brothers end up coming to Egypt for food and we see in Genesis chapter 45, Joseph eventually reveals himself. Notice the wording here starting in verse 4… “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.
Wow! What a powerful statement we read here. Joseph could have gotten very angry with his brothers and made them starve or even killed them right then and there. However we see him respond with grace and acknowledge that even though the brothers thought it was their plan to get rid of him, God was even amidst it all for he had something bigger in mind for Joseph. Who would have ever thought that being sold by his brothers or landing in prison because of Potiphar’s wife would lead him to become the leader of all Egypt and save his own family’s life? Likewise our disappointments, in whatever shape and size they may come and however debilitating they may be, can be used for a greater good. All part of God’s plan, bigger and better than we can think or imagine.
Isaiah 55 starting in verse 9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands”.
So even though all the things that have happened in my twenty-fifth year are not necessarily what I wanted, they are not a waste. I can trust God’s promises that He will make something good from them just as He will in your life… What disappointments do you need to hand over to Him?