Sidetracked Dreams and Sovereignty


Are you grieving over sidetracked dreams? Has too much reality obscured God’s personal word to you and blotted out hope? Are you wondering if it’s practical to continue waiting?

Overnight, Joseph went from prison to Pharaoh’s palace.

Overnight? Not exactly. It was over 4,745 bleak nights—thirteen dreary years after his jealous brothers sidetracked his dream. A little innocent boasting had put him on their hit list.

Joseph’s story spans several chapters in Genesis (37-50). The narrative is intriguing with a happy-ever-after ending that almost fictionalizes the account. Keep in mind the central character was a real person enduring real hardship and suffering real pain. Let’s review the story.

One of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph became his father’s favorite without even trying. He was born when Jacob was old, the son of his beloved wife Rachel, who died after giving birth to her second child, Benjamin.

The obvious favoritism made his older sons resent the boy, and when their father made Joseph an ornamental coat, they hated their young brother. The family dynamics went further downhill when Joseph related his two strange dreams implying the brothers would someday bow before him.

Jacob sent Joseph—just seventeen—to check on the older boys, who were off grazing sheep. They saw that annoying dreamer coming and plotted to kill him. Reuben, who seems to have had a soft spot in his heart, suggested throwing his little brother in a pit. He intended to rescue him later, but the plan changed.

Seeing a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants headed to Egypt, the brothers sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver. To explain his disappearance, they killed a young goat, dipped Joseph’s colorful coat in the blood, and took it to their father, who concluded a beast had devoured his beloved son. Grief overwhelmed him.

The suspense escalated like a made-for-television movie. Potiphar, an officer of the king, bought Joseph and put his new servant to work in his house. He soon recognized the Lord gave the young man success in everything he did, and he placed Joseph in charge of his entire household.

Potiphar’s wife had a lust problem and went after Joseph, enticing him, “Lie with me.” He refused to betray his master and commit a grievous sin toward God, but the woman pursued him daily. One day when no other servants were in the house, she caught Joseph by his cloak and persisted, “Lie with me.” He ran out, leaving the garment in her hands. She showed it to her husband and lied, accusing Joseph of trying to take advantage of her.

Believing the story, Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison; but even there, God gave him favor. The warden put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. When the pharaoh’s butler and baker landed in prison for offending the king, both had a mysterious dream the same night. Joseph—relying on God—explained the meaning: in three days, the butler would be released and restored to his position; the baker would be put to death. That’s exactly what happened.

Joseph had asked the butler to mention him to Pharaoh and get him out of prison, but he forgot.

Life was all too real for Joseph—mistreated, wrongfully accused, and imprisoned. In the dark of night, he had plenty of time to review the catastrophic events since his teenage years when he fell out of favor in the family.

His dream of sheaves of grain bowing down—symbolic of a future day when his siblings would kneel before Joseph—must have drifted through his thoughts like barley seed scattered in the wind. Scanning the heavens at night surely stirred his memory of a second dream—the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing to him.

Wonder how many midnights Joseph cried out, Lord God, I remember the dream! How much longer till I see the promise fulfilled? Did I misunderstand?

Joseph may have had questions, but he didn’t waste his bad experience. He wasn’t waiting for someone to discover a clerical error and set him free. He wasn’t waiting for a better position to open up. Joseph was waiting on God.

Divine delay became a trust issue. Would he fasten his faith on the God who had promised? He did and in God’s time, He delivered.

After at least 4,745 long, lonely nights since being separated from his family, Joseph went from prison to Pharaoh’s palace and the honorable position of governor in charge of the whole land of Egypt. He was second in command to Pharaoh himself.

Who knows what would have happened to the boy if the Ishmaelite caravan hadn’t arrived? As for prospering in prison—that happens only in the movies. And the sovereignty of God. None of these events caught Him off guard or caused a moment’s concern. The sovereign Lord was, in fact, arranging the circumstances.

Although his hurt was real and his disappointment huge, Joseph early on must have caught a glimpse of God’s greater purpose—and that inspired him to make the best of his circumstances. Years later, he informed his brothers that although they intended harm, God intended everything for good—the saving of many lives. Urging them not to be afraid, he promised to provide for them and their children. His response to disappointment and mistreatment was amazing because he trusted in an amazing God.

If God has given you a promise, remember this: you aren’t waiting on a person to change or an opportunity to come along or a circumstance to improve. You’re waiting on God. He promised to deliver His people—and He will. Meanwhile…be faithful in this place.

  • Do your best. Joseph prospered in prison.
  • Keep a positive perspective. Discouragement is debilitating.
  • Praise by a decision of the will. Read the Psalms and underline every I will.
  • Trust God to deliver. As you wait, expect and believe.

Keep your faith up! In hard places, God is always doing something bigger than we can see.

 Dianne Barker—speaker, radio host, beat-selling author of eleven books including Twice Pardoned and I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck down the Street in my Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Lifeis a member of Christian Authors Network, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Women in Media (article adapted from Cabbages and Kings—Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ).Fore more information on Dianne, visit



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