Genesis 37: 23-28; 36
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.
So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt…
…Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
Joseph is thrown by his brothers into a pit. They then sell him to some Midianites as a slave, who in turn sell him on to some Ishmaelites who transport him to Egypt.
Literally overnight, Joseph’s dream has become an inconceivable nightmare. He has gone from occupying the position of favourite son in his father’s house, to being trafficked as a slave to a foreign country where he doesn’t speak the language, they serve different gods, he has no freedom, and no one cares about him or his amazing dreams.
At times that happens in life. Everything seems to be going well when suddenly life comes crashing down all around us. One phone call, a doctor’s appointment, an interaction with someone – and things are never the same again. Life becomes one long nightmare. The dream seems to have died.
When we find ourselves in that pit, we have a decision to make: What will my response be to God and to those around me in this time? And it’s very often our response that determines what happens next. The pit can become a black hole of desolation and despair or it can become the place of preparation and deep character development.
So, what can we do? In the pit, when the dream is delayed, deferred or seems dead – how do we cope? A few ideas.
(i) Stay Expectant
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5: 3)
The Bible talks in many places, Old and New Testament, about waiting on the Lord. In almost every case, the word for ‘wait’ in Greek or Hebrew carries this connotation: wait with eager expectation. It speaks of anticipation, holding on with a confident hope.
If you’re in that place of waiting today - keep trusting, keep seeking God’s face, keep a confident expectation, keep an anticipation that God will keep His Word. He will fulfil His promises to you.
(ii) Trust God's heart when you can't see His hand.
Trust in what you know about God – who He is, His character, His love, His goodness - even though at times it seems that nothing is happening in your life, that your prayers aren’t being answered, that the promises aren’t being fulfilled, that God has forgotten about you. Keep trusting, keep watching, keep waiting.
In what you already know of God and have experienced of Him – has He ever let you down? Has He ever failed you? Waiting is inevitable. Waiting with hope and trust is optional.
(iii) Ask: What is God doing in the waiting?
God’s waiting room is never a waste of time if we see it as a place of preparation for all that God has ahead for us. Wendy Pope, in her book ‘Wait and See’, says this:
“Waiting is hard. In the wait and see, it is imperative that we pause to consider the possibilities of God’s design. From the depths of our ache, can we dare say to Him, “Show me what You have planned. I am willing to wait?”
Today, if you find yourself, like Joseph, in a dark, lonely, painful place - don’t despair, don’t give up. He is working in the waiting. God isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel, God is the light IN the tunnel with you. Like the Psalmist, one day you will declare:
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40: 2)