When Your Dreams Die

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words . . . They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” . . . Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. – Genesis 37:5-8; 18-20; 28

Most of us dream about making our mark in the world by doing something great. When I was in elementary school, I dreamed I would become a Broadway star, so I attended two years of community theater classes. When I was in college, I dreamed I would become a Nobel Prize-winning novelist before I turned 30, so I wrote hundreds of pages of an unfinished novel that now sits in storage.

My dreams were sidelined for a greater calling – motherhood – and I have no regrets despite the sacrifices and heartache that often come with the territory.

Dreams die. They die at the hands of hardship and misfortune, job loss, financial annihilation, the loss of loved ones, disastrous diagnoses or, as in my case, the choices we make. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we fail to register the years and decades that slowly erode our dreams until they are no more. As we confront the death of our dreams, we ask ourselves, “Now what?”

Joseph’s dream, repeated in a different form that bore the same message, powerfully influenced him and the siblings who should have loved him. We can only wonder what Joseph thought about his dream as his brothers sold him into slavery and he eventually ended up in prison. Though his dreams were divinely inspired, did Joseph begin to think his future was derailed? We can’t say because his thoughts in those most desperate moments aren’t recorded in Scripture.

What is recorded is how Joseph responded when his dreams seemed out of reach: He remained faithful to the Lord and served with integrity wherever he was – whether as a slave, prisoner or eventual ruler of Egypt. He eventually became an instrument of blessing to the very brothers who had thoroughly betrayed him.

It’s important to remember that as his life descended into a literal and figurative pit, Joseph lost his family, his inheritance, his friends, his freedom and his reputation. Few of us, even in our darkest pits, have lost as much as he. Yet Joseph persevered each day, honoring his God and – ironically – using the dreams of others for the benefit of all.

Joseph could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him. Or he could have given up years earlier and simply blamed others for his unfulfilled dreams. Few would have blamed him. But instead he saw his setbacks as a means to God’s end.

As his brothers trembled and bowed before him, Joseph simply said, “What man meant for evil, God meant for good.”

How can you emerge from your pit victorious? Start by determining in your heart to honor God where you are. Maybe that means serving sandwiches and fries with a smile and a servant’s heart. Maybe that means cleaning toilets to keep your family fed. Whatever that means for you, your efforts will not be lost on God, who is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Seek Him today.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good thing so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. – Psalm 103:1-5