Dealing With Disappointment

Text: Genesis 45:4-8, ERV

4 So Joseph said to his brothers again, “Come here to me. I beg you, come here.” When the brothers went to him, he said to them, “I am your brother Joseph. I am the one you sold as a slave to Egypt. Now don’t be worried. Don’t be angry with yourselves for what you did. It was God’s plan for me to come here. I am here to save people’s lives. This terrible famine has continued for two years now, and there will be five more years without planting or harvest. So God sent me here ahead of you so that I can save your people in this country. It was not your fault that I was sent here. It was God’s plan. God made me like a father to Pharaoh. I am the governor over all his house and over all Egypt.”

Joseph was a dreamer but I doubt that he ever dreamed of being a slave or spending three years in prison. Ultimately, his dreams came true but they did not materialize as he had imagined. Joseph did understand that God was working providentially in his life to save the lives of others. He managed his disappointment well. There is no detection of any bitterness or despair in Joseph’s life. He begged his brothers not to do him harm but from that time on, it seems that he rolled with the punches. He accepts the role of a slave and in a very short time becomes an exalted slave, an estate manager which was not a bad life. Joseph had access to more things as Potiphar’s Butler than he did as Jacob’s son. In Egypt, Joseph lived in a house where as Jacob lived in a tent. So in some ways, Joseph got an upgrade. When he was falsely accused by Mrs. Potiphar, he did not complain or protest. He did maintain his innocence while he was in prison which is understandable but he does not become bitter or cynical. In a short time, he becomes the trustee of the prison. A part of Joseph’s greatest is his ability to handle disappointment, to process it and see the providential hand of God at work.


When it comes to processing disappointment, it is paramount that we understand that the world we live in is sin cursed and all humans are affected by the fall. God does not lie, tempt, cheat or betray but men do. God did not sell Joseph into slavery; his wicked hell-bent brothers sold him. I have no way of knowing for sure but I assume that initially, Joseph blamed his brothers for his misfortune. He would be just in blaming them; for indeed they were responsible. I am fairly certain that Joseph was very angry with his brothers but the presence of God in his life and his character motivated him to make the best out of bad circumstances. Joseph excels in every arena in spite of the fact that none are of his choosing. He did not choose to be Potiphar’s slave, nor the trustee of the prison, nor the Prime Minister of Egypt. It was his attitude and the anointing of God upon his life that lead him to excel in every area. After 13 years of ups and downs, disappointments and promotions: Joseph figured it out…God was at work providentially. Although his brothers acted maliciously with intent to hurt Joseph, they had actually done him a favor. God had used they wicked deed to fulfill Joseph’s dream and to basically become the savior of two nations. Joseph realized that God has the ability to make all things work together for good. The Cross is a perfect example. The Jews were motivated by hate and envy. God did not inspire them to mistreat Jesus. They mistreated Him because they were totally depraved and filled with bitter envy. They, not God, were responsible for the death of Jesus. God did not deny, betray or crucify His Son. We [Gentiles] along with the Jews are the guilty parties. Jesus died because of our sin. He did for our sin but He also died because of our sin. If you blame God for the death of Jesus, you’ll never get anywhere. We did it, God the Father allowed it but providentially He used our evil ways to bring about our salvation. He made something good come out of the worse thing that has ever happened on this earth. So step one in processing disappointment is realizing that we live in a fallen world.


Joseph’s brothers did not pull him out of the pit and hand him off to Pharaoh to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. There are 13 years, possibly long years, between Joseph’s kidnapping and his promotion to Prime Minister. Joseph does not deal with one disappointment but a series of disappointments: [1] Brothers show no love or compassion [2] They sell him into slavery [3] Joseph loses his family and freedom in a single day [4] Potiphar’s wife torments him and ultimately slanders him which cost him his job and the freedom that he was enjoying as an exalted slave [4] He is thrown into prison by a false charge where he meets the chief baker and cup-bearer and the cup-bearer forgets all about Joseph once he is set free, leaving Joseph to rot in prison. So as you can see, there is disappointment after disappointment. .

Obviously Joseph refused to give up. He may have gotten discouraged but he never gave up. It was this tenacious and determined spirit that lead to his triumph: he refused to quit. You see this spirit of determination in all great people. Winston Churchill was called the “British Bulldog” because he was so tenacious. A bulldogs strength is that he can sustain his bit because he can breath through his pug nose while holding fast to his prey. He refuses to let go. Very few things work out as we plan; life is filled with adjustments. I think we have only two options: be flexible and go with the flow or else get bent out of shape.


Someone has said “when God closes one door, He opens another.” When we come to an impasse or what we think is a dead-end, it is not, there is a right and a left or a U-turn. More than a century ago, a kid living in Decatur, Illinois, was very interested in photography. He saved his money which was no easy chore and ordered a book on photography but the publishers got mixed up some how and sent him a book on ventriloquism. He was thoroughly disappointed because he loved photography and had no interest at all in ventriloquism. He had to asked his folks what the word ventriloquism meant. But he could not afford to send the book back and he didn’t have the money to reorder so over a period of time, he started reading bits and pieces and before he knew it, he had a real interest in ventriloquism. From reading and rereading the book, he learned how to throw his voice and eventually saved enough money to get him a wooden dummy which he named Charlie McCarthy. Out of what was huge disappointment, Edgar Bergen found a career and a very successful one at that. Now I ask you, did the publisher make a mistake? Yes and no: they made a mistake in sending the wrong book but the wrong book was the right book for Edgar Bergen.

At the age of 48, Victor Hugo was banished to the island of Guernsey to live for 20 years in lonely exile. He was bitterly disappointed but in the solitude of exile, he wrote Les Miserables, one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read and has been acted out on stage and portrayed in movies. Liam Neeson starred in the 1998 version but another version starring Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman came out last year [2012]. It is a great novel, a true classic that contains honor, courage, grace, forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and triumph. This class novel would not have been written at all had not Hugo suffered deep disappointment.

The Apostle Paul had his heart set on going to Spain, some think he did but most believe the he never made it to Spain. He was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Rome for trial. There he was found guilty and executed by Nero. While in prison, he wrote Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy). Note what Paul says in Philippians 1:12-14…Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that all that has happened to me has helped to spread the Good News. All the Roman guards and all the others here know that I am in prison for serving Christ. My being in prison has caused most of the believers to put their trust in the Lord and to show more courage in telling people God’s message. I don’t plan it this way but every time I start reading a new version, Philippians is invariable the first book I complete. I love Philippians and 2 Timothy. Paul did some of his best writing while in prison. Writing takes solitude and prison offers lots of solitude. Who is to say? Could Paul have accomplished more on a mission trip to Spain than he did by writing the prison epistles? I think God closed one door to open another.

We all want a quick fix and a happy ending but this is not God’s way. The cross was no quick fix, it was a hell and a horror but it does have a happy ending for those who believe. Right now, we are engaged in the process, we may not realize the end, not in this life time. Victor Hugo wrote many poems and novels. The two most familiar are the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. He could not have know the impact that Les Miserables would have on coming generations. We live by faith, not sight. Abraham had God’s word but he never saw a nation, that would happen 430 years later.

Wallace Hamilton tells the story of the old grandfather clock that had ticked faithfully for generations. Its momentum came from a heavy weight, suspended by a double chain. In pity, a new owner decides to lighten the burden of the old clock, he removed the heavy weight for a lighter weight but the old clock never ticked properly again. It was the heavy burden that kept it ticking. Our joy is not found in our comfort or ease but in accomplishing our purpose. Sometimes a preachers best sermons are prepared when he has a heavy burden.


  1. We will all face disappointments. It is a fact of life.
  2. How we respond to disappointment is what matters. I got some bad news yesterday. The basic jest is that there is a  possibility that I may lose $20,0000 investment and it is because of fraud. I was a little upset and then I settled down and began to pray about it. I became very grateful that I was the one be defrauded rather than the other way around. Secondly, I’m glad I found out about the problem because I did not know there was a problem. Thirdly, it is just money. It could be a sick child or grandchild. Dealing with disappointment is a process. The first step is to talk to the LORD.
  3. Remember God has the ability to bring something good out of something that appears very bad.