Joseph’s Dream and Doubt
Joseph had a dream that he knew was sent by God. Ten sheathes of wheat were to bow down to him. He may not have shown great humility and wisdom in mentioning this dream to his already jealous brothers. They rightly perceived that it was they that would be bowing down before him, and they were already sick of the favoritism shown to Joseph by their father.
Their initial intent was to “kill that dreamer;” instead, they threw him in a well, ate a hearty lunch, and then sold him into slavery. He ended up in service to Potiphar, the bodyguard of Pharaoh and a powerful man in Egypt. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to seduce her (it was the other way around!) and Joseph was thrown in jail.
As Joseph was languishing over two years in jail, did he entertain some mournful, introspective moments? Was he asking himself, “Did I misinterpret the dream God sent me all those long years ago? Should I have done and said things differently back then? Did I handle the situation with Potiphar’s wife as best as I could have? First a slave, now a prisoner. Here I am wasting away in jail when I thought God had chosen me for a great and glorious purpose. Where did I go wrong?”
Now the Bible doesn’t tell us that Joseph spent his jail time second guessing or playing the “woulda-shoulda-coulda” game. In fact, as Joseph moldered in prison, he was still being used by God to interpret dreams – this time, not his own but those of his cell mates. They were so impressed by his insight and accuracy and reliance on his God that one of them later recommended him to Pharaoh when he needed a dream interpreted. Joseph had made enough of an impression that, years later, he was remembered for his faith and ability to interpret God’s message in dreams.
The lessons of Joseph’s life are many and are useful to sidewalk counselors as they struggle with the reality that speaking for the unborn often feels futile. Their efforts so frequently result in seeming failure. Similarly, Joseph’s early life was apparently one of abject failure after failure. Nothing seemed to be going the way Joseph desired or deserved. If God was calling him to better things, what was he doing in a deep miry pit, then a slave, then a prisoner? Had he misperceived the calling? Or was the apparent failure not really failure?
During all those years of struggle, he was being watched by Potiphar as a slave and by fellow inmates as a prisoner. They saw his faith sorely tested. When Pharaoh called him out of jail to interpret the dream, Joseph humbly and faithfully proclaimed that he could not do it, but his God could.
Even Through “Failure,” God is Victorious
Ultimately, Joseph was placed in a position of influence and power, second only to Pharaoh. His wise leadership saved not only the Egyptians from starvation but his family. His brothers were restored to him and redeemed. They were rightfully fearful that Joseph would respond in anger and vengeance, but instead he told them: “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:5).
Joseph’s continual example of faith and reliance on God even in the midst of terrible setbacks led all those who had persecuted him ultimately to respect, trust and advance him to be the leader he had long ago dreamed God intended him to be. His story precedes and portends Jesus’ apparent failure as He dies on the cross. Yet, what Satan and his followers meant for evil, God used for the greatest victory of all time. The salvation of the world was the result of what initially looked like the worst possible failure and calamity!
Faithfulness and Discouragement
Locally in Charlotte, our sidewalk counselors do see babies saved; however, the vast majority of women entering the abortion center follow through with abortions. Sometimes, our counselors will spend hours pouring everything they have into a woman, only to have her abort anyway! This is one of the most discouraging scenarios a sidewalk counselor faces and many second guess themselves: “What else should I have said? Is there something I said that I shouldn’t have? Maybe I should just throw in the towel. I don’t seem to be effective. What is the use to keep trying when my best is not good enough?”
There is discouragement from the women who choose to abort, and from so many other external forces. Rain, oppressive heat, or numbing cold are exceedingly difficult when one is standing in the elements for hours. Oftentimes, local officials and police place restrictions that seem unfair and biased and hinder sidewalk counselors’ work. Opposition is often quite vocal and unkind. The “pro-choice” advocates often taunt, ridicule and make every effort to thwart us as we try to speak to the women offering hope and help.
There is Fruit from Our Labors
Recently, we were ending an apparently fruitless day on the sidewalk. No babies were saved that we knew of. As we were packing up to leave, a policeman showed up. He told me there was a pregnant woman at the police station. He only knew she had come out of the abortion center and had been abandoned by her mother when she refused to abort. She had no one, no money, no resources, no car, and was far from home. He asked if we could we help her.
The policeman did not go to the abortion center to ask for help, nor did he go to City Council who has passed law after law hindering our efforts to reach the women with the Gospel and tangible help. He did not go to the crowds of “pro-choice” people who actively direct women away from us and block us from them. He did not go to the other police officers or officials. He came to US: the sidewalk counselors.
We did help the woman. We gave her a free ultrasound, got her lunch, set her up with resources, and then drove her to her home three hours away. We followed up with her regularly, appointed her a mentor in her hometown, and will provide necessary items for her unborn child.
Others are Watching
All those times when the overwhelming number of women ignore us and choose abortion, the police have been watching. They knew that if a woman was in need, they should come to us. They knew who would help her.
Earlier in the week, one of our sister ministries called me. They had an abortion-minded woman’s contact information. She wanted to talk to one of the sidewalk counselors. It turns out that very morning, she had gone to work and found out she was pregnant. The new custodian was cleaning her office, as he had for a month, and was not completely thrilled to be there. He had actually retired, but then due to a glitch in his pension plan, he had to return to work for a month.
The woman had watched him in his work as a custodian for a month. That morning when she discovered she was pregnant, she asked him if he was a Christian. He said he was. She was glad, as she wanted to talk to a Christian about her terrible situation and how the only hope she saw was abortion. He prayed with her and heard her story. Then he told her he know of some sidewalk counselors who helped women like her. He asked her if he could connect her with them.
I called her immediately. She ended up choosing life for her child. The wonder and joy didn’t end there! After I shared the Gospel in response to her life story – which was one of wandering from God in nearly every area of her life – she submitted her life to Jesus.
All that glory ensued because a custodian had to return to work unexpectedly out of retirement. His faithful walk with God was evident despite the disappointment, hardship and nature of his work. The woman saw in him what she needed through the humble performance of his custodial duties. She trusted him because he trusted God. Ultimately, her baby and her precious soul were both saved.
Sometimes, failure isn’t failure.
The story of Joseph can encourage us in several key points:
- First: Know that not all failure is really failure. Even terrible situations can be redeemed by God.
- Second: Trust His promises. If He has called you to a specific ministry, He will be faithful to equip you exactly as needed. Trust not only His promises but His knowledge of what you face. Nothing is a surprise to Him.
- Third: Remain faithful and obedient especially in the difficult times. Others are watching. You never know when your example will lead others to trust you and ultimately your God.
- Fourth: Endure and persevere. Don’t give up. So many of us quit because all we see is the never-ending struggle and we cannot see beyond to the purpose or plan God has YET to bring about.
- Finally: Rejoice and give all glory to God. The One who designed the dawn to light the darkness has it all under control.