Forget Your Dreams and Follow God
In many ways, life happens in movements. Often, periods of life are associated with people and geography. Sometimes, we are the change agents; other times, change happens unwelcome. An unwanted job transfer takes your family to another state, a shift in friend groups, and a move to college. These all contribute to the movements, and, like a piece of music, these movements are connected but sometimes in unnoticed ways. But time and circumstances can crowd out memories and dreams we once held dear.
These movements remind me of Joseph from Genesis. He was the son of Israel, who had a couple of dreams but was sold into slavery by his brothers. When we read the story of Joseph, he has so many more lives than all of us combined. But people move, lives change, and dreams are forgotten.
Consider some highlights from the story of Joe:
- Joseph was there when Esau and Israel were reconciled (Genesis 33.7). He must have been awestruck when his father spoke of that dream about a ladder; perhaps that is what sparked his curiosity about the power of dreams.
- Joseph lived in Canaan with his mom and dad during his teenage years. Here, he learns the trade of tending the flock (Genesis 37.2).
- In his late teens, Joseph is sold into Hard Knocks University when his brothers sell him to their great uncle’s Ismael family (Genesis 37.28).
In an unfortunate turn of events, he wakes up a free son of promise and goes to sleep a captive slave.
While his hope seems lost, his integrity remains.
Maybe, every now and then, through the course of his mundane life as a slave, he was reminded of home. But without being surrounded by the familiarity of home, it is possible that he forgot. The longer he went without the smell of the flock, the touch of the wool, the taste of mom’s cooking, the more difficult it became to remember what life was like.
While his memories of home slipped, his worship of God remained.
While serving in Potiphar’s house, Joseph could, in the recesses of his mind, pull up the comforting smell of the flock. Stowed away in his memory, he could find a conversation with his dad about how God had blessed him and his mother while they worked at his Grandpa Laban’s house. No doubt, he longed for similar blessings too. He had heard that 14 years seemed like a fleeting moment when you’re in love with a beauty—but Joe found no love or no beauty of his own.
Regardless of his propensity to let slip from his memory the comfort of home, his integrity invokes trust from his owner, and, not all at once or in a single day, but little by little, his life gets better. His responsibilities grow. His influence grows. He, no doubt, resolves that this new life is not terrible, and maybe he even begins to believe like his father did, “God has blessed me.” Then, not little by little but all at once, his world is turned upside down. What’s worse, this drastic downturn is caused by no fault of his own.
In an unfortunate turn of events, he wakes up in the morning as a trusted man in Potiphar’s house— but lays his head down that evening, accused of defilement and in prison.
Two years in a prison cell crowd out the pleasantries of Potiphar’s house. The stench of the dungeon leaves little reminder of the smell of the flock from his youth.
While his integrity remains, his hope seems lost.
This new life presses out of memory, watching his uncle greet his dad in a forgiving embrace. His new circumstances crowd out the satisfying memories of playing with his little brother, Benjamin. But he can still remember the sweet relief felt that comes when lying down after a back-breaking day of work. He can still remember the grace he saw in Potiphar’s eyes when he made him master of the house (Genesis 39:4).
But time and circumstances can crowd out memories and dreams that we once held dear.
It may seem easy to understand why Joseph’s older brothers despised him. It is important that we realize that Scripture does not express that Joseph knew why his brothers hated him. He was excited about a dream and shared it with the people he thought he could trust. Even his dad really did not like the dream (Genesis 37:10). But I doubt that at this point in his life, Joseph lived with the image of bundles of wheat and stars bowing down to him.
It is likely that he forgot his dreams, but he followed God.
While in prison, Joseph catches a glimpse of redemption through two servants of Pharaoh. But while his integrity remains, even his hope seems to slip because “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Genesis 40.23).
Joseph waits. Two long years. Twenty-four torturous months. One-hundred and four desolate weeks. 17,520 excruciating days, Joseph waits.
While he waits, his dreams of a life of shepherding on the Canaanite hillside are lost. He no longer can recall the feel of wool on his skin. Maybe he has even put out of memory the pleasantries of serving Potiphar.
He forgets about his dreams, but he follows his God.
Then, not little by little but all at once, his world is changed again.
Pharaoh has had a dream. Joseph’s friend, the chief butler, suddenly remembers his error and tells Pharaoh who it is that can figure out what this dream means.
So Joseph, who has experienced more during his thirty short years than many may ever experience, stands before the most powerful man in the world. At thirty years old, Joseph stands—with his dreams forgotten and his heart set on following God— Joseph stands in his integrity, doing what he has always done. Genesis 41 tells us that Joseph stands to glorify God and speak with understanding. Only this time, the stakes seem much greater than ever before. Many may be familiar with what happens next. The interpretation. The exaltation. Seven years of plenty. Seven years of famine.
Through an extremely fortunate, God-ordained event, Joseph woke up one day in prison, and when he laid his head down that night, he was in the palace.
He had forgotten his dreams, but he had followed his God.
And all of this brings us to Genesis 38.5.
Here sits Joseph, living his best life—he’s married, has two sons, and is second only to Pharaoh— when ten Hebrews walk in from his past life. Suddenly, “Joseph remembered the dreams.” In order to remember, one must have forgotten.
So often in our modern society, we are told through inspirational social media accounts, blog posts, and hit songs to “follow your dreams.” We are instructed, “Let your heart lead the way.” It even has echoed off the walls of services across North America, “Dream big, young person.”
However, I want to challenge this mantra and convince you to forget your dreams and follow God. Because if you follow your dreams and your heart, if you dream big, then you are in control. On the contrary, when we follow God’s dreams and God’s heart when we allow God to dream big in our lives, HE is in control.
It is perfectly acceptable to forget your dreams as long as you are following God. So, forget your dreams and FOLLOW GOD.
Time and circumstance may change your life; they certainly did for Joseph. Yet, when hope seems lost if your worship and integrity remain if you follow God, then HE will bring those dreams to pass.
So go ahead. Forget your dreams and follow God.