• peterfoxwell

Waiting Through Setbacks


Part 1 of Waiting. Genesis 37:1-11.

Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. August 6, 2017.


Have you noticed how much of life is spent waiting? We wait to get pregnant. We wait for our grades to get posted. We wait to hear back from a job application. We spend so much time just waiting.

Waiting is normal. But that doesn't make it any easier. Waiting is hard work.

There are seasons in our lives when nothing seems to work out, and not a single door opens. We wait for God to do something. And we wait and we wait.

This was the story of Jospeh’s life for around 13 years - from age 17 to 30. Nothing but delays and dead ends. We can learn from Joseph about how to wait for God through setbacks.

To make sense of Joseph’s life, we need to know three things about him:

  • He was privileged. He was Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob gave him a long sleeved, expensive coat of many colors - a symbol of prosperity and power.

  • He was promised. He inherited God’s covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which were then confirmed to Joseph in dreams (Read Genesis 12, 15, 22, 26, 32, 35).

  • He was patient. In spite of the covenant, he went through a long season of waiting.

Let's see what we can learn from Joseph about waiting through setbacks ...



Conflict is a simple reality of life. Some people will be against you. And you will experience all the pain and fear and doubt that brings. That's life. Expect it.

Conflict seemed to follow Joseph around - like his shadow:

  • His brothers sold him into slavery. That was jealousy.

  • His boss’s wife filed false charges against him. That was revenge.

  • He was thrown in prison. That was injustice.

  • His release was delayed because the man who promised to help him (cupbearer to Pharaoh) forgot about him. That was selfishness.

Joseph knew God had promised him blessings, but all he ever got was beaten down. It was 13 years of setbacks and waiting for God.

Have you ever called your cable company and been put on hold and heard the message, "Your call is very important to us. You are number 53 in line." Life can feel that way. I sometimes wonder if I've been put on hold for the rest of my life.

Maybe you've been wondering the same thing - over and over for years. Everything seems to be against you. People stand in your way. All you can do is wait. It’s such a common experience that it's written about in a psalm - Psalm 13:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me. 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” - Psalm 13:1-2

It's crucial to expect setbacks. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written, "Acceptance of reality is the only place from which change can begin." He goes on, "The question is: How can we use this as something positive?" - The Book of Joy, page 224. When we expect setbacks, THEN we're ready to learn how to wait in faith for God. Even as Christ waited for God through the cross and the grave.


I believe Joseph's setbacks taught him something very valuable. It's something we need to learn: Waiting for God means trusting him even when nothing changes.

We want God to move, to change our circumstances, to open doors, to promote us, to make a way. We're waiting for God to DO something obvious and amazing. But the Lord very often does not work according to our blueprint or our timetable. His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9-10):

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” - Romans 11:33-34

In the dark times, Joseph learned this: God is always keeping his covenant promises. He is always working for our good. He never fails. Even when we don't see his favor and people are against us and we're not getting what we dream of (this is the point of Romans 8:14-39).

That's a hard lesson, but it's so valuable because it takes us deeper into faith and deeper into fellowship with the Father and deeper into his heart.

Faith gives a deeper understanding of the Lord's mysterious ways - "I don't understand this season of life, but this I do understand, God is my friend and my strength and he is always working all things for my good and his glory. He is making me more than a conqueror."

God was keeping his covenant promises when Joseph was a slave in Potiphar's house:

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. - Genesis 39:2-6

God was keeping his covenant promises when Joseph was a prisoner in Potiphar's jail:

While Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. - Genesis 39:20-23

God's working may not be so obvious in our situations (I wonder if Joseph saw things as clearly as they appear in the verses), but that doesn't mean it's not real.

Learning to trust God in the dark and difficult times equips us for life - for anything that happens. Listen what Jeremiah wrote about the power of faith:

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8

Faith puts us where God can help us. If we stay in faith, the Lord fills us with his life-giving strength. We might bend, but we won't collapse when the hurricane winds of life rage around us. Faith sends roots down deep into the mighty rock that is our God.

Have you heard the Benton Brown song, God My Rock? This is what I'm talking about. You can the lyrics at the end of these notes.

Joseph learned to trust God when he was down but the lessons stuck with when he was raised up to rule Egypt. He told his brothers:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." - Genesis 50:20

Faith replaced revenge and bitterness.


Waiting through setbacks is hard. Waiting is frustrating. AND WAITING IS TOTALLY NORMAL. We''ll all go through seasons of delay, dead-ends, disappointments, and closed doors. So ... get ready.

Get ready by following Joseph's life. Learn to trust God to keep his promises. Study what it means that God has made covenant with you and sealed it in Christ's blood shed on the cross. Believe the covenant guarantees his promises to you. Read Hebrews 8 to find out more:

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." - Hebrews 8:10

Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - Hebrews 9:15

Teach yourself Romans 8 until you are totally convinced that waiting doesn't mean God is gone. It doesn't mean we're alone. It doesn't mean we're on the trash heap of life - rejected, unloved, useless.

Get your faith to the point where you believe that God has you in his grip - permanently, forever, no matter what's happening in your life; that the Spirit is interceding for you; that he is bringing you safely to glory; that the devil himself cannot keep you from God's love in Christ; that you will conquer every enemy, every obstacle, every dark day, and every setback until that day when you stand before the Lord complete.

You can wait through setbacks if you wait by faith.

Song: God My Rock

Verse 1

When my heart is overwhelmed

I will look to You alone

God my rock God my rock God my rock

You will stand when others fall

You are faithful through it all

God my rock God my rock God my rock


In the blessing in the pain

Through it all You've never failed me

Chorus 1

You are the strength of my heart

You are the strength of my heart

I can rely on You

I can rely on You

Verse 2

When I've struggled to believe

You have not let go of me

God my rock God my rock God my rock

Carried through the darkest storms

You have held me in Your arms

God my rock God my rock God my rock

Chorus 2

You are the strength of my heart

You are the strength of my heart

I can rely on You

I can rely on You

You are the joy of my life

You are my song in the night

There is no one as true

Jesus I trust in You (yeah)


Jesus we trust in You

Jesus we trust in You

Jesus we trust in You

Jesus we trust in You God

CCLI Song # 6364728

Brenton Brown | Paul Baloche

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