Joseph’s technicolor painting

We all have them—plans that didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, prayers that seem like they didn’t make it past the ceiling, dreams that break and are shattered as we wonder what went wrong. We keep going, but often these apparent failures remain etched in our mind along with a question mark. Why didn’t things turn out the way I had planned or hoped or prayed?

In the animated film, Joseph, King of Dreams,1 there is one scene where Joseph, after having been sold by his brothers as a slave and taken to Egypt, has been bought by Potiphar and is seen scrubbing a floor. He visualizes his brothers laughing and mocking him. His tasks are made even more miserable by the resentment and anger he’s holding on to.

Of course, if anyone had a right to be angry and sorrowful, it would have been Joseph. He had been betrayed by the very ones who should have protected him and stood up for him—his own family. Whatever Joseph’s plans might have been, they were broken to pieces and scattered among the sands on his long trek to Egypt. His future outlook was certainly bleak!

But as we know, and as Joseph found out, the story didn’t end there. Despite going through many more hardships and difficulties, Joseph ended up in a position to save the future of a nation and his family at the same time. And through all that God did for him, he learned just how vast and perfect God’s plan is. God can take the most terrible occurrences and transform them into hope and a future. Joseph’s dreams did come true, just not in the way he had expected, planned, or even dreamed.

Imagine there is a gorgeous painting hanging on the wall of an apartment. It was painted by a great artist and contains contrasts of images, colors, shapes, and elements if you could see it in its entirety. But you’re not inside the apartment, and the only chance you have of seeing it at all is through the keyhole, where you can catch only a small glimpse of the darkest, most shadowed section. You might think, What a dark and depressing painting! Why didn’t the artist use brighter colors or grace the canvas with more light?

This is so often our perspective of our own lives. We focus on the dark spots, the losses and perceived failures. But all the while, our life is a beautiful, colorful, joyful, and bright painting; the problem is that we are viewing it through a tiny keyhole. If we could just see our lives from a bigger, more complete perspective, so many other elements and colors and highlights would come into view, and that tiny image would be transformed into the marvelous masterpiece that it truly can be in God’s eyes.

Maybe those dark spots in our lives represent a broken friendship, a painful breakup, a new opportunity falling through, or a feeling that our goals and dreams are slowly being swept away by life just being the way it is—complicated, busy, and not always in our favor. All of that can change, though! God can mend a broken heart if you give Him all the pieces.

I read recently that we cannot disappoint God, because He already knows that we can’t be perfect. He is fully aware of our failures, setbacks—and even sins—and He still loves us with more intensity, care, and compassion than we can begin to comprehend. If we try to figure God out or fully understand His plan, forcing things to fit into our very limited perspective, we’ll only be disappointed in ourselves and even in Him when things don’t turn out the way we’ve dreamed and hoped.

He has His own dream for our lives—one filled with splashes of light and blends of color, depth, and texture—and He’s waiting by the canvas with a brush, ready to paint it into reality. All we have to do is give Him room to work and make something beautiful.

  1. DreamWorks Animation, 2000