"He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant . . . until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him" (Psalm 105:17, 19). Joseph was tested and tried in many ways but his greatest trial was the word he had received!
Consider everything Joseph endured: At only seventeen, he was stripped down and cast into a pit to starve to death. His cold-hearted brothers laughed at his pleas for mercy and sold him to Ishmaelite traders who took him by caravan to an Egyptian slave market and sold him as a common slave.
Yet Joseph's greatest trial wasn't his rejection by his brothers or even the human indignity of being made into a slave or being cast into prison. No—what confused and tried Joseph’s spirit was the clear word he had heard from God!
God had revealed to Joseph through dreams that he would be given great authority that he would use for God's glory. His brothers would bow before him and he would be a great deliverer of many people.
I do not believe any of this was an ego trip for Joseph. His heart was so set on God that this word gave him a humble sense of destiny: "Lord, you have put your hand on me to have a part in your great, eternal plan.” Joseph was blessed just by knowing he would play an important role in bringing God's will to pass! But the circumstances in Joseph's life were just the opposite of what God had put in his heart. He was the servant—he had to bow! How could he believe that he would one day deliver multitudes when he was a slave himself? He must have thought, "This doesn't make sense. How could God be ordering my steps into prison, into oblivion? God said I was going to be blessed but he didn't tell me this was going to happen!"
For ten years Joseph faithfully served in Potiphar's house but in the end he was misjudged and lied about. His victory over temptation with Potiphar's wife only landed him in jail. During such times he must have pondered the awful questions: "Did I hear correctly? Did my pride invent these dreams? Could my brothers have been right? Maybe all these things are happening to me as discipline for some kind of selfish desire.”
Beloved, there have been times when God has shown me things he has wanted for me—ministry, service, usefulness—yet every circumstance was the very opposite of that word. At such times I thought, "Oh, God, this can't be you speaking; it must be my flesh," I was being tried by God's word to me but God has given us his promises and we can trust them, all of them!