Walk to the nearest prison, wait as the officer unlocks one of the cells, step in and ask the inmate, “Why are you looking so sadly today?”
How well do you think that will go? Not very well, yet this is Joseph’s expectation. Even in prison, while serving the prison warden, Joseph walks into the cell of the recently demoted baker and butler and inquires, “Why do you look so sad today?”
Does that question not strike you as pleasantly unusual? At first, it would seem natural for them to look sad because, after all, they are in prison. However, the atmosphere Joseph created wherever he was naturally lifted spirits even in the darkest dungeons of disappointment. Joseph was clearly an eternal optimist. Whether serving in a palace or a prison, he was whistling a happy tune.
How could this young man rise to prominence in Potiphar’s house? How could he expect smiles upon the faces of his fellow prisoners? “For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God…Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation” (Psalm 38:15, 21-22).
Hands are mentioned more times in Genesis 39 than any other chapter in Genesis, and in this, I think you will find Joseph’s key to optimism. Joseph saw beyond the hands of his kindred exchanging silver for his life, beyond the hands of the traders bartering for him like an animal, beyond the hands of Potiphar’s wife grasping his garment in accusation, beyond the hands of the guard thrusting him in prison. Joseph saw beyond these hands and had the discernment to see the hand of God that was always with him. You will see this become evident in the final chapter when he says to his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20).
How did Joseph have the perception to see through the hands of flesh to see the hands of his Father? I suspect those dreams early in his life were the greatest gift. Yes, greater than the coat of many colors was the hope of a greater plan that God was working in his life. D. L. Moody spoke of three faiths: a struggling faith, a clinging faith, and a resting faith. Joseph lived all three, but mostly he had the resting faith in the hands of God. The optimist drinks daily from the fountain of hope found in the promises of God. In order for you to expect smiles in prison, you must drink from that same faithful fountain of hope.