No sugar-coating here, no excuses, and no reasons. The cupbearer forgot Joseph. Joseph may have pinned a great deal of hope onto the thought that the cupbearer would remember, but he didn't.
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
I have sometimes pinned a great deal of hope onto someone remembering me: Maybe someone will think to invite me to this event. Maybe someone will thank me for this service. Maybe someone will tell me how special I am. In both small and large ways, we all want to be remembered and thought of and made special. However, the reality is that people forget. People like the cupbearer to whom we did a significant service move on without a backward glance. People who promise to be faithful aren't always. People who love us hurt us.
Though this verse is a harsh one, it reminds me that the Lord is the only One Who will always remember me. In fact, during the "Believing God" study (Beth Moore) last summer, there was a lesson about that very thing. God "remembered" such people as Noah, Abraham, and Rachel. God's remembering usually involves action on our behalf. Two years after the cupbearer is freed from prison, Pharoah has a dream and Joseph is finally mentioned. At just the right time, Joseph emerges to help save much of the world from famine.
I wish the Bible had included an account of what Joseph was thinking during his years in prison. He must have had days if not weeks of discouragement and struggle. How do we continue to believe that God is faithful when every human person has forgotten, and when there is no evidence that even God has remembered? What encourages me in my own times when I feel forgotten or can't see God at work is that the dungeon wasn't the end of the story, but the middle. My challenge is to believe that God is remembering even when I feel forgotten:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)