Challenges and suffering are part of the human experience, everyone has them in some way, shape, or form. What are yours? Admittedly some are horrific and it’s a mystery why some go through such deep dark times while other’s troubles are relatively minor, “first world problems” as the saying goes.
The story of Joseph is the classic biblical example of this. Out of jealousy, his brothers sell him into slavery, then lie to their father, saying he was eaten by some animal. But he survives and later Joseph saves the brothers and forgives them.
Once they find Joseph is alive, Joseph says to his brothers: “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here” (Gen 45:5), and “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen 45:8). Joseph sees and understands the big picture. The very one who was wronged comforts his brothers because he sees and understands why they were allowed to do what they did. Amazing.
In the New Testament Jesus says in Matt 10:29: “What is the price of two sparrows-one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” So God does have knowledge that some poor sparrows will fall to the ground. And he says to the disciples that even in this tragedy the sparrow is not forgotten.
In these versus God allows these very unfortunate events to happen, and he isn’t surprised by them, and in them he actually accomplishes his purposes. Joseph forgives and helps his brothers see how they and their very poor actions were God’s way of saving many people. Gen 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”.
This theme is repeated in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice he says: “all things”
It’s challenging to think this way in the midst of horrific events. The recent conviction of a physician who molested hundreds of young girls, and the abuse of women in Hollywood and Michigan State are horrific, but from it people are made aware and there will undoubtedly be greater safeguards in place and more freedom for trapped children and women to speak out.
The horrific history of slavery resulted in blacks being exposed to the gospel and it is believed that the first missionary to leave American soil was a black man who returned to Haiti to share the gospel.
I do not minimize any of these tragedies. I don’t pretend to understand the lives of those who have experienced these injustices and abuses, nor do I discount their pain and agony and terrible suffering.
These scriptures show that somehow perhaps God has used past events to awaken us, and God can redeem man’s evil in a way only he can. Indeed, the very life of Jesus is the epitome of this. An unjust trial and the wrongful death sentence of an innocent man brought about the salvation of the world.
Only God can use our horrific human condition this way. He isn’t unaware, he isn’t distant, and he can use our darkest sins to bring about change and redemption. The Enemy is totally defeated.
I hope to be able to see this when tragedy strikes. Someone told me once that when something undesirable happens don’t ask God: why? But rather ask: what are you showing me? Easier said than done but it does give us hope that even in dark times God is aware and somehow at work.