Why does an all-powerful God permit pain and injustice in our lives? Mankind has struggled with this tough question since time began. For those who have been victimized and traumatized, the question becomes far more than just a stimulating topic for discussion. Driven by a desperate search to find truth and meaning, we eventually resolve the question one way or another. For some of us, the search leads to trust and faith. Others, too angry or anguished in spirit to continue the search, walk away empty.
The Old Testament Book of Genesis contains a story that rivals any current bestseller or famous classic for its suspense and attention-gripping plot. It is the incredible story of Joseph, a young man who victoriously overcame one injustice after another, any one of which would be enough to embitter or break the average person. It is also the story of Joseph’s incredible God and how He turned Joseph’s pain into preparation for promotion.
For years Joseph was the target of his brothers’ vicious jealousy, hatred, and rejection. Their father, Jacob, had never disguised the fact that Joseph was the favorite of his twelve sons. Because of their father’s partiality, his ten older brothers hated Joseph so much that they couldn’t speak a kind word to him.
When Joseph was seventeen, his brothers’ malevolent feelings reached the boiling point. Genesis 37 records the ugly scene. Instead of killing Joseph as they had originally planned, they threw him into a well in the wilderness and then sold him to a band of traders whose caravan passed by. In Egypt, the traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, a high-ranking officer and chief executioner of the royal guard for Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Jacob’s favored son was now a slave.
Things went from bad to worse, and Joseph ended up in prison on false charges. Then one day everything changed. He went from the prison to the palace. Thirteen years of some of the longest, darkest trials imaginable had neither embittered nor broken Joseph. His life serves as a strong reminder that it is not suffering itself, but our reaction to the suffering, that makes or breaks us.
In the final analysis, it was a powerful, sovereign God, not Joseph’s brothers, who sent Joseph to Egypt. But the Bible puts the responsibility for all the agony Joseph endured exactly where it belongs—not upon God, but upon the people whose offenses against Joseph caused his unjust pain and suffering. The Bible also clearly reveals that God took the wicked injustices intended for Joseph’s destruction and reversed them, making the offenses work together for Joseph’s development and deliverance instead.
In the middle of your darkest trial, keep seeking development as did Joseph. He learned to forgive. He learned to resist sin and serve God in a pagan society. He learned to defeat bitterness, loneliness, and hopelessness and to persevere in faith and prayer. Like Joseph, you will discover that as you seek development, deliverance will come in God’s appointed time, and the pain you have endured will become a necessary step on your pathway to promotion.