In an attempt to make the navigation of the reading as easy as possible, all of the verses have been pulled from www.biblegateway.com and linked appropriately so that you can simply click highlighted words and be taken directly to the verse.
To begin, click the link below to read the passage that we will be diving into and studying together this month.
GOD'S GOOD PURPOSES
Key Verse: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Date Written: Around 1445 B.C.
GOD'S GOOD PURPOSES
We live in a world where we have instant knowledge on almost any subject right at our fingertips. With a few clicks of a button, we can “google” or search for answers to almost any question we can think of.
This funny thing is that you could probably look at the search history on my computer or phone to find out what had consumed my thoughts that week. With this instant knowledge also comes the misconception that there is an absolute answer to every “why”. And while maybe that is partly true, some answers that bring understanding to situations are not available immediately and sometimes not even for years to come.
We know and trust that God is good because the Bible tells us this. We also know that God loves His children.
So how it that God is a good God that loves us, yet He allows us to suffer, and sometimes quite significantly?
It seems that I hear this question asked more than any other. And there was a time that it was even me asking the question.
It seems that when we witness or encounter someone walking through hardships and difficulties, our first thought is to make a connection between their suffering and a mess up, mistake, or sin in their life.
And while this can most definitely be the case at times, it’s not the only explanation. Suffering can result from physical pain such as sickness and disease and also from mental or psychological pain. Suffering can happen because of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. And unfortunately, suffering can also be present because of human actions. Sometimes at the fault of our own self and sometimes from others and we were just the innocent bystander.
In regard to the innocent, let's look at the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis.
The story of Joseph began in Genesis 32, when Joseph was born to Jacob (renamed Israel by God in Genesis 32:28) and his wife, Rachel. Joseph had 11 brothers; 10 of which were his half-brothers. There was no denying the favoritism shown to him by his mother and father (Gen.37:3) Because of this, Joseph’s brothers were extremely jealous of him. Their envy combined with a bit of boasting from Joseph regarding his dream to rule over them, birthed a motivation in them to kill their brother. But upon further consideration they decided instead to sell “him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver “(v. 28). At 17 years old, Joseph was taken to Egypt, and his mother and father were told he had been killed by a wild animal.
Jacob suffered tremendously for many years believing his son Joseph was dead. (Genesis 37:34-35)
Joseph’s brothers suffered because of the guilt they experienced from their shameful, scandalous actions toward their brother. (Genesis 42:21-22)
And Joseph himself suffered. He was separated from his family, taken to Egypt, became a slave, and then a prisoner (again at no fault of his own).
I wonder if Joseph thought, “How it that God is a good God that loves me, yet He is still allowing me to suffer quite significantly.?”
While that isn’t a question that I can answer, what I can answer is that the result of this suffering was that Joseph became a trusted slave and an interpreter of dreams. These dreams saved the land of Egypt as well as other surrounding countries during a time of famine. And because of this he was made governor over the land and second in command to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:39).
Back in Canaan, the home of Joseph’s family, the effects of the famine were taking a toll on the land. Because of this, Joseph's brothers traveled some 400 miles to Egypt to purchase grain. And wouldn’t you know that the one that would oversee selling it to them would be none other than Joseph; the brother that they sold into slavery many years prior.
Remember the dreams that Joseph shared with them –the dreams that in addition to his parents’ favoritism brought forth jealous envy that created a desire in them to rid him of their presence?
“Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” (Genesis 37:7)
“Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Genesis 37:9).
And as the brothers traveled to purchase grain, not recognizing Joseph as their brother, “they bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Genesis 42:6).
After a few trips from Canaan to Egypt, Joseph could no longer keep this secret from his brothers. The Bible tells us that he wept as he revealed his identity. And as one would expect, the brothers were troubled and scared.
But Joseph welcomed them into Egypt and soon he would see his father again, face to face. Before Jacobs's death, he prophesied the blessing for each of his sons. Joseph’s blessing from his father in Genesis 49:22-26 reads like this:
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.”
After Jacob’s death, Joseph, the patriarch of the nation of Israel, revealed again the understanding of unjust suffering. While he had every right to lash out and destroy his brothers during the famine, he did just the opposite because he knew that amid all that he had endured, God is good, that He loved him, and that there was a purpose and plan even in the pain. This is portrayed in his words to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-20.
“But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
I Still realize I can’t google an answer to the exact specifics of the reasons for suffering in our lives. What I can tell you with certainty is this…
Because of the fall of man and the original sin in Genesis 3, suffering in this broken world is inevitable –for the believers and the nonbelievers. And while I know that this is still hard to wrap our heads around, the relief in the suffering is knowing that God has a plan and that there is hope in Him. This is our Joy! Not that life is easy or void of heartache. But instead that as we hope in Him, He reveals His perfect nature in us --a nature that comforts us in the midst of brokenness. Our trust in this doesn’t depend on our ability to understand it. God does –and that’s what matters.
I recognize that as I write this, there are those reading that may have or currently be suffering and hurting in ways that I do not understand. My prayer for you today is that when are struggling that you recognize fully that it is the power of God that can shine through you in your weakest moments if you just trust in Him. And during these moments seek Him as maybe you never have before. Spend time with Him daily. Pray to Him, meditate on His Word, and just abide in Him. Trusting that apart from Him, we can do absolutely nothing. (John 15).
If you need someone to pray with you and for you, please never hesitate to reach out to me.
PRAY WITH ME
Today, I trust that you, “O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you (psalm 86:5). I am so thankful that I can trust you in the best of times and also the moments of difficulty and suffering. I ask that you forgive me for any moments of question and doubt. And I also ask that you forgive me for circumstances that I may have been the cause of my own suffering and the suffering of others due to sin in my life. I pray that when suffering may come that you will use it for good and that you will produce fruit in my life that will honor you. And in this midst of the pain, I ask that you strengthen me so that I can persevere, grow my faith, comfort me with your presence, bring me peace, and always help me to remember that my true JOY is found only in you.
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