“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’”Genesis 50:19-20 NIV
In Sunday school, my son recently learned about Joseph and all of the hardships and injustices that he endured at the hands of his brothers, from Potiphar’s wife, and more. He learned how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream accurately, and as a result, he was able to store up supplies during the years of plenty so that the people in the region wouldn’t suffer during the years of famine. My son was particularly taken by the idea that God could take the tragic and terrible events of our lives and use them for good.
So, when my husband tested positive for COVID recently, we were naturally worried for him, but none more vocally than my youngest son. Together, we wept with worry on day four, afraid with the heaviest “what ifs,” despite all we know about breakthrough cases and how low the chances are of him dying or being hospitalized. What if something worse happens?
The next day, my son said, “God must be preparing us for something good—like with Joseph.” It was completely out of the blue. I think he was playing Minecraft or Roblox or something, and I was feeding our fish.
“What do you mean, buddy?” I asked.
“What’s happening to Dad is terrible, but God can use it for good,” he said.
God can use it for good. The beautiful truth of God’s redemptive work is that even when terrible things happen, God’s love cloaks those affected. God’s love ministers to and cares for the suffering and the grieving. Even when the outcome is not what we want, God’s love says, “it’s okay. It will be okay. We can work with this,” and makes beauty rise from ashes.
This isn’t to say that God causes bad things to happen so that good can come of it; as Mordecai told Queen Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place” (Esther 4:14 NIV). God will make good happen; his ends will be accomplished one way or the other, because God works all things for good.
But wouldn’t it be great if the good came through you, Esther, if you were placed in this position “for such a time as this”?
God works through our suffering, which produces perseverance. And perseverance produces character. And character gives space for hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV).
Hope doesn’t put us to shame. God can use this, even this, for good, through his great love that he poured out into our hearts.
Points of Reflection
- How has God met you in a moment of suffering and given you a glimpse of hope?
- What examples from your life or a friend’s life show how, through love, God has redeemed something terrible to bring about something good?
For the Kids
- Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph would punish them for the harm they did to him by selling him into slavery. How did Joesph respond instead? What do you think of Joseph’s response?
- You were made with a purpose, and every day is “such a time as this.” You can show God’s love to others all of the time, on normal days and on days when things are hard. How do you think you can show God’s love to someone this week?
One of the ways people are inspired to bring good out of what “man intended for harm” is to form foundations, plan fundraisers and more to work toward preventing future harm. Think back on past tragedies or crises in your life. What can you do, give, say or support in some way that can further the cause of goodness in that area? Search for a foundation or organization that supports that cause and see how you can use your past suffering for good.
I recently was inspired by a collection of essays called Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice, edited by Marsh, Tuttle and Rhodes. This collection tells the stories of contemporary Christians who were inspired in some way to work for good in their communities, each in their own specific way. In many ways, they are like Joseph and Queen Esther, using their positions of influence for the good of their people.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.