Why does God allow evil and suffering? There is no simple answer to this question so we must trust God through all our experiences. I do not need to understand how God’s purposes work out through sin and evil. It is enough for me to embrace the biblical understanding that God does work in and through all experiences. .
It is the age-old question – “Why do bad things happen to good people?” So many of God’s people have to endure the hardships that life has to offer, while only God knows the answer we, in the meanwhile, can be sure that God works for the good of those who love Him and faithfully and obediently follow His commands . Although we may not understand it all, we can learn from Joseph, who trusted God for years not understanding the purpose of his suffering until God finally began to unfold the mystery. We see in the account of Joseph: THE PURPOSE of suffering , THE SIGNIFICANCE of suffering , THE EFFECT of suffering , and THE ETERNAL REWARD for suffering and Joseph’s life demonstrated his ability to identify these four lessons .
PURPOSE: WHY DID JOSEPH HAVE TO SUFFER?
1. “TO PRESERVE A REMNANT” (A small part or number). God’s Promise To Abraham was that he would be father to a great nation that would inherit the land promised to him . The Promise was extended and confirmed to Jacob , was secured through Joseph’s intervention as his father and family members were settled in the best area of Egypt , and preserved from the famine < Gen 45:11>. They were fruitful and increased in number considering that Jacob’s family that came to Egypt was a total of 70 persons , and finally the promise is revealed to Joseph and that Manasseh and Ephraim are counted as Jacob’s sons .
2. “TO SAVE LIVES BY A GREAT DELIVERANCE” . 430 Years later they had grown from a mere 70 people to an estimate in excess of 2,000000. God delivered His people out of Egypt and it was a great deliverance.
3. “TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT IS NOW BEING DONE” . If Jacob and his family had remained in Canaan, they would not have survived the famine, and God could not accomplish His plan.
4. “GOD INTENDED IT FOR GOOD”: God had every intention to accomplish His will, He intended to fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to fulfill His promise to all mankind – the blessing through Messiah, the Son of God .
What good did Joseph see in all of this? He no doubt caught a glimpse of the future glory of Israel when he received the blessing from his father Jacob, and subsequently exercised his faith in the God of his fathers . In Jacob’s blessing on Joseph <Gen. 49:22-26>: He recalled the years of suffering that he had endured and his ability to deal with his bitterness . Joseph finally saw the purpose of God’s dealings with him and He expressed his faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; now his God as well.
SIGNIFICANCE: JOSEPH WAS NOW ABLE TO SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE . Many Christians today face the same difficulty: they learn that God forgives our sins not because of anything that we have done, but because of His grace. Yet they go through life trying to compensate for their sins rather than accepting God’s unconditional forgiveness. We see that Joseph listened carefully to his father’s message brought by his brothers, understanding they were human and identified with their anguish . Joseph had already forgiven them, and again he reassures them that he could not and would not retaliate. “Am I in the place of God?” (“Am I ‘the perfect one’”? Am I without sin? You need to deal with your own sin first.) He did not harbour bitterness: his belief in God affected his attitudes and actions: he understood God’s will in what happened and was expressing God’s love in his actions .
EFFECT: DEALING WITH SIN : Joseph’s brothers sinned terribly when they sold him as a slave and sinned exceedingly when they lied to their father, causing him tremendous suffering. Joseph revealed to them that he knew they meant to harm him and because Joseph was able to see God’s plan in all of this he was able to express that “God intended it for good”. They were all now able to put the past behind them, and accepting God’s forgiveness, they were able to fully forgive each other. How do we measure up to this example?
REWARD: JOSEPH – A MAN OF CHARACTER: A fitting epitaph for the life of Joseph: “Here lies a man of Character”. Although he was much younger than his brothers, yet God took him before them. He exemplified what it is to be a man of character by totally living for God in the good times as well as the bad times; and his example lives before us today, and we should all strive to follow on in his steps.
PRINCIPLES FOR US TO LIVE BY
1. When God accomplishes a divine purpose in spite of our sins, we must never excuse ourselves for doing wrong. Joseph’s brothers were responsible for their sins against their father and Joseph, even though God used their evil deeds to accomplish His purpose.
2. While we are alive on this earth, we will never be able to explain all human suffering. God had a special plan in allowing Joseph to suffer and to see this specific purpose; but not all of us, however, will have such a revelation. There are sufferings that occur in life that we will not be able to explain (rape; child abuse; mental torture that drives one insane; war; etc.)
3. Although suffering can be difficult to explain, a Christian has the potential to see some meaning that is unclear to a non-believer. God can use our suffering to accomplish His purpose. He may give us the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, or help us to understand the suffering of others and use us to influence them. Suffering produces Christian maturity . Suffering can also bring an individual to the point of repentance and salvation.
4. Being able to see some meaning in our suffering, gives us inner strength to endure in ways that are beyond normal human capacities. The ability to endure incredible weakness and pain and not give up, even though every fibre of mind and body is crying out to do so . One does not have to be a Christian to be able to do this, but how much more this can be understood and experienced by a child of God.