And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
Trust me, I understand how hard it can be to believe that something good can come out of a bad situation, but time and again in the Word of God, we see examples of the Lord giving truth to this promise.
Perhaps one of the most amazing stories of God working bad things to the good happens in the life of Joseph, whose drama reads more like a soap opera than the real life that it is. Despite all the terrible things that happen in his life, Joseph always does the best he can do according to the abilities God has given him, acknowledges God’s superiority in all things, and is thankful above all else.
You recall Joseph’s challenges and triumphs:
- Joseph, a favorite of his father Jacob because he is the son of Rachael, is betrayed by older brothers, who argue over killing him or just throwing him down an empty well.
- Having determined to spare his life, the brothers sell Joseph into slavery with a band of travelers, ensuring that the young man will never see his father again.
- Once Joseph arrives in Egypt, he becomes a slave to the captain of the guard. Joseph could wallow in the misery of being all alone in a foreign land and no longer free, but instead he works to the best ability God has given him and rises to be second in the house.
- Before Joseph can settle into too fine a life, he is faced with another betrayal. His master’s wife, trying and failing to seduce Joseph, falsely accuses him of attacking her and gets Joseph sent to prison.
- In prison, stuck inside a dank, dark cell, Joseph could give up, but instead, he becomes the best at what God has given him the ability to do at the prison. Once again, he is given much responsibility.
- While Joseph is in prison, the Pharaoh’s baker and cup bearer are thrown into jail with him. Each has a dream. Joseph agrees to tell them what God says the dream means if they will only remember him to the Pharaoh. When the men try to give Joseph the credit for his interpretations, he is quick to correct them. Not I, he tells them, but only God can interpret dreams.
- Surely, Joseph held on to a hope that he would be remembered to Pharaoh, especially as the first month passed, and the second month, and the third. But, the cup bearer, upon returning to his duty to Pharaoh, quickly forgets all about Joseph–for two whole years.
- While Joseph continues to do his best in the situation he is in, even in a place where he is wrongly imprisoned, Pharaoh has a dream no one is able to interpret. The cup bearer finally remembers his promise and brings Joseph to Pharaoh. Once again, Joseph is able to interpret the dream because he gives full credit for the act to God.
- Because of his interpretation, now Pharaoh entrusts Joseph with much indeed. Through the years of abundance and then severe drought, Joseph becomes second in all of Egypt only to Pharaoh himself. Under God’s guidance, Joseph keeps Egypt and the surrounding areas from starving to death.
- Finally, when Joseph’s brothers come to get grain in Egypt because that is the only place where grain is available, Joseph exhibits his love of God once more. Instead of refusing his brothers food and shelter as would certainly be his right considering the way his brothers had treated him, Joseph offers them forgiveness and even goes so far as to ensure their future welfare in Egypt.
As Joseph proceeds with this ultimate act of forgiveness, he explains his attitude about the ultimate sovereignty of God in his life:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8 NASB–emphasis added)
Not only does Joseph believe that God’s ultimate plan will be accomplished no matter how many twists, turns and dips our lives take, he also believes that all good things that have happened in his life come from God.
The next time you find yourself in the valley of the shadow, remember to reflect on a life spent like Joseph, who not only lived every day according to the principle that the God who wants good for us is the One Whose will triumphs, but who was also always thankful to God for the gifts He offers, including His grace.