Let’s admit that with all the ugly inside of people and all the situations in the world we go through, it’s sometimes hard to trust God when he says, “I love you; trust me.”
Confident certainty about God’s sovereignty is where a lot of people get stuck. They don’t accept that God is in control of everything. They love the idea of God loving them and having their highest good in view. But then something comes along that doesn’t appear to be for their highest good, such as a life-threatening illness, the tragic death of a child, the loss of a job, or some other calamity. Usually at that point, their trust in God starts to wavier because their situations appear to be an exception to God’s sovereignty.
Clearly, what God sees and knows is very different from what we humans see or know. For this reason, Paul urges us to “walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV).” The big question for us as Christians is, “Do I trust and believe that God is in control in allowing pain and sorrow to work together for my good while I live in a broken world with broken people?”
The story of Joseph in the Old Testament illustrates what it means to walk by faith, not by sight when bad things happen. After his brothers sold him into slavery, he was traded to the Egyptians and made a household slave. Then, his master’s wife framed him by lying, and he was thrown into prison. Later, he befriended one of the inmates there, who happened to have a high position with Pharaoh and promised to put in a good word for Joseph when he got out. Instead, that “friend” totally forgot, so Joseph remained in prison another two years.
I think I would have been discouraged, but God wasn’t finished.
At that point, he interpreted one of Pharaoh’s dreams, and as a result he was appointed second-in-command over Egypt and experienced a reversal of fortune.
Then one day Joseph’s brothers— the same brothers who had betrayed him in the first place—showed up in Egypt. Had he chosen to, he could have exacted sweet revenge upon them. Once he revealed who he was to them, they assumed he would use the power to “waste ‘em.” But instead Joseph said, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:19-20, NASB).” Wow! Lord, give me that type of faith.
This is what it means to walk by faith! This perspective comes from holding onto the truth that God is sovereign no matter what. No matter the tragedy. No matter the trial. No matter the trouble. No matter the tears.
“… God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.” -Romans 8:28, NASB
For Joseph, “all things” included:
- The betrayal of his brothers
- The shame and humiliation of being a slave
- The injustice of being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit
- The racial prejudice that probably played a big part in why his master took his wife’s word over Joseph’s
- The dashing of his hopes for an early release from prison
- The years of not knowing what had happened to his family, and especially his father
- The emotional pain he clearly lived with throughout his life, which bubbled to the surface when his brothers arrived
No, Joseph had pain, but he knew God loved him, and had a plan.
Given those circumstances, we can easily imagine Joseph saying what a lot of us say to God when He asks us to walk a difficult journey: “Really, Lord? You really want me to go through all of this? Are you sure?” But Joseph recognized God is in control no matter what. He had a radical commitment to the truth that God, in His love, would use everything that touched Joseph to accomplish His will for Joseph. Not everything that happened to Joseph was good, but God would use “even the evil” that Joseph experienced for Joseph’s highest good, as well as for God’s greater purposes.
The point is, God never wastes His children’s sorrows. No matter what hurt or pain or disappointment or shattered dreams we’ve experienced, we must cling to the fact that God has a good purpose for every sorrow and cling to the fact that God is good, and He loves His children.
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.