Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Just before he forgave them Joseph summed up how his brothers had betrayed him and sold him into slavery in Egypt. He didn’t thank God for the treacherous double dealing of his brothers. He did say that in all the bad stuff that happened God worked it out for good not bad. He also said that it wasn’t his place to judge his brothers;”Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19) Matthew Henry describes Joseph’s handling of his brothers as an excellent example; “See what an excellent spirit Joseph was of, and learn of him to render good for evil.”
Often people will look back over the hard times that they have lived through and thank God for the difficulties, hurts and suffering. Sometimes I hear people talk about their failures and trials saying; ‘God let this happen to me so I could give testimony about it today!’ Being thankful for getting through a terrible time is good. However, sometimes people seek to justify their poor and selfish choices by saying that they were all part of God’s plan to make us better people. But ascribing terrible accidents, disease or misfortune to being part of God’s deliberate plan for your life runs counter to a lot of Scripture.
Jeremiah (29:11-13) tells us what is in God’s heart for us; “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'” This doesn’t sound like God’s plan is allowing bad things to happen to people so they can give testimony about it later – if they survive.
God’s will for our lives is to heal us – as a people; “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) And to save us as individuals; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This was Jesus’ mission; “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, . . .” (Luke 4:18)
What God allows is free will, even to the point of rejecting Him. It isn’t His plan that we should perish because of our bad choices or intentions; “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) So we cannot put the stamp of God’s approval on the difficult circumstances we have endured just because we think they made us ‘better’ or on our poor choices as a justification for harm we have brought on ourselves. Rather we should be grateful that God was patient and faithfully present with us in the living out of our difficulties whether they were self-inflicted or inflicted on us by others or a result of life in a fallen world.
We can’t blame God or be angry with Him because of the difficulties we have to contend with. We do live in a fallen world. This was mankind’s choice not God’s. Moreover we live in a society that prefers darkness rather than His light; “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) In our world bad things happen because of our collective social nature. We can’t give God the backhanded credit for our trials by saying that God allowed them so that we would become better more compassionate witnesses to His grace. We can’t blame God by saying that he doesn’t care or is powerless over bad things. The life and Person of Jesus Christ proves otherwise!
When we go through bad times or reflect upon the troubled times of our lives we can be sure of God’s faithfulness; “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) Whatever the difficult situation whether it was brought about by the harmful intent of others or by poor choices on our part we can be sure that God is working in it to bring out the best for us if we love Him and are called to His purpose.
Joseph, all those years ago, knew that in any circumstance, God is always in it for us if we are in it for God.
Praise the Lord!