Why do bad things happen to good people?
That question has plagued humanity since the beginning of time, and is no less a concern for people in 2019. In fact, as our culture moves farther away from its biblical moorings, the issue might seem more confusing today than ever.
Just recently, I spent a protracted time studying the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 and with a fresh vantage point have been awed and moved by the testimony that his life still is. The twists and turns of his familiar story rival even the best that Hollywood movies can create, but amid the betrayal, slavery, false accusations, imprisonment and abandonment by his family and peers, we don’t have any record of him railing against the injustice of his predicaments. Though he certainly must have wondered why things were unfolding the way they were, and earnestly prayed for his release, in the midst of his circumstances, he continually chose to trust God and be faithful.
As I moved through his story slowly, it occurred to me that the secret to responding to our circumstances as Joseph did might be found in Genesis 45 at the climax of the story where he reveals his identity to his brothers who had plotted against him and sold him into slavery 20 years before.
Read this passage:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. (Genesis 45:4-8)
While it appeared on the surface that his brothers’ treachery was the reason for his sojourn in Egypt, Joseph choose to see it differently. He reiterated three times in four verses and was confident in believing that it was God who sent him to Egypt for a purpose.
I’m not going to go into all the complexities of how the evil actions of others work into the sovereign plan of God. That’s a question for another time in a different format than this brief blog post, but I do want to point out the power of believing this certainty:
Human activity cannot thwart the purposes of God.
This singular truth has the ability to revolutionize the way you see any state that you find yourself in. If you see yourself as ‘sold’ into your situation, then as a ‘victim.” you’ll naturally harbor bitterness, anger and animosity against those who have intentionally or accidentally done you wrong.
If you can instead, like Joseph, believe yourself to be “sent” by God into whatever circumstance you’re in, then you can begin to see purpose and potential wherever you are… no matter how dire or disappointing the situation may seem. (Read more about the unjust and malicious intent of people in Joseph’s life in Genesis 37-50)
So… are you sold… or sent? How you answer that question makes all the difference in how you will respond.