By Tim Richards
In recent weeks I have been teaching a class based on Hal Seed and Dan Grider’s fascinating book, The God Questions. The authors offer thought provoking answers to tough spiritual questions. Perhaps the thorniest question of all is, how can a good God allow so much bad in his world?
Many Bible characters experienced this very question. My favorite character, Joseph, illustrates the practical answer to this dilemma. His story is found in Genesis 37-50. Joseph was an arrogant younger brother who loved to tattle and pester his older brother, but he was his father’s favorite and this favoritism made his older brothers jealous.
People may deal with sibling rivalry in very different ways, but Joseph’s brothers reacted in the extreme and sold him into slavery. In Egypt he was falsely accused of trying to rape his owner’s wife and was thrown into prison. Through an exceptionally long series of positive and negative events, Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt. His food distribution program saved not only the country, but that region of the world. Years later when his brothers came to Egypt looking for food, Joseph recognized them instantly. When his brothers learned the prime minister was their brother whom they had betrayed they panicked, certain Joseph would take revenge. Instead, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20, NLT)
Joseph being sold was a terrible thing. His being falsely accused was equally unfair. Joseph was thrown into prison for something he did not do which was anything but just. However, God used each of these bad things to fulfill his perfect plan. Though suffering is not good, God can and often does use it to accomplish something positive. Scripture makes this very point when it says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28, NLT)
Most of us at some point have experienced unjust treatment. If we are honest with ourselves we may realize God took something bad and turned it into something good. This does not mean the bad thing was not bad, but that God can bring something good out of what appears terrible.
During the trouble-free periods in our lives- we frequently mistakenly assume we do not need God. Often only when we experience severe challenges do we become acutely aware of how much we need God’s help. C. S. Lewis put it this way, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, but He shouts to us in our pain. It’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you are experiencing a difficult time, pray that you will do more than merely survive, trust God to help you thrive.