It is fair to say that mankind wishes to have as little to do with God as possible, not because His perfect character eclipses anything that we can imagine, since most admire excellence, but because many wish to avoid any form of divine domination. Mankind lives in contempt to God’s sovereignty, and seeks to deny it by setting their own standards, laws and methods in opposition to God’s. However, the climactic end for man is that he is going to face the very thing that he seeks to avoid for in the judgement none can escape God: He has sole authority over hell and death (Isaiah 10:3). Yet, those who cease their rebellion, and willingly accept His sweeping authority will enjoy a different outcome.
With every human life you can be sure that it will be defined by numerous events and each one will hold meaning. Chance or random happenings are ill advised notions and not the presupposition of the believer. The Christian worldview is that all has purpose and that God acts freely and purposely to form history and is the ultimate cause behind everything. The story of Joseph is a long narrative in Genesis which occupies about a quarter of the book, from his youth to his death, and is given that we may understand that Joseph recognized the divine purpose behind crucial events in his own life, regardless how hard they may have been (Genesis 37:2-50:26). Joseph was hated by his brothers who seeking his demise sold him into slavery; later on he was the victim of trumped-up charges and imprisoned, yet throughout his life Joseph remained objective in his assessment of these evils perpetrated against him. He saw beyond the event itself, and found the intended meaning it held for his life. Joseph learned that God was bringing good from out of the evil acts set against him. This inner realization that God was working these things out for his good promoted in Joseph a proper response to those doing him wrong, and kept him from bitterness and resentment.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
Dysfunctional family members can learn much from the way Joseph was able to speak to his brothers about their ill treatment of him and the fact that he returned good for evil by giving them provisions during the time of famine in the land. Joseph showed no malice toward his brothers, but encouraged them to acknowledge their sin against him and turn from it. Joseph’s confidence rested in God’s sovereignty which in turn brought comfort to him. This same comfort could be shared by others who have undergone abusive relationships. On the radio, recently, a story was told about human trafficking here in Ottawa, where attempts were made to lure young teen girls into prostitution by false promises of modeling jobs. A representative from a support group wanting to help these girls suggested it was going to take years before they could be expected to regain trust and recover from this ordeal. The perspective of time is not necessarily an obstacle once you consider the life of Joseph and his interminable belief in God’s sovereignty. Good counselling refers to the divine control of God into every area of our lives to bring about His intended purpose. When people grasp this particular truth they can recover and live through anything without taking on lasting baggage, trusting in God means that His wisdom, love and power is working out the worst in life to turn it into building blocks for our future, regardless how tough and hopeless our difficulties may seem to us. We cannot always give detailed answers to the many things that occur to us but can be confident that we will receive personal benefit from it, if we believe God and accept the fact that there are no independent acts apart from His works. To bristle against the trials of life and refuse to accept them as coming from God is no better than a flat-out rejection of His authority over our lives. Neither is it enough to stoically accept hard challenges as though somehow it was outside of His Will for our lives.
As I see it we have three options:
A. Rebel and remain antagonistic toward God about your hapless life, never coming to terms with your suffering and God. You believe that you deserve better. You remain angry, bitter and resentful.
B. Grudgingly accept your lot in life. Living your life in the best fashion you think possible, but never fully enjoying a deep sense of peace or joy. Trying to wrestle with answers for life’s many problems, but never experiencing life’s fullness which only comes in possessing the joy of fellowship with Christ. You never really accept the authority of Christ over every area of your life.
C. By faith accepting those sufferings, knowing that God is at work developing your character into Christ-likeness, sharing in His holiness, and furthering His Glory. Like Joseph you are able to put it all together and recognize and accept divine sovereignty and suffering as partners together in the quest to lead you into a deep abiding relationship with God though Christ.