Now, this is great in theory, but when you and I are walking through even a fraction of the suffering Joseph, who spoke these words, endured, we can really choke on them. Am I right?
It was 2001. My husband and I met with our pastor to discuss a tragic circumstance in the life of our family, a grief our pastor had lived through in his own life. We knew this and went to him for wise council and hope. He did not quote Genesis 50:20 to us but did remind of the New Testament version of this (Romans 8:28) and admonished us to look for what good God might be doing in our hard story. He even suggested some things God might be up to. We were as polite as we could be, but admitted that at that very moment no good that God could do seemed worth the grief ahead for our family. We choked on the ancient words our pastor offered us as wise council and hope, but we did not refuse them.
To fully understand Joseph’s words, we should really go back to Genesis 30 or even 12, to consider the full story of God’s work through the generations leading to Joseph’s hard but fruitful life. Supernaturally favored and relentlessly persecuted is Joseph! The understanding that God intended kidnapping, slavery, imprisonment, being cut off from his family by the actions of his family for good, came after years of trusting God’s presence in his pain day in and day out. I wonder if Joseph had met with my pastor just after being sold into slavery by his brothers, would he have choked on his encouragement to look for the good God could do in the pain ahead? Maybe. But decades later, the evidence was undeniable. God had saved the known world from famine and preserved from extinction the family line through which the promised Redeemer, Jesus Christ, would come. Plus, God had humbled and transformed Joseph and his brothers from the inside out and given the nation of Egypt a first-hand witness of the one true God’s glory as their reconciliation was accomplished.
In “But God intended it for good”, we acknowledge God knows better and sees farther. He knows how to form His people from conception to eternity for their good and His glory. He knows how to draw us to Him, how to humble our pride, how to confront our idolatry, and how to make a way for us to trust Him to do what only He can do, redeem our lives from death to life.
In “But God intended it for good”, we resist the temptation to believe lies about God. We confront the inner fear that suggests God is either not powerful or not good. We speak to that fear (false evidence appearing real) the truth that God is always and forever both all-powerful and perfectly good and that time will reveal that to be the case even when this earthly pain causes us to doubt.
As I look at this passage and this truth of God intending good out of the hard story of my own life, I honestly still wish the painful path could have been different. I miss the dear one who waits for us in heaven tremendously. But 20 years later, I am able to offer these words on a greeting card to others who may choke on them as well. Genesis 50:20 may be hard to swallow just now, but give it some time. Indeed, these ancient words, when chewed long enough, day in and day out, are full of hope and wise council for your life because they are truth about a God who willed for himself and then endured far more suffering than you and I ever will… and He meant it for good, yours and mine. (see Isaiah 53:10 for more about this.)
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Offices by Biblica, Inc.™