Joseph’s story in the Bible seems odd (see Genesis 37-50). If Joseph was one of God’s chosen instruments, why would God let his brothers sell him into slavery? Why would God let Joseph be wrongfully imprisoned? We usually like to blame this type of suffering on sin. The Bible paints Joseph as a righteous man, and we are not given reason to believe that his sufferings resulted from personal sin. So, what are we to make of Joseph’s story?
Through Joseph’s suffering, at the hand of his murderous brothers, the line of Judah was preserved. In Genesis 45:8, Joseph says to his brothers, “So it was God who sent me here, not you!” God’s plan for Joseph included many trials. However, these trials were neither tests nor punishments. The trials were designed by God to fulfill prophecy and ultimately bring Jesus Christ into the world through Judah’s lineage, one of Joseph’s brothers.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers, “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.” This verse doesn’t mean that God just made the suffering work out in Joseph’s favor; all the suffering Joseph experienced was meant by God. It was no accident. It wasn’t out of His control. God uses suffering as a way to bring Christ into the world. He’s been doing it that way since creation.
Joseph’s story gives me so much hope. As I reflect on my own story, I can begin to see the purpose of my suffering. I can see that none of my suffering is meaningless. As a child of God, everything works together for my good (that is, conforming me to the image of Christ. See Romans 8:28-30). He doesn’t save us from suffering, He saves us from sin. Where sin and suffering increase, grace increases all the more.
Some suffering in my life came about due to situations in which I had no responsibility. When I was a child, I was affected by the sin of my family. Their sin resulted in much suffering for themselves, for me, my sisters, and everyone else involved. I grew up confused. I grew up hurting. I grew up questioning.
Yet, I can’t blame my overall suffering on my family. My sin has caused me to suffer as well. Even more than the sins of my parents, my sin is weightier and has a greater impact on my heart.
Suffering is the door in which Christ entered the world, and it is the door in which He enters hearts. Ultimately through Joseph’s suffering, Christ entered the world. Through my suffering, Christ entered my life. The suffering of a nonbeliever provides opportunity for evangelism and through my testimony, Christ can enter the lives of others.
So, what about you? How has your story and your suffering brought Christ into the world?