‘But Joseph replied, “Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You meant to do me harm; but God meant to bring good out of it by preserving the lives of many people, as we see today.”‘ (Genesis 50.19-20 REB)
Do me a favour — don’t quote this verse to someone going through a difficult time. They won’t find it convincing.
It’s interesting that Joseph doesn’t speak these words when he’s sold into slavery as a seventeen year old, or when Potiphar casts him in prison. He says it at the end of the story, when he’s a great leader in Egypt. At that point he can look back on his story and see how God has been at work turning the evil plans of his brothers into good. But I doubt if he would have been able to see that at the beginning of the story.
That’s often the way it is when we go through hardship. Up front, it’s difficult for us to see what God is up to. And anyway, we don’t want to think of him doing this to us. If he is, we don’t want anything to do with him! Actually, I don’t think God causes evil. But I do think God is an old hand at bringing good out of evil.
But as I said, don’t quote this verse to a person in the middle of great suffering. What they need is someone who’ll make them a cup of tea, sit with them, listen to their pain, and help them know they’re not alone. Later, they’ll be able to look back and see how God has brought good out of their troubles. Don’t try to rush that process. Leave it in God’s hands.
(Today’s One-Year Bible readings are Genesis 50:1 — Exodus 2:10, Matthew 16:13 – 17:9, Psalm 21, and Proverbs 5:1-6)