When we suffer in this world, it often causes us to question – Will our suffering merely lead to pain or will it lead to personal growth or something even greater?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, which is why we sometimes fall into despair or cry out to God in frustration when things are going badly or search for some comfort that will allow us to ignore the difficult circumstances that we face. We aren’t always sure that there is a point to our suffering, a reason to live through our circumstances looking for God’s hand in them.
Joseph’s story, in Genesis, shows us a picture of God’s work through one man’s suffering. God used the difficult circumstances that Joseph faced to: 1)put Joseph in place to save the nation of Israel from destruction so that through them the world might be saved and 2) to save an entire region of the world from devastating famine. These are the reasons God allowed Joseph to suffer at the hands of his brothers, Potiphar and the Egyptian.
“And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.” Gen. 41:57
Without Joseph’s God-given, prophetic gift of dream interpretation, without the journey of betrayal and heartache and accusation, a region of the world may have been decimated by famine.
The question for us is this: Can we trust God to work through our suffering for His purposes?
The answer is “Yes, we can!” In Romans 5:3, we read, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Because we often cannot change the circumstances that lead to suffering, we must learn to turn to God when we encounter suffering – it is our only (and best) option. Suffering is one lever that God uses to draw us near to Him; God allows it in the same way good parents allow their children to face the consequences of their actions.
We always hope that our suffering will be a tool God uses to help us grow and mature and to prepare us for something greater that is to come, as we see in stories throughout Scripture. We hope that through difficult circumstances, God will give us experiences and resources to help those around us. And we hope that our suffering may have a greater purpose, like Joseph’s did, and that God will use our pain to save a people, a nation, a region from destruction.
God use our suffering for your glory.