Bad things happen to good people. The faithful suffer illness and death. The righteous are persecuted by the unrighteous. The devout face ruin and destruction. Such trials have happened since the days of the first couple and they continue even now. People much wiser than I have tried to explain this phenomenon in volumes of writings. How can it be that the God of the Bible can allow such suffering? We cannot argue that suffering is not real or that it is some imagination of an active mind. Good people really do suffer.
But it may help to examine one righteous struggler and see what lessons we can learn. Joseph, son of Jacob is a perfect example.
Joseph’s story is found in Genesis chapters 37 through 50. He was born into a family of 12 boys and one girl. Only one brother was younger. Joseph is born to Rachel, the favored wife of Jacob. He the favored child (Genesis 37:3) and serves his father well although even his mother and father become troubled because of dreams that Joseph has which cast them as subservient to him (Genesis 37:9-11).
The resulting jealousy of his brothers causes Joseph to be kidnapped and sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12 ff). He rises to prominence and responsibility in the house of Potiphar, a military commander of Egyptian King Pharaoh (Genesis 39:2-6). An encounter with Potiphar’s wife forces Joseph to choose between good and evil. He chooses good and is falsely accused of attempted rape. He is cast into an Egyptian prison. But even in prison God brings him success and causes him to find favor in the jailer’s eyes (Genesis 39:21-23). Joseph precisely interprets dreams of two fellow inmates but even when one returns to his position of honor at the Pharaoh’s side, Joseph is forgotten and languishes for two years in the prison (Genesis 40:1).
Finally, a troubling dream causes Joseph to be brought before Pharaoh himself. The king is so impressed with Joseph that he not only takes him from prison but elevates him to a position second only to the Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:40-45). For 13 years (c.f. Genesis 37:2; Genesis 41:46) Joseph had ridden roller coaster. At just the moment life began to look better, everything crashed. But through it all Joseph was faithful. Not one word is written that even hints at Joseph losing faith in Jehovah.
It is true that bad things really do happen to good people. But it is also true that even in the darkest hour, God stays with the faithful and brings them through to better days.
It is also true that God’s will is always done even when we suffer. Although Joseph is not a direct ancestor of Jesus, his life and struggles were required for the coming of our Lord. Pharaoh’s dreams were a divine warning of a coming famine. Joseph, having interpreted the dream, was put in charge of preparations. Joseph was so successful that his estranged family, living in another country, came to Egypt to buy food so that they could survive the foot shortages. Without Joseph’s work, they likely would have succumbed to hunger and disease thus eliminating the line of Jesus.
Because Joseph was so beloved by Pharaoh and the people, an invitation was extended to his family to come and live in Goshen, a province of Egypt. It was there they grew into a mighty people.
Our lives seem to mirror Joseph’s sometimes. One day things are great and the next we can barely hold our heads up. The lesson from Joseph is one of endurance and faithfulness. God can and will do great things with us when we place all of our faith and trust in him. We see the result of Joseph’s life but he could not. Like us, he could only see the walls of a pit and the walls of a prison. But he trusted that God would bring him to a better place, and he did. Does this encourage you? It should. Trust God!