We all face times of affliction in our lives. Some of us deal with minor issues such as colds while others of us face major health concerns such as cancer. Still others of us face family issues such as divorce or a family member who has left the church. Others of us feel out of place at social gatherings whether at church or school. It might be because we’re introverted or because we don’t feel like we have a whole lot in common with others who are our age. Maybe all the guys your age are talking about sports and you are neither interested in Payton Manning’s latest touchdown nor are you particularly athletic yourself, so you sit on the sidelines waiting for a more interesting subject to come up. For some of us work presents problems. I worked in a kitchen at the corporate headquarters of a major company. Things there were okay for a while, but issues such as inefficient kitchen design, frustrating communication from management, seeing decent people get treated poorly came, and finally getting laid off all had their effects.
That was a difficult time for me. God led me through that and is still helping me make sense of it all today. I’m not the only one being helped by Him through a major trial though. Joseph was the son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. He had a dream that his parents and siblings would bow down to him. Even Jacob thought he was crazy. One day Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. They thought he would tattle to their father about the inappropriate things they might have been doing, so they eventually chose to sell him into Egypt. It was there that Joseph’s life took, what for him, were very bizarre and unexpected turns. He wound up being a slave in Potiphar’s household and from there was thrown in prison on a false charge. While languishing in jail, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker. Eventually he interpreted two similar dreams that Pharaoh couldn’t figure out, resulting in him going from being a prisoner to being the second highest official in the land in the blink of an eye. It was in this capacity that Joseph met his brothers, who inadvertently bowed down to him. Later on he was reunited with his father Jacob. After his father died, Joseph’s brothers expected to killed by him as a result of the highly wicked maneuver they had pulled many years before. Instead, Joseph has the following words for them: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive”(Gen. 50:20).
God used the treachery of Joseph’s brothers to bring him to Egypt to save many lives from starvation during a significant famine. God gave Joseph the grace to forgive his brothers and the ability to see how He worked evil out for his good. Job is another example of this. He was a man who “eschewed,” or avoided evil (Job 1:1). In one day he lost all of his earthly goods and servants. In addition all of his children were killed by a whirlwind and his physical health failed him. As if all of this was not enough, his wife told him to ‘…curse God and die”(Job 2:9) and his friends failed to comfort him in his time of grief. They told him that these afflictions were the result of his sin. This was not the case and was, instead, a trial of his faith. How did Job respond to this? He said to his wife “… shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In other words, Job knew that God had a hand in it and spite of his circumstances, he placed his firm trust, faith, and reliance in Him.. He said “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15) and “but he knoweth the way that I take, when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”(Job 23:10).
God did bring Job through those terrible trials. He had ten more children and he obtained more cattle and land than he previously had. In addition, his physical health was restored and God gave him the ability to forgive his lousy friends who failed to comfort him when he greatly needed it.
What about us? Is that our confession? Can we look at the trials in our lives and see His hand working all things for our good in it? Job had difficulties with this and so do we at certain times. As for me, I wound up working for the same company that I previously did but I changed positions and locations and wound up with a lower stress position. Additionally, in God’s good providence, I have been working at the Protestant Reformed Seminary two days a week with men who are one in faith with me and that has proved to be a very rich blessing. May God give us the grace to say with David “many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all”(Psalm 34:19)!