Genesis 50:20-21 (ESV)
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 50 were deathly afraid that Joseph would lash out at them and do them harm in return for the evil they had done to him. Just before the passage above, they had come to him, begging that Joseph not harm them. They even agreed that they would become his slaves if he would simply keep them alive.
How was Joseph able to be loving and kind in this setting? Joseph was able to be kind to his brothers, and even to give to meet their needs, because he had a God-focused perspective. Joseph knew that God had a plan to accomplish, and the accomplishment of that plan was more important than anything that he might have personally gone through. God’s plan was to save many lives, and if that inconvenienced Joseph’s own life, that was OK.
This looks like the writing of Paul in . . .
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
All things work together for good. This is not a statement that all things are good, but that God makes all things work out for good eventually. It was not good that Joseph was sold as a slave. It was not good that Joseph was falsely accused of a crime. It was not good that Joseph was thrown into prison. It was not good that Joseph was forgotten in prison by the Pharaoh’s cup bearer. But God made all those things work together for good, ultimate good.
How can we survive when life makes us miserable? One way is to keep an eternal perspective on matters. We must remember that we cannot see what God is up to. In our pain, he may be accomplishing something that is immeasurably bigger than us. While it may not be feeding a nation in famine, it might be just perfecting us for his own glory, which is certainly a good enough reason for us to go through trials.
Paul saw this truth clearly, and wrote about it in. . .
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
That is proper perspective. We go through momentary, light affliction. Yes, it feels like the weight of the world comes crashing down on us. We go through terrible things, full of hardship and pain. But, when we remember that God is good and that God has a plan, we can have the kind of attitude we see in Paul and in Joseph. Yes, it is affliction, but it is temporary; and it does not compare at all to the weight of eternal glory in the presence of God.
God is good. God has a plan. And if we can remember that God is in control and doing his will, we can keep a proper eternal perspective. It is that perspective that can help us avoid wrong reactions to our own circumstances.