For Our Good 1: The Dual Perspective on the Suffering of Joseph

by Spence Shelton

What a weekend for Mercy Church! We kicked off a new series looking at the life of Joseph yesterday called “For Our Good”. This is one of those series that we are going to have a lot of fun in and that I believe we are going to be deeply challenged by. We will try to provide the For Our Good 1 – Genesis 37 and Community Group guide each week. Oh, and we have a podcast on iTunes now!

Here is a quick recap of the message:

Outside of the life of Jesus, the life of Joseph is one of the most incredible stories every written. Not just among Bible stories, but among ALL stories. Period. In this series we are going to read a story filled with wealth and poverty, rural Palestine meets urban Egypt, famine and abundance, betrayal and faithfulness, prison dungeons and the kings court, multiple sex scandals, conspiracies, suffering, death and legacies. It is an incredible story and recognized as one of the greatest stories of antiquity.

One of the recurring themes in the story is that bad things keep happening to Joseph, who is a pretty good guy. Joseph seems to be suffering through some real pain for no good reason. This is probably the #1 reason people lose their faith: disappointment. I know it tops the list in college. This is the idea that, “if there really is a God, bad stuff like this should never happen.”

Throughout Genesis 37-50 (where his story is told), the author gives Christians a dual perspective on how God works in the middle of pain & suffering: the “one-day” perspective and the “today” perspective.

The “one-day” perspective is the hope we have that one day God will make all things right. It’s the hope the New Testament is saturated with. That God is working things out for our good, and one day Jesus will come back and restore all things. Joseph says at the end of his life reflecting on the evil others had committed against him that, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20). He was able to look back and see that God was working when he couldn’t understand it. Paul cites this hope in Romans 8:18 as what pulls him through suffering he can’t understand in the moment. “I consider our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” He’s looking forward to the end of days when God will make all things right and that perspective pulls him through the present sufferings he is in. A few verses later Paul says, “God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The “today” perspective comes up in Joseph’s life when the author keeps saying, “And the Lord was with Moses.” After every bad thing that happens to Joseph we read, “The Lord was with Joseph.” And Joseph seems to respond to circumstances like God really was in the middle of it all. He doesn’t collapse in despair or get consumed by bitterness. He seems to stay steadfast, trusting in God’s sovereignty over his life. And in the middle of our pain, sometimes the “one-day” perspective seems to fall short. But, God also gives us his presence right here and now. Today. And the presence of God with us is a powerful force when dealing with suffering today.

Again, for more check out the sermon.