A familiar Sunday school song reminds us that Jesus loves us. That’s an easy truth to believe when all is well and life brings blessing upon blessing. But what about when life takes an unexpected turn and heads a direction we did not choose?
Joseph’s life is a prime example. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, and served a prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. Psalm 105:17-19 gives a brief description of his experience behind bars: “They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.”
In the midst of Joseph’s suffering, we find this nugget of encouragement: “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:21 NLT).
We can understand favor in the warden’s eyes as evidence of God’s love, right? But what about the fetters and bruises? Our human bent might be tempted to say, “Seriously? Letting the bad guys mistreat Joseph doesn’t look like love.” Let’s remember that God’s perspective is always, always different than ours: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Suffering refined Joseph’s character and prepared him to become an effective national leader. Joseph himself came to this realization years later, after Pharaoh appointed him as second-in-command. He said to the same brothers who’d betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
So How Does This Apply to Us?
We might be tempted to look at our current circumstances and say, “Seriously? Allowing a global pandemic to rock the world off its axis, confine us in lockdowns, and cause irreparable fallout doesn’t look like love.” But let’s remember that God’s perspective is different than ours.
Suffering can refine our characters and make us more like Jesus. Getting rid of the junk in our lives and exchanging it for qualities such as joy, peace, compassion, and selflessness—that looks like love, doesn’t it?
Using a global pandemic to turn people’s hearts toward Jesus for hope, comfort, and healing—that looks like love, doesn’t it?
Using lockdown restrictions to help us, as believers, appreciate religious freedom and teach us greater compassion for persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide—that looks like love, doesn’t it?
God’s love never guarantees an easy life. It does, however, promise that He will be with us in our hard place just as He was with Joseph, and He will be faithful.
What evidence of God’s love do you see in your difficult circumstances?
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