The Old Testament story of Joseph is one of the best-known examples of the Lord blessing someone’s life through harsh experiences. In today’s passage, the slave-turned-prisoner-turned-national leader stands before his brothers who sold him into servitude. He speaks kindly to them, saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:19-20).
One individual’s sin or failure oftentimes affects another person’s life—something we tend to deem unfair. But our ways are different than God’s ways (Isa. 55:8-9). From Scripture, we can glean that Joseph desired to serve the Lord (Gen. 39:9; Gen. 40:8; Gen. 41:16). Yet his brothers were permitted to sell him as a slave. And Potiphar’s wife wasn’t prevented from making false accusations, which landed the young man in prison. The Bible promises, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (Psalm 34:7). In other words, hardship and trial could touch Joseph—or any of the faithful—only because God purposefully allowed it.
No one can say for sure why bad things happen. But we can draw comfort from the fact that God knows: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). Our part is to learn from the example of men like Joseph, who trusted the Lord and followed His commands.