I once read about a speaker who asked her audience to fold a paper in half, prompting them to then write down the worst things that had ever happened to them on the top half of the paper and the best things that had ever happened to them on the bottom half. What were the results of this exercise?
Author Randy Alcorn explains, “Invariably, people find things at the top of the page that they also include at the bottom. Experiences they’d labeled as the worst things that ever happened to them had, over time, become some of the best things that ever happened. That’s because God uses the painful, difficult experiences of life for our ultimate good.”
Yes, God is a redeemer, consistently turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones, obstacles into opportunities, and pitfalls into possibilities. This knowledge should give us hope, especially when it seems like the world is crashing down on us. Could it be that the very things intended to destroy us can actually make us stronger? That the trials and tribulations can make us into better human beings?
Consider what happened to Joseph in the Bible. He was his father’s favorite, showered with more love than his 10 older brothers. He was a dreamer – I mean that in the literal sense – and received dreams from God which revealed that, one day, all of his brothers would bow down to him.
Unfortunately, as a teenager, he didn’t have the wisdom to keep these dreams to himself, foolishly sharing them with his brothers who already resented and envied him.
In response to Joseph’s dreams, his brothers decided to rid themselves of him, and they sold him into slavery to a group of nomads, who in turn sold him into slavery in Egypt. He was just 17 years old.
However, even in Egypt, God’s favor was on Joseph, and he became the trusted household servant of an Egyptian official. One day, when Joseph found himself alone with the official’s wife, she tried to seduce him. When he resisted, running out of the house, she claimed he tried to rape her.
Things quickly went from bad to worse, and he was thrown into a prison in Egypt where he would spend the rest of his life, dying an ignominious death. That was seemingly the end of Joseph’s story. What had happened to all of his dreams?
To think: he ended up in prison by being virtuous. Had he slept with his owner’s wife, he would have been fine. Instead, he found himself punished for doing the right thing. How is that right? And where was God in all this?
God was continuously with Joseph. Even in prison, Joseph received favor and was trusted by the warden, who put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. Then, one day, more than 10 years since his own brothers had sold him into slavery, he accurately interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants, both of whom had been imprisoned.
According to the dreams, one of them would soon be released, and Joseph begged him to speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh. He was desperate to get out of that jail.
However, after the prisoner was released, he forgot about Joseph, and Joseph languished for two more years in that dungeon. After many years of waiting, Pharaoh began to have disturbing dreams, which none of his wisemen could interpret. The once-imprisoned servant remembered Joseph, who was then brought from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph told Pharaoh what needed to be done in order to save Egypt from a coming famine, and Joseph was then appointed by Pharaoh to be his righthand man, placing him second in command. This all culminated in one day, 13 years after Joseph was betrayed by his brothers — from a prison cell to the second-highest authority in the nation.
As a result of Joseph’s wise plan, people came from all over the region to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, including Joseph’s own family, whom he was able to sustain. This is how the nation of Israel was birthed — his older brothers, along with one younger brother, became the 12 tribes of Israel.
This means that without Joseph being sold into slavery, he would have never been in Egypt to help Pharaoh, Egypt would not have had the foresight to store up grain during a time of plenty (this was how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams), and the sons of Israel would have died during the famine.
This means no Bible. No Jewish people. No Savior. Talk about turning something bad into something good!
As Joseph later said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
What a remarkable story. What a remarkable perspective.
In fact, from a Christian point of view, the worst crime ever committed by the human race, the crucifixion of the Son of the God, is the means by which we are saved. The worst thing humanity ever did became the door to God’s best. What a redeemer!
That’s why Paul wrote that we mustn’t only boast in the hope of the glory of God. We must “also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
That’s why he also wrote that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Note carefully those words “all things.” Even tragedy can be turned into triumph and pain into purpose. What was meant to destroy you is the very thing that can remake you.
In the next article, we’ll look at modern-day examples of the seemingly bad turning into a much greater good. To say it again: God is a redeemer.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.