What Joseph Teaches Us about Suffering

What Joseph Teaches Us about Suffering

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.
—James 1:2

If you want make a difference in God’s kingdom, then don’t be surprised when God’s plan for you includes testing. When suffering comes in our lives, we tend to think, “This is unfair! God, why are You allowing this?” Yet why are we surprised when God’s plan for us includes testing, when He allowed His own Son to suffer? Today we will see in Genesis 37 four components of God’s testing in our lives.

First, trials include the element of surprise. It would have been a lot more convenient for Joseph if God had said, “Tomorrow your brothers will kidnap you and throw you into a pit and leave you for dead.” But that’s not how it happened. It came as a surprise. And tests in your life are going to come that way too. James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” That word “encounter” can mean ambush. We are just riding along in life when, out of nowhere, we are ambushed by trials.

Second, God’s tests involve loss. God will test you in an area that represents treasure to you. That was true for Abraham. When God wanted to test Abraham in Genesis 22, He said, “I want you to take the son you love and offer him as a sacrifice.” Whenever God tests you, He will do so in the area most important to you.

Third, God’s tests often involve disillusionment. Many times when we go through a test, people will disappoint us. Joseph became disillusioned with his brothers. And when you are going through a test, don’t be surprised if the people closest to you disappoint you. God is trying to teach you that He is the only one you can depend on in life. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

And finally, God’s testing involves deliverance. God will bring you to a point when you are so despairing, the only thing you know to do is to pray. And when you reach that point, God will send encouragement. He may not deliver you out of the problem, but He will let you know He is still at work in your life. That’s what happened with Joseph. Joseph was despairing, sure that God had forgotten him, when God sent the Midianites to deliver him out of the pit. In the same way, don’t be surprised when you are despairing and God sends a sign that He is still at work in your life.

Even circumstances in your life that are unexpected and seem unfair and unbearable are part of God’s plan for you. Romans 8:28-29 says God’s purpose is to shape you into the image of His Son. That’s what God was doing in Joseph’s life, and that’s what God is doing in your life as well.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living a Life That Matters: The Life of Joseph” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.