Through all of the years that I’ve been sharing God’s Word in Bible studies and sermons on Sundays, none of them have been more read or requested than those that deal with the predicament of our suffering in all of its many manifestations. Pain is a thick thread that runs throughout the human family regardless of culture, wealth, religion, or geographic location. There is one thing you can know about what it means to be human—you will suffer in one form or another at various times in your life.
I have many friends who are still suffering the emotional ruin of a broken marriage. I have friends who have lost a husband or wife. I have other friends who have lost children; some when they were just tiny babies and others whose kids were grown. The age is irrelevant. The loss of a child is devastating. I have friends who are suffering financial hardships because of the loss of a business or job. I could fill page after page of the real life situations of friends who are suffering because of the brokenness of their lives. Truth is, I don’t have to share with you the stories of others, I could share story after story from my own life of the pain I’ve experienced.
Pain and suffering are as old as humanity. Some have tried to systematize human suffering, to place our experiences on a continuum of greater to lesser, but I’m not sure that is helpful at all. Our pain is real, every pain is real…they all hurt. The important question is, “What will we do with the pain when it comes?”
Joseph was a young man who began to realize the depth of pain as a child. His brothers rejected him and sold him into slavery. Talk about hurt. Where would the authorities place Joseph’s suffering on the continuum of pain? I’d say it had to be off the charts. Yet, somewhere along the way, I’m not sure when it happened, Joseph began to see God’s Sovereign hand at work in his suffering. Many, many year later, Joseph was put in the position of authority over his brothers. Instead of unleashing all of the years of memories of what they had done to him, Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
What was the turning point in Joseph’s life? What happened to turn his pain into an understanding of God’s purpose? The catalyst was God and Joseph’s trust in God regardless of what had happened to him. I’m praying today for those of you who are in the midst of suffering. I’m asking the Lord to show you that He is at work in your tears and sorrow. I’m asking Him to give you eyes to see His hand at work through it all.