When you are in the midst of a whirlwind of calamity that could only have been sovereignly overseen by God, it is hard to believe that anything good may ever come out of it. But it can. Satan’s diabolical agenda, our own sin and weakness, and the evil of other sinners can be mixed together into a filthy slurry, but Providence still reigns. God’s grace and lovingkindness toward His children is such that He wastes none of our pain and suffering, but uses all of it to chasten, sanctify, and bless us.
In his really helpful look at the life of Job, the biblical patriarch, South African pastor Joel James gives five reasons God brings trials into our lives. Last night, as I was re-reading that portion of Joel’s book, it is the fifth reason that stood out to me with fresh meaning and appreciation. That is, God brings calamity into the lives of his people in order to bring about good that we could never have anticipated.
The author writes, “The Bible is full of such surprises. The classic example? Joseph (Genesis 37–50). His brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery just as they might have auctioned off a cow or goat to the highest bidder. No doubt as the slave traders’ camel caravan humped its way toward Egypt (and at various awkward points after that) Joseph asked, “Why has God done this?” Answer: unexpected good. Eventually God used Joseph’s kidnapping, slavery, and unjust imprisonment to put him in a position to keep his family from starvation. decades later, Joseph said to his brothers, 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. (Genesis 50:20)
No one could have guessed it at the time, but good was God’s plan for Joseph’s calamities all along. Ruth provides another example. Tragedy doesn’t come much worse than having your father-in-law, brother-in-law, and husband die in rapid succession, leaving you and your mother-in-law impoverished and hopeless. How did God use that heartrending situation? Ruth went to a place she would never otherwise have gone to (Bethlehem), met a man she would never otherwise have met (Boaz), married him, and became the great-grandmother of King David and part of the Messiah’s line. Unexpected good. It’s all over the Bible—apparently unsalvageable disasters are often the first step in God’s plan for bringing good. All this helps us see that calamity isn’t arbitrary. God uses it for specific purposes: occasionally to discipline specific sin, but more often to make us dissatisfied enough with this sinful world to seek something (or someone) better, to harden us in the furnace of troubles just as a blacksmith tempers a sword, to prove our faith, and to bring good that no one could have predicted.”
How about you? Are you feeling crushed under the weight of a whirlwind of trials? Hang on to the faithfulness of God. Cling to the truth that God specializes in bringing beauty out of ashes. Hold on to Him. He will discipline you, shape you more into the image of Christ, and amaze you as He works it all toward unexpected good.