My 7-year-old asked me the other day, “If God controls everything, does that mean he controls us too?” I gave him a high five for asking such a perceptive question — go, little philosopher!
The intersection of God’s sovereignty and people’s free will is a mystery. From my reading, it seems that both are equally true: Yes, God is all-powerful and yes, we have freedom to choose our actions. But somehow — and no one understands exactly how — God manages to accomplish his good, redemptive plans no matter what.
This came as a tremendous comfort to me a couple of weeks back, when unwelcome memories of a past trauma left me completely wiped out for a few days. As I grappled with hatred towards people whose actions had caused me crippling, ongoing emotional pain, Joseph’s story came to mind.
What I love about Joseph’s story is the way it encapsulates both sides of the “who’s in control?” coin: People do intend to harm us sometimes. Nevertheless, God’s good intentions towards us are stronger.
Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery! Imagine his anguish… And God took a really long time to deliver him from his troubles! (It helps me to remember that.)
When he finally saw his brothers again, decades later, Joseph “wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.” (Gen 45:2)
And then came his famous words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20) Wow.
When Joseph said this, he wasn’t talking flippantly or lightly.
Neither did he downplay the abuse perpetrated against him.
What he did do, with God’s help, was move beyond his desire for vengeance — because he knew deep in his heart that God’s good purposes prevail.
May we, with God’s help, do the same.
Lord, our ever-present help in times of trouble, it can seem like you’re not at work when we’re in our own “pits”. But Joseph’s story reminds us that you are at work, even when people’s intentions towards us are harmful. Please fill us with hope as we remember: your good plans will prevail. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
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