“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.” – Gen 50:20
Joseph spoke these words to his apologetic brothers. If you don’t remember the story, Joseph’s ten brothers sell him into slavery, and after serving hard time in the Egyptian penitentiary, Joseph becomes the V.P. of Egypt. A famine then breaks out. Joseph’s brothers need food. The new V.P. has got the goods. And then the climax of the story – Joseph’s ten brothers go to Egypt for food and discover that their brother is borderline royalty. “Uhh, sorry Joseph. We probably shouldn’t have sold you into slavery and told dad that a lion mauled you.” “That’s okay,” Joseph said. “You may have intended to do me harm. But God intended it for good.” That’s really mature Joseph.
What an amazing thing to say, and an even more amazing thing to believe. But as disciples of Jesus, Joseph’s perspective is where we should be moving. “What you intended to be awful, God intends to be glorious.” Paul, for example, finds himself in prison. People were out to get Paul – he’s there because his opponents wanted to do him harm. And what does Paul say? I was imprisoned so that others might “dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear” (Phil 1:14). In other words, when others intended (and succeeded) in doing Paul harm, Paul insists that God intended it for good. Really mature Paul.
Of course, Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example of God’s strange intentions. After all, people really intended to do Jesus harm. Judas betrayed him. The “Pharisees went to Jesus and plotted to entrap him in what he said” (Matt 22:15). And Jesus calls them on it. “You are trying to kill me” (Jn 8:40). And so a lot of people intended to do Jesus harm. And they succeeded. The good new of the Christian gospel is that God intended it for good.
From a human perspective, the cross was a disaster, a shame, an embarrassment, and a curse. And yet, this disastrous shame, this embarrassing curse, was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The world looked at Jesus and demanded death. The crowds “kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Lk 23:21). The crowds intended to do Jesus harm. The world shouted death. And yet, more so than at any other moment in the history of the world, our God shouted life. Our God intended to do us good.
UNTIL MONDAY, OCTOBER 13TH: No matter how broken or bad or hurtful a situation is, God can intend it for good. Like Paul says, in the end “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28). All things – good, bad – all things. For the next ten days, make a habit of prayerfully trusting God’s promise. In other words, we don’t have to know exactly how God will use our pain for good. And to be honest, Christians far too often jump the gun on trying to “see the good.” God doesn’t ask us to see the good. He asks us to trust in the good that we don’t see. He asks us to trust that He is good. And so don’t pretend that whatever happens isn’t really that bad. That being said, cling to the paradox of being chosen and loved by a crucified Messiah – for God deems us the strongest in our greatest moments of weakness (2 Cor 12:10).