By Katherine Elizabeth Clark
We must be careful not to make the pastorally cruel mistake of calling good what God does not call good. Cancer. Tsunamis. Abuse. Broken relationships. Car accidents. Autism. Famine. And falls on the playground that leave one paralyzed.
Jesus Christ in the midst of our suffering? Ah, yes, He is the comfort of the broken soul. . . . I am not thankful for cancer; cancer is darkness and death. But I am thankful for Jesus Christ, who is light and life, who is present with the person vomiting hourly and watching her hair fall out in chunks. I can praise the One who is able to mend the wounded soul.
In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes, “The darker the night, the brighter the stars; the deeper the grief, the closer is God!” Jesus Christ is the bright and beautiful star, shining in the darkness.
Consider the story of Joseph. For twenty shekels of silver, Joseph’s brothers, sick with jealousy, sold him into slavery. How much would you have to hate your brother to barter for his life, then turn your back on his contorted, anguished face, ignoring his desperate pleas as you walk away, coins weighing in your pocket?
And as a parent, how much would we grieve to find that the child we were raising to love and fear God, the same child who laughed with and chased his brothers and sisters, betrayed his own sibling?
As if this isn’t bad enough, our hearts break over the rocks of Joseph’s life once again when we enter the next chapter of his swelling tribulation. Joseph is falsely accused of attempted rape by the wife of his Egyptian master and sentenced to a life lived in the shadow, a life within the belly of a dungeon.
For the next several years, his life is devoid of sunlight; he breathes the shame and weight of this perfidy.
The course of his story, however, twists when Pharaoh is awakened by a disturbing dream and someone remembers that Joseph can interpret dreams. The pale prisoner is summoned, brought into the blinding light.
With freshly shaven skin, he, by God’s grace, explains the meaning of Pharaoh’s night terrors (warning of a time of devastating famine following a season of abundance) and is subsequently promoted to second-in-command over all the Egyptians. His chief task is to put in place a system to stockpile grain in order to prevent future mass starvation.
I wonder how long it took for Joseph’s eyes to adjust to the light—the brilliance of God’s beautiful plan.
Years later, the famine foretold by Joseph forces his brothers to travel to Egypt in search of grain, and we see him face-to-face with his guilty, flesh-and-blood traitors (whom he immediately identifies though they fail to recognize him).
In perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in Scripture, we are invited to enter the private anguish of Joseph. The shame and loss of years set in motion by the lies and betrayal of his brothers, forgoing the power to vindicate himself, culminate in sobs as he reveals himself and rescues the brothers who tricked and tortured him.
The oft-quoted words from this story are, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). What does he mean?
Before succumbing to cancer at the age of fifty-two, Harvard law scholar of criminal justice William J. Stuntz commented on this verse, “That doesn’t mean that slavery and unjust imprisonment are good; rather, the point is that they produced good, and the good they produced was larger than the wickedness that was visited upon Joseph.”
Make no mistake, God calls the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers “evil.” God, however, is good. And not only is He good, He is powerful. He takes the evil meant to humiliate and vanquish and turns it on its head. The Lord was abiding when Joseph was a slave:
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (Gen. 39:2–4 NIV)
Joseph is not forsaken. The trials of Joseph are staggering. But the trials are not the focal point in this narrative. Our hearts are strengthened by the blessed truth that the kindness and wisdom of our heavenly Father is ever present on the blackest of nights, indeed in the darkest seasons of our life.
Indeed, if we could only get round in front of our trials to see the face of Jesus. He is our gift and blessing in the dungeon of suffering. If we focus on the trial, we will plunge either into despair or denial.
If our gaze is only ever forward searching, wondering, What good thing will come of this? We are likely to miss Him. He is our present goodness and treasure.
Taken from Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope by Katherine Elizabeth Clark (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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KATHERINE ELIZABETH CLARK was just an average wife and mother with two young children when she was in a tragic playground accident in late May 2009. This terrifying prognosis could have been the end of the story. But instead, God chose to work a profound miracle in Kate’s life and in the life of her family. Where I End tells the incredible story.