Where Is God When It Hurts? A 7 Day Study On Finding God In Our Pain

Day 4 of 7 • This day’s reading


It was spring break of my freshman year of college. My girlfriend, Mandi, and I had been dating for just over a year and a half. My parents loved her. Her parents blessed and affirmed our relationship. And so—like you do—I bought a ring, made some dinner arrangements, got down on my knee, and popped the question: Will you marry me? She said yes. I slipped the ring on her finger. We laughed and cried and called our families to share the wonderful news. The following Sunday, her parents and mine all sat together around my family’s dinner table to talk about wedding arrangements. It was perfect.

A week later, back at college, I got a panicked phone call from Mandi. Her dad, Jerry, in his mid-50’s, had suffered a massive heart attack. The doctors said he was probably gone before the paramedics arrived. Just like that, an entire family’s world was turned upside-down. What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Was that God’s perfect plan for Jerry? Was that God’s perfect plan for his family? How we answer the question is very important. 

The book of Genesis means “beginnings.” It is the foundation story for God’s people—the ABC’s of how he relates to the world he made. One of the most compelling tales contained in Genesis is the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50)—the youngest of the patriarch Jacob’s sons. One night, Joseph had a dream in which he foresaw that his entire family would one day bow down to him. When he woke up, he told his family the dream. His parents were stunned at his audacity. His brothers hated him for it, so they sold him into slavery. 

God was with Joseph during the ensuing years, but it wasn’t easy. His story was pockmarked with injustice. And yet, at just the right time, God promoted Joseph in Egypt. His supernatural ability to interpret dreams helped him foresee a great famine that was coming, which he then spearheaded the effort to prepare for. As the years of famine wore on, eventually Joseph’s family came to Egypt, looking for food. Amid tears, the family, once ravaged and separated by the sin of envy, was reunited. They settled together in Egypt and prospered in every way.

When father Jacob later died, the brothers, fearing that Joseph would mistreat them, cast themselves at his feet as slaves. But Joseph, demonstrating remarkable spiritual perspective, said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives…” (Gen. 50:19b-20).

Did you catch that? “You intended… but God intended…” I love that. Joseph acknowledges the evil. He doesn’t whitewash it. And yet (recall the insight from yesterday’s study), he knows that evil cannot bracket out God’s good intentions. The good intention of God super-saturated evil human intentions and made it so that salvation broke out everywhere. 

This is how God works, friend. The invitation is to trust that it is so. It may be that you are in a season where it seems that evil is all around. You are invited both to name the evil and to trust that God’s good intentions are carrying you through to salvation.