You cannot know all that God is doing…
There are events and circumstances being woven together in and around and through your life that you cannot possibly fathom. That is the truth. Encounters, trials, illnesses, conversations, music, traffic and every single little thing that happens is purposeful in setting things up to be as they must be in order for other things to happen.
These are the kinds of thoughts that can make our heads spin, but it’s important to give them consideration, at least for a little while every now and then.
I’ve been thinking about this lately – mostly because there is so much in my life, and in the world around me that is not the way it ought to be. Sin – my own and the sin of others – ruins things. It distorts and twists into unrecognizable forms the beautiful, good, and true.
We need to see the design – we need to see past the distortions and defects. In Jon Bloom’s excellent book, Don’t Follow Your Heart (see ch 3) he lays out 46 sovereignly appointed details that were necessary for the “saving of many” through Joseph’s life described in Genesis. He helpfully demonstrates how seemingly inconsequential details – like the forgetfulness of Pharaoh’s cupbearer – each had monumental impact on the lives of millions of people.
But Joseph didn’t know any of that. And he couldn’t have known any of it. He grieved painful losses, endured unimaginable cruelty, languished in unjust slavery and imprisonment, and on and on. I’m certain (because Joseph was a human being) that he cried out for his circumstances to change. But they did not. The reasons they did not are myriad, but most importantly, they are good.
Consider Rahab, too. Joshua tells us that she was a prostitute in Jericho. Stop and let that sink in. No child – regardless of how poor or uneducated – grows up thinking, “I’d like to be a prostitute when I grow up.” What happened in Rahab’s life that got her to a place where she felt like that was her only option? Who let her down? Who failed to protect and provide for her? Who profited by her misfortune? How many took advantage of her vulnerability in life? And what did all of that really look like?
I’m certain that she, too, cried out for her circumstances to change. But they didn’t either…
And yet, we learn that neither Joseph’s nor Rahab’s circumstances are pointless wastes of human suffering. God had immeasurably good purposes for them.
Through the tapestry of millions of details working together at just the right time and just the right way, Joseph was used to save the lives of millions of people. And in doing so, he was used to preserve God’s chosen people to ultimately bring salvation to the world.
Similarly, the same tapestry of woven details intertwined and looped together to not only bring Rahab into the world of prostitution, but also into understanding of the world around her, to keen perception into the intricacies of human nature and behavior, and to equip her with the wisdom necessary to do the right thing in the face of incredible risk. God used a prostitute to accomplish his plan for his people – but God also orchestrated the millions of details in every moment of her life leading up to the moment she hid Joshua’s spies… including all the painful life circumstances that drove her to prostitution.
It’s hard – so hard – to see the goodness of God in painful circumstances. We rail against them, and in our pain and anguish, we beg for God to take them away. But if we can step back a bit, and see the character of God in the midst of our suffering, we catch glimpses of the possibilities of the good that he is weaving together in this tapestry of human history and divine purposes. Romans 8:28 is often thrown out as a “band-aid” verse at suffering and sufferers, which is unhelpful and, truthfully, unkind. But there is truth there that is worth getting past this tactic for.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t seek to right the wrongs around us. We should. But when we have done everything, and our circumstances persist, we can trust that God has good for us through them. How do we know that all things will work out for our good? Because we get a glimpse into God’s character by seeing how he worked it for good for the likes of Joseph and Rahab. And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever more.
Joseph saved his people from starvation, and through that preservation, God significantly shaped the people he was calling to himself.
Rahab, a prostitute, gave Joshua’s army victory over Jericho… and through aligning with God’s people she became the great-grandmother of David. And out of the house and lineage of David a Savior was born, who is Immanuel – God with us.
We can praise God for the circumstances in Joseph’s life that led him to saving God’s people from starvation. We can praise God for the circumstances in Rahab’s life that led her to being a prostitute who hid spies, which then led her to being part of Jesus’ family tree. And because the story isn’t finished yet, and we are part of that story, we can praise God for our circumstances, knowing that even though we cannot possibly know all that God is doing in them, or through them, he will work them out for our good.
Be encouraged. Don’t give up. He is doing more through your circumstances than you can possibly know.