Sometimes it seems like pain and suffering surrounds me. Pete & Rebekah, friends from the bombing, friends going through hard times. It’s all around. My good friend Lindsay has been training to run the Boston Marathon, inspired to run after we were injured one year ago. Last week she injured her leg and continued to run on it for 20 miles. She is now on crutches, in a boot, and can’t feel her toes. (she wanted to be just like me) She wrote a great post about this experience and I just re-blogged it, so make sure you read it. But as this was fresh on my mind, I decided to keep blogging thoughts from The Storyline Conference. The first line of session three says “What’s so good about suffering?” Isn’t that really the question…
In the end of Genesis we meet Joseph. He was the son of Jacob and Rachel. He was his father’s favorite and therefore despised by his brothers. They threw him in a pit, told their father he was dead and then sold him into slavery. While a slave, he was accused of raping his masters wife and thrown into jail. Then he was forgotten in jail and abandoned by his friends who promised to help get him out. Sounds like he suffered right?
Every great story has one thing in common. Because change can’t happen without conflict, great characters always redeem their challenges. Character change can’t happen without conflict. Joy is what you experience after pain changes you. Joseph never acted like a victim. Because of this, he was qualified to lead later on. If he had acted like a victim, the end of the story would be completely different. He wouldn’t have interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. He wouldn’t have helped prepare Egypt for the famine. He wouldn’t have saved all of Egypt and his entire family, the people of Israel. Joseph had no idea about this. When his brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die he didn’t know what God was planning. I’m sure he never thought he was preparing to be the second most powerful man in Egypt. At the end of the story Joseph tells his brothers “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 45:5-8 & 50:20
Suffering well doesn’t mean being an optimist about suffering. Suffering is painful, it needs to be grieved. But God can turn your suffering into a blessing. Joseph suffered so he could save many lives. So in your suffering, in the pit you have been thrown into, how are you partnering with God to save many lives? Jesus sees your pain and He wants to do something beautiful with it. Just because you can’t see the end doesn’t mean he can’t. Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaningful context. God can help you redeem your negative turns.