Does it sometimes feel as though your life is a mess of scattered puzzle pieces? Each situation seems to be an isolated event with no connection to what happened previously or what could occur in the future. Some pieces are beautiful moments of joy and blessing, but others are dark and painful. Perhaps you wonder why God allows these events or why He doesn’t intervene and relieve your suffering.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley
We can’t see what the picture will be once the puzzle is assembled, but God knows exactly how to fit everything together. When our situations look hopeless, this is our comfort: that a holy, perfect, all-knowing God is sovereign over everything in our life (Psalm 103:19). Nothing is random or meaningless when we belong to Him.
The story of Joseph is a great example of God’s omnipotent hand working in and through every situation (Gen. 37, 39-50). And by reading it, we learn four essential truths about the Lord and His sovereignty.
God is always with us. Joseph was hated by his 10 older brothers because he was the favorite son. When an opportunity arose to get rid of him, they sold him to a caravan of traders and told their father he’d been killed by a wild animal. This dramatic turn of events could easily have caused Joseph to feel forgotten by God. But throughout his various trials, one thing was constant—“The Lord was with Joseph” (Gen. 39:2, Gen. 39:21).
Like him, we never walk through any situation alone. At the moment of our salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and seals us as God’s children (Eph. 1:13). He’s with us in every circumstance whether we feel His presence or not. This is a truth we can count on because the Lord always keeps His word.
God has a purpose for everything. Joseph was only 17 when his ordeal began, and it didn’t end until he was 30. That’s 13 years of unexplained hardship and suffering, but the Lord knew exactly what was required to prepare Joseph for his future role as governor of Egypt, a position that made him second in authority to Pharaoh.
What seemed like random and unfair events were the very things the Lord orchestrated to achieve His purpose. He used a father’s favoritism and brothers’ hatred to move Joseph from Canaan to Egypt. As a slave and prisoner, Joseph learned the skills required to wisely rule over a prosperous and powerful nation. God used Pharaoh’s dream and its interpretation not only to rescue His servant from prison but also to provide enough food to preserve a nation and save Joseph’s family from starvation.
Although the events you experience may not be as dramatic as these, the principle still holds true. The Lord has a divine objective for everything that happens in your life. He’s promised to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). You may not see a reason for what He’s doing in your life right now, but you can know this: His purpose is superior to any challenge you face.
God’s perspective is eternal and omniscient. When Joseph looked back at all the difficult events of his life, he assured his brothers of the Lord’s sovereign hand at work—even in their mistreatment of him. (See Gen. 50:20.) But what Joseph couldn’t see was God’s eternal purpose being worked out. Ultimately the hope for all humanity was tied up in these events because Jesus Christ was a descendant of that little group of Hebrews who were transplanted to Egypt and sustained by Joseph.
God is working awesome things of eternal value in our lives, but we can’t always understand, because our perspective is limited. The apostle Paul tells us that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). When the troubles of this life weigh us down, we need to shift our focus from the temporal to the eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
God’s timing is perfect. Perhaps the most difficult part of Joseph’s troubles was their duration. At one point, after correctly interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph saw a glimmer of hope and asked to be remembered to Pharaoh. But after two long years, he was still a prisoner.
Why did God delay Joseph’s release just when he’d begun to hope again? Haven’t we all wondered that at one time or another? It looked as if the Lord was about to intervene, but then nothing happened. It’s easier to bear pain if we know the end is near, but when trials seem endless, we must rely on the wisdom of God’s timing. He knows exactly what He wants to achieve in our life and how long it will take.
Instead of wrangling with the Lord over which pieces should be in the puzzle, let’s learn to accept that He alone knows how all the events of our life fit together. We can trust Him to choose the right pieces, even the dark ones, and place each one exactly where it needs to be, according to His good purpose.
Adapted from the sermon “Walking Through Dark Valleys” by Charles F. Stanley