Life can be achingly difficult.
It has been for me. Many times, I’ve thought life was finally getting better, only to find out I was wrong. It was just the calm before the next devastating storm. Nothing was better. In fact, life became even harder.
I grew afraid to even hope again. Because hoping just brought more pain. I wondered where God was when things kept getting worse.
I buried my precious son when he was two months old because the doctors made a mistake. Six years later, I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a debilitating condition that will eventually require that I have full-time care, unable to do the simplest things for myself. And then six years after my horrifying diagnosis, my husband left our family, moved away, and later filed for divorce.
Those years are still a blur to me. Just as I was coming to terms with one calamity, the next one came raging through. I wondered how I could handle yet another blow.
Afraid and Alone
That’s why I’m drawn to the story of Joseph. He knew what crushing disappointment felt like. He grew up as the favorite son of his father, but was later betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave in Egypt. Soon he rose to a position of trust in Potiphar’s house until his master’s wife falsely accused him of attempted rape because he refused to sleep with her. Joseph was thrown into prison where he remained for years, waiting and wondering if he would ever be delivered.
Joseph must have felt afraid and alone, uncertain of what the future might hold. I definitely did. So, how did Joseph make it through those years and emerge with a stronger faith? Why did he not give up, determined never to hope again?
Joseph suffered well amidst staggering disappointment because he knew God was for him and with him in the darkest places.
God with Us
Four times in Genesis 39, both in Potiphar’s house and in prison, we read that the Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2–3, 21, 23). While God later delivered Joseph in an astonishing way, the beauty of Joseph’s story to me is not in the miraculous deliverance, but in God’s constant and faithful care of Joseph when his life was bleak.
God never left Joseph’s side. Joseph knew that God was with him, and he was consistently blessed with God’s presence and favor, even when his prayers for deliverance went unanswered for years.
I remember years of crying out to God, thinking my faith would get back on track when life got back to normal. But as the pain grew more intense, I realized I needed to find God in the present, and not wait for my circumstances to improve. God wanted me to find him sufficient in the midst of trouble rather than just demanding that he deliver me from it.
And I found God more than sufficient as I met with him daily in Scripture and in prayer. His word became exceedingly precious to me. It brought light to my darkness. It became life to me.
How Does My Story End?
It was in his word that I learned to trust that he loved me (1 John 4:10). That he would give me what I needed every day (Lamentations 3:22–23). Just like Joseph, I learned that God is always for me (Psalm 56:9), and always with me (Hebrews 13:5), and that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39). Through his word, God gave me an undeniable sense of his presence, just as he did with Joseph.
But my story seems to diverge from Joseph’s. Suddenly and miraculously, Joseph was completely delivered. He was freed from prison, his brothers were humbled and repentant, and he was awarded unprecedented power. He could say to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). While he went through great pain and disappointment, in the end Joseph’s story is tied with a bow — a beautiful, inspiring, faith-building bow.
But will all our disappointments get tied up with a bow? Does God mean everything for my good? Some of my losses cannot or will not be reversed in this life, and I have seen faithful friends die without being rescued. How do I reconcile that?
God Is Preparing You
As I return to the Bible, I see that because of heaven, my future is indeed guaranteed. Just as with Joseph, nothing can keep me from God’s best. Every one of Joseph’s disappointments was essential in bringing about God’s magnificent plan — a plan for Joseph’s good, the good of his people, and for the glory of God.
Each of my disappointments has been necessary. If they were not, God would not have brought them. From Joseph, I have learned to trust that every time I suffer loss, God is preparing me for something greater.
For some of us, God may be preparing for us earthly blessings and influence, like Joseph. But for every follower of Christ, God is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is “beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). I am convinced that the losses that appear unrestored and unredeemed on earth will yield the greatest reward in heaven.
Where is God when things keep getting worse? He is with us. And he is always for us. And one day we will see how he has used our pain and losses to accomplish far more than we could ask or imagine.