Kara’s Collection: Suffering and Sovereignty

From an article originally posted January 25, 2013…

Some of the most difficult conversations I have had in the midst of my cancer have been with believers that do not see God in a hard plan. So many believe hard comes, and God makes it better, but they believe God had nothing to do with my hard story. It is easy to forget our salvation was made on a tree. For me, the story that comes to mind over and over again is the story of Joseph.

Before Joseph suffered, he dreamed the end of his story. He dreamed the moment his brothers would bow down to him. That moment was God ordained to save many in the midst of famine. But what did Joseph endure to bring such redemption? Rejection, jail, false accusations, misery. But it was all for the glory of God. Every bit of his hard was part of the plan.

It is easy, as a Christian, to buy into the American ideals that happiness is the goal. That protection from suffering is living. Some have entered our home uncomfortable with how much my children understand my suffering, but it is their suffering as well. Sally Lloyd-Jones was such a reassuring treasure to me. We spoke about how people do not give children enough credit. We let our children lead the discussion, we let them ask what their hearts are ready to understand.

I see my children struggle when we keep them in the dark and they sense our stress without knowing our hearts. We did not want to tell our children about radiation, that cancer was found, that the story of cancer was continuing. We didn’t want to tell ourselves, but once we faced it honestly, something happened. Peace ran through the painful nooks of avoidance. The stress lessened and the grace to face the new hard entered the crevices of unbelief. We are kept, we are closely kept near to Jesus in the midst of our hard story.

I’m constantly reminded of the young man Joseph. He suffered, he hurt, he was forsaken by those that were supposed to love and protect him, and he looked to God. I am tempted to forsake or grow bitter toward those who have forsaken us in this dark season, but Joseph is such an example of grace. He leaned deeply into Jesus, and he came forth beautiful without bitterness. He wept at what God did. He offered forgiveness and grace to the brothers that meant him harm when they were supposed to be his keepers and protectors. Here is his response to his brothers return:

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you 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. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
— Genesis 45:1-15

Take time to look closely at this beautiful story found in Genesis and learn why it comforts me so deeply in the midst of this trial. There are certain pictures Jen captured through this trial that have been a reminder of the depths I had to face in order to get where God desires me. It’s the ugly beautiful of life. I find these pictures desperately terrible and amazingly beautiful. Imagine a picture of Joseph at the bottom of the pit or fleeing from Potiphar’s wife without his tunic... Ugly, ugly stuff. The stuff of life that only Jesus could redeem. And redeem it, He certainly did!

I love and hate these pictures. I can’t imagine Joseph loved the pit, the prison, or even the favored life without his family. God kept his heart from bitterness. God granted Joseph the ability to forgive. He knew the beautiful, ugly of suffering. God was at the beginning, in the midst of, and certainly at the redemption. All to His glory!

Friends, how do you struggle with the suffering God has brought into your story? Perhaps it’s a hard child being used to soften and grow you, or a difficult relationship that hurts your heart deeply. How are you trying to fake happiness today because that is the standard the world tries to sell you? Hard is grace too, and its purpose is redemption and to bring you into a deeper understanding of grace. I cannot wait to meet Joseph in heaven! I also cannot wait to see his beautifully restored relationships with his brothers.