Sovereign Suffering

Joseph, in faithful obedience to his father (37:12-17), was approaching his brothers in love when they betrayed him and sold him for pieces of silver (37:23-28). He was wrongfully accused and captured and paid the penalty: just for the unjust (39:13-20). Jesus, in faithful obedience to his father, approached His brothers in love and was betrayed, sold for pieces of silver, captured, wrongfully accused, and paid the ultimate penalty: just for the unjust.

In Genesis 42:21, the brothers confess to each other, “we saw his distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen”. Do you hear the anguish in that? The pain of rejection and heartbreak that would have been in Joseph’s voice and soul? Consider Jesus, on the cross, bearing the penalty of our sin, as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mk 15:34). In order to satisfy justice and punish sin so that in love He could forgive and receive us, God had to bear the penalty for sin within Himself. Jesus took the punishment we deserved, including being cut off from the Father. So God bore infinite agony Himself, out of love for us.

When we lose a loved one we have had close relationship with for years, the pain of loss is incredibly deep. God the Father and God the Son had eternal intimacy. That’s a long time! And on the cross, Jesus experienced the silent turning away of God the Father as His holy wrath over sin was poured out on the Son. See, God’s Sovereign will accomplished the most ultimate good (salvation for those who confess Jesus as Lord) from the most evil act (the crucifying as guilty the sinless Son of God). What this reveals to us is that God is not distant in your sufferings. He is intimately close. God is not unfamiliar with suffering. The most evil act was experienced most deeply by Him. Therefore, we can trust Him.

Hebrews 2:9-10:

…Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

So we have not a distant God unfamiliar with suffering and weakness but one who walked through suffering in a way far greater than we ever will. That’s compelling news

Lastly, after God sovereignly sent Joseph through slavery, imprisonment, and abandonment, He raised Joseph up in power. Using him to save many from death via starvation. Joseph was seated at the right hand of the most powerful person in the world, Pharaoh. Jesus suffered and died in order to save many and is now seated at the right hand of the Father over all things.

Therefore we have a Saviour who suffered and meets us in our suffering. A Saviour who has power over the grave. A Saviour who is seated at the right hand of the sovereign Father, working all things for the good of those who love Him, and who will one day, when He returns, right every wrong and make all things new.

Timothy Keller, in his book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, wrote, “Because God is both sovereign and suffering, we know our suffering always has meaning even though we cannot see it”. Will you believe it? Will you rest in the comfort that our Saviour knows suffering? Will you rest in the truth that every evil will be made right, that the sovereign purposes of God include your hurts, pains, tragedies, and heartbreaks? That they have purpose? I beckon you to believe it. And as Charles Spurgeon preached, allow God’s sovereignty in the midst of suffering to be “the pillow upon which you rest your head”.