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This is the thing which I have spoken to

Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Indeed seven years of great plenty

will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land.


When life isn’t good, what are we to think about God? Where is he in all this?

Joseph’s words for Pharaoh offer some help here. We don’t typically think of Joseph as a theologian. Not like Job, the sufferer, or Paul, the apostle. For one thing we don’t have many of Joseph’s words. Yet the few we have reveal a man who wrestled with the nature of God. To the king he announced:

But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen. (Genesis 41:30– 32 NLT)


Joseph saw both seasons, the ones of plenty and the ones of paucity, beneath the umbrella of God’s jurisdiction. Both were “decreed by God.”

How could this be? Was the calamity God’s idea?


Of course not. God never creates or parlays evil. “God can never do wrong! It is impossible for the Almighty to do evil” (Job 34:10; see also James 1:17). He is the essence of good. How can he who is good invent anything bad?


And he is sovereign. Scripture repeatedly attributes utter and absolute control to his hand. “The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will” (Daniel 5:21 ESV). God is good. God is sovereign. Then how are we to factor the presence of calamity into God’s world?

Here is how the Bible does it: God permits it. When the demons begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs, he “gave them permission” (Mark 5:12–13 NKJV). Regarding the rebellious, God said, “I let them become defiled . . . that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 20:26 NIV). The Old Law speaks of the consequence of the consequence of accidentally killing a person: “If [the man] does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate” (Exodus 21:13 NIV).


God at times permits tragedies. He permits the ground to grow dry and stalks to grow bare. He allows Satan to unleash mayhem. But he doesn’t allow Satan to triumph. Isn’t this the promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV)? God promises to render beauty out of “all things,” not “each thing.” The isolated events may be evil, but the ultimate culmination is good.


I pray that the God of peace will give you every good thing you need so you can do what he wants.


Suppose the wife of George Frederic Handel came upon a page of her husband’s famous oratorio Messiah. The entire work was more than two hundred pages long. Imagine that she discovered one page on the kitchen table. On it her husband had written only one measure in a minor key, one that didn’t work on its own. Suppose she, armed with this fragment of dissonance, marched into his studio and said, “This music makes no sense. You are a lousy composer.” What would he think?


Perhaps something similar to what God thinks when we do the same. We point to our minor key— our sick child, crutches, or famine—and say, “This makes no sense!” Yet out of all of his creation, how much have we seen? And of all his work, how much do we understand? Only a sliver. A doorway peephole. Is it possible that some explanation for suffering exists of which we know nothing at all?




lattended a banquet recently in which a wounded soldier was presented with the gift of a free house. He nearly fell over


with gratitude. He bounded onto the stage with his one good leg and threw both arms around the presenter. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” He hugged the guitar player in the band and the big woman on the front row. He thanked the waiter, the other soldiers, and then thanked the presenter again. Before the night was over, he thanked me! And I didn’t do anything.


Shouldn’t we be equally grateful? Jesus is building a house for us (John 14:2). Our deed of ownership is every bit as certain as that of the soldier.


Thankful people focus less on the pillows we lack and more on the privileges we have.


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