April 2018 Viewpoint
Reading Mark Worthington’s article, Help for the Hurting, reminds me of what author Steven Estes once wrote, “God permits what He hates to achieve what He loves.”1 God has a purpose in our hurting.
To declare that we know why God allows and even orchestrates unpleasant or catastrophic events would be to elevate our thinking to the level of God’s thinking. We cannot fathom the mind of God, nor do we completely understand His purpose for our hurting. However, we are confident that Romans 8:28 is true, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” That promise provides assurance that our pain does not escape the notice of the Lord. Furthermore, we can be certain that the suffering we endure contributes to the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives, if we face it according to His will.
Joseph is a biblical example of one who benefitted by hurtful experiences. His jealous brothers sold him into servitude when he was just seventeen years of age. Joseph served faithfully while in the house of his master, Potiphar, and soon earned oversight of all that Potiphar had. However, he was eventually falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned. Both of these events were painful experiences in Joseph’s life. However, during that thirteen-year period, we read that “God was with him” (Acts 7:9). Joseph learned to lean on the One who helped him cope during circumstances he could not understand.
We have the benefit of hindsight that Joseph lacked during that time. Not until years later could Joseph declare what he did not know when his brothers sold him, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7). Joseph realized that God’s purpose was the preservation of a people He loved—the descendants of Abraham.
My parents faced some adversity, in both cases beginning early in their lives and continuing as they grew up during the Great Depression. Dad was born with a cleft palate—a condition that required surgery in an era when medical practice was less developed than it is today. Dad’s mother died when he was still a child, and then his father abandoned him and his younger brother. Although older siblings lived in the same town and offered some oversight, the two younger boys mostly reared themselves. My mom’s mother also died young, while Mom was still in her teens. Her father was an alcoholic, so she and her siblings had to learn how to get along during tough economic times with hurting hearts.
When Dad was in his late teens, he contracted rheumatic fever after enlisting in the Navy. He spent over a year in a VA hospital, finally deciding that he needed to walk out of that hospital if he hoped to live, or resign himself to dying in it. Granted an honorable discharge, he walked out. Before he left, his doctors told him that not only would he not live long, he would not be able to have children.
A short time later, Mom and Dad met, and after a brief courtship they were married. They settled into farm life on the land where he grew up, on the banks of the North Umpqua River just outside Roseburg, Oregon. This summer, still living on that same property, they will celebrate their seventy-first wedding anniversary. Mom just turned eighty-nine and Dad celebrates his ninety-second birthday in June, defying the predictions of his doctors. Children? Well, the doctors were wrong there as well. Seven children, twenty-one grandchildren, thirty-six great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren can amply testify to that.
God used painful events to shape my parents’ character and mold them into individuals who would respond to the Light of the Gospel.
God used painful events to shape my parents’ character and mold them into individuals who would respond to the Light of the Gospel. The first day of 1975, Mom experienced salvation at the age of forty-five, and Dad followed suit a month later, at age forty-eight. They have served the Lord together for over half of their seventy years of marriage. Hurts? Trials? Yes, they have experienced a few, but we do not hear them speak of their challenges. They do not doubt that God has a plan, even if their understanding of that plan is limited.
May we have the spirit of Joseph when we endure the painful experiences sent by the enemy of our souls. Let us remember Joseph’s words, “As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). We serve a God who has all power! We serve a God who loves us! And we serve a God who will not allow anything to come our way but that which will bring benefit. We pray that Brother Mark’s article and this entire issue of The Apostolic Faith will encourage and inspire you.
1 Joni E. Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997, page 84