While Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him.
Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s a question that has challenged both philosophers and the uneducated. Suffering without an obvious reason can produce despair. Joseph experienced such suffering; in fact, his good deeds increased his suffering. How do we see God’s goodness to His people in this story?
At first in this chapter it seems that Joseph’s tragedy might be mitigated by the fact that he ended up with a prominent and wealthy Egyptian who trusted him (vv. 3–6). His brothers had sold him into slavery, but at least Potiphar recognized Joseph’s talents and abilities and employed rather than abused him. But ominous notes begin again when Potiphar’s wife entreated Joseph to commit adultery. Joseph not only refused honorably but also distanced himself from her and temptation entirely (v. 10).
The injustice Joseph suffered underscores something we might easily overlook. Joseph is not the main character in this chapter. God is working behind the scenes. We read nothing of Joseph’s intelligence or work ethic, though he probably had both. Instead, we see that wherever Joseph is, those around him are blessed (vv. 5–6, 23). Joseph has been exiled from his family, but God is using him to be a light to the nation of Egypt.
When we notice this, our perspective on Joseph’s plight changes. God certainly cares for Joseph, but His main priority is to reveal Himself to a world in need. He seeks to bring others to a saving knowledge of Himself. Joseph’s suffering is tragic and undeserved, but the real point is that with him in Egypt, a great and populous nation can see the power and mercy of God. God cares about Joseph, and He also cares about the Egyptians.
Apply the Word
We don’t always know why we encounter suffering in our lives. But we must not assume that our suffering means that we have lost God’s favor. Indeed, God might redeem our suffering to reveal His own grace and power in our lives. If you are walking through a valley of trials, pray that God will use you—like Joseph—to bring His light to others.