The first passage in today’s post comes from the Book of Genesis:
4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, I pray you.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 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. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
For those whose memory is rusty, Joseph’s brothers had waylaid him years before out of jealousy and sold him into slavery. Eventually, he ended up in Egypt, and through divine intervention found himself as Pharaoh’s chief steward. Given the position of power he now enjoyed, and his brother’s presence in Egypt, it was entirely in Joseph’s power to take their lives or sell them into slavery as punishment for their crimes. Yet he does no such thing. Instead, Joseph, who gained his position due to his wisdom, recognized the hand of God in all of this and forgave his brothers. Given his trials and tribulations, this wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do. Yet Joseph understood that his suffering was necessary, for it paved the way to him being in a position to save his entire family from famine.
The lesson here is an important, but difficult one: sometimes suffering is truly necessary. In fact sometimes suffering is something that God not only allows, but decrees. Such is the case with Joseph. His suffering was a necessary part of God’s plan to save his chosen people. Just like Joseph, we too must acknowledge that it is sometimes necessary for us to suffer in order to carry out God’s will. That is not to say that all suffering is necessary, much is clearly the work of the Adversary. But we cannot expect that our life will be perfect bliss at all times. All of us must be ready to endure that necessary suffering, in order that our Father’s “will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
This necessity of suffering was well understood by Paul of Tarsus. He both caused and endured much suffering during his life. As he explained in the Letter to the Philippians:
Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul understood that suffering, worldly suffering, was as nothing. This life is a passing thing; all of us must die in the end. But if we suffer for the sake of Christ, then we have a chance to gain something truly lasting: life eternal in the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment. Yet our gain is even greater than that, for as our Lord and Savior Himself said:
11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There is an old saying among bodybuilders: No Pain, No Gain.
It may or may not be true in the world of fitness, but we Christians know it to be true in the spiritual world.