How Does God Use Evil for Good?
In program 1 of Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters: What is God Saying to Us? Dr. John Ankerberg interviews Dr. Erwin Lutzer regarding the many ways the Covid-19 crisis has changed our world—and how God is working through it. Some claim the pandemic is a judgment from God. Others suggest God seems to be uninvolved and unconcerned. How does God work in times of trouble? How does God use evil for Good?
One enduring story that chronicles how God works through evil is found in the life of Joseph. The final chapters of Genesis reveal his journey from favored son to slave to prisoner, and then ultimately serving as second in command of the nation of Egypt. As we reflect on Joseph’s story, we find three principles that can apply to other times God’s people face evil.
First, God was with Joseph through his trouble. Despite being sold by his brothers into slavery, we discover the Lord continued to bless Joseph. Genesis 29:2-4 reveals:
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
God does not leave us when troubles come upon us. He remains faithful regardless of the circumstances we face.
Second, God used trouble as part of His path for Joseph’s triumph. For example, after being falsely accused of a crime, Joseph was sent to prison. During this time, Joseph served other prisoners, including two servants of Pharaoh who each had a dream. He accurately interpreted their dreams, with one of the servants returning to Pharaoh’s presence. When Pharaoh later had his own disturbing dream, the servant recommended Joseph, leading to his new status as a key leader in Egypt.
Without his time in prison, Joseph would not have encountered the circumstances that led to his later role as a national leader. Further, his leadership role was not for his own benefit, but provided a way to save his own family and protect those who would become the future nation of Israel.
Third, God does not allow pain without purpose. Near the end of Joseph’s story, his father Jacob dies and Joseph’s brothers appeal to him to escape any revenge he may have been saving for after their father’s death. Instead of anger, Joseph understood God’s plan for the many years of struggle he faced.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” We don’t always understand why God allows us to face difficulties, but in this case Joseph clearly saw how God had allowed him to endure years of painful experiences to save the lives of many people.
Likewise, God has a purpose for the troubles we face today. Even in the Covid-19 pandemic, many Christians have renewed their love for the local church after being denied the opportunity to worship in person. In another example, the 2020 Washington Prayer March gathered tens of thousands of Christians from across the nation to confess sin and seek God’s blessing upon the nation while walking through America’s capital.
No matter our personal situation during the pandemic, God is at work with purposes often beyond our understanding. We need not doubt His love or His power to save. He loves us and cares for us even when we do not feel His love or know why we face certain problems. Instead, we can remember He is with us, know that trouble is part of God’s plan, and understand God has a purpose in our pain.