"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
The conversation began something like this, "Mike, you are a really good guy. I think the world of you. We couldn’t have done this without you …" While such words were certainly nice to hear, I began to prepare myself for the one word that would change the entire tone of this moment.
I could almost feel it coming — can you? We all know it. The word is, "BUT."
In a situation like this, the word BUT acts as a verbal eraser. It eclipses the sunshine of affirmation and shadows our hearts with words that sting. It erases any memory of the praise we just received. The darkness of shame imprints our hearts as we listen to what we should be doing or what we should not have done in the first place. These are the words that stay with us — permanently engraved on our hearts. The words of praise and affirmation are but a mirage, a false promise that we have learned not to trust.
God has an eraser of His own. Unlike the ones with which we are familiar in personal relationships, God’s eraser is a wonderful instrument of comfort.
While people use the word "but" to shadow words of praise and affirmation with those that wound and often scar, God’s eraser does just the opposite. His eraser permanently and forever replaces words of condemnation and judgment with eternal promises of hope and praise.
Romans 5:8, Romans 11:22 and Ephesians 2:4 are some of many places in Scripture where the words "but God" remind us He erases the bad and replaces it with the good. His eraser offers the promise of hope and the certainty of His love.
The challenge of the Christian life is reminding ourselves to live on the right side of God’s easer. If you know Christ personally, your sins have been forgiven — erased — and replaced with the promise of an eternal home with the One whose love never fails. God’s eraser tells those of us who believe in Him our sins have been forgiven and we have the promise of eternity in the presence of the One whose love for us is certain.
The story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers shows how God also uses His eraser in the midst of human evil. Joseph was well acquainted with the evil things people do to one another and was now face-to-face with his brothers who’d treated him with unspeakable cruelty. He acknowledges this when he says, "You meant evil against me …" (Genesis 50:20b).
His next words reveal what Joseph had learned about God’s grace and the mystery of His ways … "but God meant it for good …" (Genesis 50:20c).
Joseph is now able to see how God had been at work to bring good — both to him and his family — in the midst of human evil. Joseph had come to understand that God is always at work to bring about what is ultimately good and will use the evil of mankind for His purposes.
Knowing the end of the story helps us see the whole picture of God’s purposes for Joseph’s suffering. But when the story is ours, how easily do we reconcile the idea of God’s goodness in the midst of our own difficulties? How do we rest when we see the incredible brokenness around us?
It’s easy to question the goodness of God when suffering in the present tense. In moments when it seems God is nowhere to be found and there is no answer to the question, Why is this happening? … look to the cross.
You might not get an answer to your "why" questions, but the cross — God’s grand eraser — tells us one thing about suffering: It’s NOT happening because God doesn’t care about us, or because He has forgotten us. The cross reminds us everything has been (and will be) made right.
Living on the right side of the eraser means we focus our hearts more on our Savior than our circumstances and trust His ways are meant for our good and His glory. Always.
Father, thank You for the comfort of knowing Your goodness is steadfast and everlasting. Forgive us for those times when we are tempted to allow difficult circumstances to tell us otherwise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (ESV)
Psalm 117:2, "For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!" (ESV)
Deuteronomy 31:8, "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." (ESV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you ever been faced with a situation that made you question God’s goodness?
Take time to write down and reflect on the moments and events — both large and small — when God has shown Himself faithful to you.