I would say that the above verse contains the answer to all the ‘whys’ we tend to ask God. To every affliction He leads us through that seems unreasonable, unfair or uncalled for. It is because He wants to be good to us in the end.
Before we go any further though, let us first get the context of this verse: Moses was speaking to Israel towards the end of their long journey of forty years from Egypt. He was preparing and warning them at the same time. He said, “Be sure you do not feel self-important and forget the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery, and who brought you through the great, fearful desert of venomous serpents and scorpions, an arid place with no water. He made water flow from a flint rock and fed you in the desert with manna (which your ancestors had never before known) so that he might, by humbling you, test you and eventually bring good to you.”
I want you to pay attention to a small but very important word: ‘SO’. In the above passage, Moses says that the great trials the children of Israel experienced were SO that, or in order for good to come to them. That was God’s ultimate intention and it is always the same with us. You can look at it this way, the trials were a bridge, vehicle, path or way to the good he had for them: they directly contributed towards Israel receiving God’s promised blessing.
Challenges that God allows do not simply exist in our journey, they actually make good things happen. How exactly does that come about? I have the perfect illustration and it happens to come from one of my favorite stories of the Bible, the story of Joseph.
Most of us are well acquainted with Joseph’s story. We know that the seventeen-year-old boy was sold as a slave to Egypt. He worked for an Egyptian named Potiphar who made him chief of the servants. This part of the story is where we see how hardships are actually necessary in our journey to fulfill God’s purpose and be blessed.
Joseph was a man of excellence and integrity which made his master trust him with everything he owned. Potiphar left his household in the young man’s hands, and as chief servant Joseph spent much time at the house. Potiphar’s wife was always at home and this inevitably meant they saw each other often in the absence of the woman’s husband. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife took a liking for Joseph and made advances at him. Being the person he was—faithful to both God and his master—he rejected her and she eventually used a garment he left behind (as he fled from her) to accuse him.
Lets go back a bit. We all know that Joseph was faithful to God and this is what got him sold to Egypt in the first place. Once in Egypt he remained faithful even when he could easily have taken advantage of his master’s absence. He was falsely accused and they threw him in the dungeon (Genesis 39:20).
This is what I believe it would have been like, a short excerpt from a book I wrote Joseph Of Egypt:
After the prison keeper received Joseph, he closed the doors to the dungeon and took the new prisoner through steep steps downward. Joseph looked at his new surroundings. With the light from the keeper’s lamp he could vaguely see a large room with several chambers—most occupied by one or two men.
Suddenly cold iron wrapped around his ankles. When he looked down, there was the prison keeper at his feet attaching fetters to his latest detainee. After the man left, Joseph walked to a chamber in the dungeon—the iron below now limiting the ease of his movement. He sat down and as he rested his head on the wall, the tears flowed.
This was not the first time something awfully unfair was happening to him. It brought back the pain from his brothers’ betrayal, all the labor he had endured and every sorrow he experienced in Egypt. Worst of all, it seemed to crush the hope he carried of being free again. He was now a slave in prison.
Try for a moment to imagine you were Joseph. Would you look at your situation and think this imprisonment will be good for me? Certainly not, you would probably shed a tear and wonder why God always seems to let bad things happen to you. But as we know, the story did not end here. And this was probably one of the best things that ever happened to Joseph while in Egypt.
Later on, Joseph accepted his new environment in the dungeon and maintained a good attitude. It was not long before the prison keeper entrusted him with the rest of the inmates. Then something important happened. Pharaoh’s Cupbearer and Chief Baker were brought to the prison. They soon have dreams and he interprets for them but just as quickly they leave the prison. The Cupbearer had promised to speak to the king on Joseph’s behalf but he did not keep his word.
Eventually God sends two strange dreams to Pharaoh and no one can interpret them. The Cupbearer remembers Joseph and they take him to the palace. After the interpretation it was different altogether (another excerpt from the book):
The Hebrew had made the dreams clear and it made good sense. What his scribes, diviners and advisors had struggled with, Joseph easily demystified. Looking around at his servants Pharaoh said, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the spirit of God?” They all acknowledged that there was none. And facing Joseph he said, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none as discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you. See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Pharaoh then got up from his throne and walked towards Joseph. He took off his signet ring and fitted it in the finger of the new lord of all Egypt.
He ordered some of his servants to adorn the new aristocrat with proper attire and they took Joseph to one of the chambers. From there they clothed him in fine linen. When he returned to the throne room, the king sent for a chain of gold which they brought from his treasuries and he placed it over Joseph’s neck. The king decreed, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
It was overwhelming. When they brought Joseph to the palace earlier, the best he had hoped for was an opportunity to ask for release from the dungeon. Pharaoh had just set him as ruler over all Egypt. He could hardly speak and barely managed to thank the king for his great kindness. Pharaoh instructed his chief servant to give Joseph one of the royal quarters within the palace until a house could be built for him. The cupbearer also assigned some of the palace servants to attend to Zaphnath-Paaneah (revealer of secrets)—the Egyptian name Pharaoh gave Joseph.
At noon, a palace servant brought Joseph his meal. It was prepared by Pharaoh’s cooks and suited for the king himself. There were all kinds of delightful meats, the finest bread, fruits and fish from the river accompanied by the palace wine. They served Joseph with the utmost respect and it was a stark contrast to the life he had just a few hours ago. He ate the food with gratitude to the God of his father. He had once been astonished at the cold actions of his brothers but now he was overwhelmed by the goodness of his God.
So now it is clear what God was doing. Joseph went to prison not to suffer but so he could meet the Cupbearer who would not only get him released from prison, he would actually lead to his promotion as second-in-charge of all ancient Egypt. It had been a long hard journey, (you can get the book Joseph Of Egypt and read it all) but God got him through the challenges and was good to him in the end.
Likewise, the God-given trials we may face all have the same purpose; to let us receive the good intended for us. It may not appear so with the situations we face, just like Joseph had no way of knowing that the prison was his door to the palace. It is at this time however that we must choose to trust God and believe he knows what he is doing, so that He might be good to you in the end.