Sometimes it is hard to know the purpose of God. Why do bad things happen to us even when we are in a good relationship with God? It would seem if we go to Mass, if we pray, if we are generous, then our life should go well, right?
The challenge is, of course, that it does not take too long for us to figure out that our relationship with God means we have to follow God. We can struggle in following God precisely because it seems that those who do not follow God at all can do very well in life, while those who are quite faithful suffer much. Sometimes it is the case that we go through our lives and things are going well when all of a sudden something really tragic strikes our life. There can also be those times when it feels like things will never get better. We can be depressed, discouraged, sad.
So just imagine the situation of Joseph in the first reading. He is betrayed by his brothers because they are jealous of Joseph and find him arrogant. He tells them again and again about dreams that place him in a position of superiority. And so disturbed by this are the brothers they are willing to kill Joseph and to cause their father great, great suffering. While ultimately then end up selling him, the suffering of their father is no less real as they tell him Joseph has been killed.
And as we read the story, if we have heard the story before, we can minimize the story of Joseph since we know the ending. All will not only work out well, but magnificent. Joseph will become so high a government official that he is able to control much of life. He is a high ranking official in the government of Pharaoh, and as a result has many rewards. But Joseph did not know all of this at the beginning. Joseph only knew that he was to worship, serve and follow God. And he did this, despite the betrayal of his brothers, and years in prison once in Egypt.
But even more interesting is the conclusion Joseph reaches when everything works out. Is he angry with his brothers for their betrayal? No, far from it. He sees this whole saga as an expression of the plan and purpose of God. At the end of the saga, after his father has died, when his brothers fear he may take out wrath on them, Joseph says this: “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people.”
Are you able to trust that God has a plan? Can it be the case that when events unfold that are not pleasant you can still trust in God to be with you? Can you hear the words of God, whether in the bible or through another person, through a prophet, that tells you what you do not want to hear?
If we allow our relationship with God to be so strengthened, we can trust in God, we can believe God has a plan for us. Even in the midst of great difficulties, tremendous tragedies, or times when we cannot see the presence of God clearly, we can still have the faith in God that leads to salvation.
There is nothing more that God wants for us than a life-giving relationship with him. He wants us to enter into a relationship with his son Jesus in such a way that we can discover we are never alone, regardless of what happens.
What can be interesting in our lives is that we find it easy to trust in what is not trustworthy. We can value our own effort, we can seek to control, we can find ourselves placing hope and trust into people and skills that can disappoint. Despite the skills of science, for example, we can still find destruction at the hands of nature. Despite our hard work, we can find that we are not as safe or secure economically. Despite the strong feelings of attraction and friendship of others, we discover the fickle nature of the human heart, we can find that when we trust in others they let us down. But God is not like this. God is trustworthy. God provides the safety and protection of eternal life. God uses the evil in life to bring out a greater good. God wants us to remember that we are always in his presence, and as such, we are always receiving invitations to grow in holiness. And if we doubt, all we need do is remember that God sends his son Jesus to us to die for our sins. So trust in the Lord, for he is absolutely trustworthy.