We're all familiar with the incredible story of Joseph in the Bible. It's a riches-to-rags-to-riches tale that shows us the massive scope of God's providence. Providence is when God intervenes in natural law—the chain of cause and effect that governs our lives—to bring about a supernatural result.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Joseph's story is that, while God was working out the enormous, nation-changing, top-leader-level ramifications of everything that was happening, He was also taking care of the most personal, faith-building character details, too. Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small to escape His notice.
Joseph knew that and believed that. And because he trusted God, he was able to look beyond his circumstances and live with a higher purpose. He lived in tune with God's faithful sovereignty—but not because the details themselves harmonized; they didn't. Betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and jailed, and forgotten in prison, Joseph couldn't have looked at everything he suffered and said, "This all makes perfect sense."
This is where we see the difference between looking at life horizontally and looking at life vertically. Joseph's brothers looked at life horizontally—within their own tainted hearts and at the turmoil around them. Joseph, on the other hand, lived with a vertical view. He learned to wait on God's timing and trust God's sovereignty and goodness, especially when things went wrong. The contrast between these two ways of living is summed up in Proverbs 29:25: "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe."
It's natural to slip into self-preservation mode when we've been wronged, but it's supernatural to look for God's hand in the hardship. Joseph overcame the default setting of looking out for himself by instead listening to God, trusting His promises, and obeying His words. And at the end of it all, he could tell his brothers, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph believed that God was in charge—not him. He believed that God uses bad events to bring about good results. And he believed that God uses people to help other people. He funneled the gracious love God had showered on him to bless his brothers and preserve his father Jacob's family—through whom the Messiah would eventually come.
God cares about the big picture, but He cares equally about you and your role in His story. Do you believe that He uses your suffering for good? That He is big enough to take the bad things from your past and weave them into something better? God is with you in your pain; let Him use it to bring healing and restoration, redeeming it into something of great value and beauty.