God does not cause our pain, but he can use our pain for a greater purpose. This statement is inspirational, but it is rooted in a deep theology of how God operates in the world today. The psalmist tells us, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Psalm 115:16). God has turned over this earth to mankind but we haven’t done the best job at taking care of it.

The result of sin in our world today is that things are not as they should be. Our world is broken. A hot and gooey Krispy Kreme donut is 170 calories, yet a piece of celery is 15 calories. This is very unfair! Why is everything that tastes good bad for you, yet everything that tastes bad is good for you? Don’t tell me you crave healthy food. That isn’t normal. I crave cookie dough ice cream at 10 p.m. That is normal.

Life became complicated when sin entered the world at the fall of Adam and Eve. God’s good creation became twisted and broken. In Genesis 3, we read some of the consequences of the impact of sin. I have watched my wife give birth to five children; the pain in childbirth is no joke!

What we see on earth is not God’s will. In the last couple years, the impact of sin has been significantly experienced at a worldwide level. Based on conservative projections, over six million people have perished because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of illness, mandatory lockdowns, masks, and social distancing, it appears no one on our globe has been unaffected by the impact of this pandemic.

In the United States alone, we have faced a health crisis, mental health crisis, financial crisis, racial crisis, and political turmoil all in one year’s time. Experts believe that over 160 million people (many of them women and children) are on the verge of starvation; and because of the financial crisis, relief organizations are cutting their budgets instead of expanding them to meet the demand. This is a solid example of how broken our world is and how fragile life is. This couldn’t have been God’s plan.

When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he asked his Father, “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NLT). God’s will is perfectly accomplished in heaven. It is a place with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). What a beautiful thought! And this is God’s desire for mankind. Jesus challenges us to pray for his will to be done on earth.

So, what is God’s response to suffering and heartache? We can answer this by considering his response as he walked on earth two thousand years ago. Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). We know the character of God because we can study the life of Christ.

Through the biblical narrative we find that Jesus had a two-pronged approach to the problems He encountered. Whenever He approached pain, Jesus’ response was either to change it or to use it. People mistakenly get angry at God because they do not understand this. Throughout the Gospels there are many powerful stories of Jesus changing a situation. Matthew 9:35 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Blind eyes were opened, the dead raised, children cured, demon-possessed men set free. The impossible becomes possible when Jesus gets involved. 

For some reason, beyond my understanding, Jesus will also sometimes choose a second response to hardship. There are times when He doesn’t heal the infirmity or prevent the pain. Take for example, his cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:11 were, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Yet, Scripture tells us that John was imprisoned and finally beheaded. Jesus did not stop John’s death, but he certainly used John’s life. In Acts chapter 18, John’s influence in preaching Christ was still seen decades after his life on earth had ended.

When God doesn’t solve our hurt, He spins it for a greater purpose. Solve it or spin it, those are the two options with God. Be encouraged. If you are going through something, it is for something. Paul reinforced the nature of God when he wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If you are frustrated because your situation wasn’t resolved, it may be that God is redirecting your situation. He can solve it, or He can spin it for a greater purpose.

Excerpted from The Unfair Advantage: 7 Keys from the Life of Joseph for Transforming Any Obstacle into an Opportunity by Aaron Burke. © 2023 by Aaron Burke. Published by Thomas Nelson.