“Hindsight is 20/20.” It is a statement that addresses the understand that comes with looking to the past after it has already happened. In a year where everyone is grasping a 20/20 vision for the present, it may do us well to consider the future as it relates to the past.
Believers have been guaranteed a future by God, and it is a prosperous one (Rom 8:28). All suffering will end, either in this life or the next. But in the middle of intense trial, it’s hard to project ourselves forward and imagine a season of prosperity and blessing. However, the Bible gives us a glimpse into the benefits of looking forward and looking back at the same time. In that, God will give us a clearer vision of what He did in our life.
Let’s use the example of Joseph and his brothers. You know this story well. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and Joseph went through many trials. Things came full circle after a famine ravaged the land and brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt where Joseph resided. After a series of events, Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers, and in this revelation he reflected upon God’s sovereign plan. All the bad that had occurred was not merely man’s doing, but part of God’s grand decree:
“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5).
“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (Gen 45:7).
Allen Ross says, “Joseph explained that God had sovereignly brought him to Egypt to prepare for their deliverance from famine. His words form a classic statement on providential control…. The certainty that God’s will, not man’s, is the controlling reality in every event shined through as the basis for reconciliation. No doubt Joseph had consoled himself many times with this principle of faith. He who is spiritual can perceive the hand of God in every event, and therefore is able to forgive those who wrong him” (Ross, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 94; emphasis mine).
Like Joseph, we will look back on this and we will understand why God did what He did. We’ll understand why God allowed for these trials to take place. Why did this pandemic happen? Why did that church member sin? Why did we lose our job at when things were going so well in life?
Let me be clear, there are biblical answers to the “problem of evil” that could reference here, but that is not the point. The point is that God in His sovereignty is accomplishing billions of things in the lives of people even by one act. And believers can review the past to see glimpses of His glorious plan.
You may be able to look back on God’s faithfulness to you right now and trace His providential hand as He sustained you through every trial of your life. Or, maybe it will look more like Joseph for you. You will understand why God brought you to this place and allowed for these sequences of events to happen. If this is not the case, then this may be the scenario: you may not discover this truth until glory. Great clarity will come when we are reunited with Christ, and we will see with new eyes. Either way, God will bring clarity as to why our lives turned out the way they did.
So how can you apply this truth in the here and now?
Start with the trusting principle: trust where God leads. Trust God in the midst of a pandemic, trust him with your fighting family, or trust him with your local church concerns. Trust Him when things seem strange, trust Him when things seem different, and trust Him when things seem out of control. Trust Him when the only clear truth in your life is His Word. Trust Him! His providential plan has you on the right path.
Also apply the reconciliation principle: be quick to forgive and reconcile. The narrative describes God’s sovereignty and how it orchestrates forgiveness and reconciliation. Joseph looked back at God’s grand plan, and saw this as His way of bringing about reconciliation among Jacob’s sons. The evil that was committed came about for good (Gen 50:20). As we contemplate the brevity of life in this season, we must realize that now is the time to forgive. Do not wait, do not delay. Forgive your brother; forgive your sister. Forgive your parents and that church member who wronged you. Pursue reconciliation with that friend you’re ignoring, because God is using providence right now to provoke your heart, and it would be best not to ignore it.