What do you say to a person who has lost his home, been betrayed by his family, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused, wrongfully imprisoned and assumed dead? As a pastor I am stumped. The "pastoral counselling" model that I was trained under has me sitting with this guy trying to make sense, trying to help him adjust, trying to be a comforting presence and praying that he be relieved of his suffering. In reading Joseph's story, however, this approach to his situation would have been wrong.
I have learned over the years that God created me for time and eternity and that God is more interested in the formation of my character than in my comfort. When we read Joseph's story in Genesis 37 through 50 what we find is that God has formed his life, used his experiences and placed him where he will do the most good. His life experience, from being his dad's favorite, to being the object of scorn of his brothers; and from being the head slave in Potiphar's house to living in prison after being wrongfully accused by Potiphar's wife all form and shape him for the life he is yet to live.
We never get to see Joseph's struggle, just the details of the journey. I suspect, however, that he has some dark and dreary days and an occasional pity party as he fought his way through his misfortune. In the end God used these struggles to form him into the man who would save his entire family. The summary of the journey comes in Genesis 50:20 Joseph tells his brothers (the ones who sold him into slavery because they were jealous) "Even though you meant to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today."
What does God intend from your misfortunes? What will God make of your struggles, failures, betrayals? What would happen if we surrendered our lives and trusted our Lord Jesus to use us to make a difference in this world for his sake? What woudl happen if we decided to treat life's difficulties as "formation training"?