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When people set out to run in a marathon, they need practice beforehand. Small doses of enduring pain increases capacity to get ready for the big day. Joseph wanted his brothers to see their error in selling him to be a slave. He wanted them to repent of their crime, not for revenge, but to help them restore their relationship with God and to prepare them for God’s own purposes in Egypt. He knew that to get them to admit their crime, they needed a taste of pain. So when they came to buy grain in Egypt, he subjected them to a series of tests. First, he accused them of spying and put them in prison for three days. On the third day, he released them to take food to their starving families. He insisted that they leave one of their brothers in Egypt as a guarantee of their honesty; otherwise, if they failed to bring their younger brother, the one they left would die. This turn of events caused the brothers to admit among themselves that they were now suffering because of the way they treated Joseph years ago. When Joseph heard them admit their crime against him, he turned away and wept. His plan was working. Sometimes God permits us to have trouble so we can see our shortcomings, turn from them, and rely more fully on Him. We may avoid some pain by drawing close to God before trouble comes.
Pain and trouble are to Christians as the sharpening steel is to the blade.