The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.
In Bereishis 37:25-27, the Torah writes about how the brothers sold Yosef into the pit and that shortly thereafter, a caravan of Ishmaelites who were carrying spices passed by. Yehuda had the idea to sell Yosef to the Ishmaelites and so it was done.
Rashi on the pasuk asks - why did the Torah have to tell us what the caravan was carrying? Rashi answers that the spices were a reward to Yosef and a recognition by Hashem that Yosef was a tzaddik. These caravans usually carried oil and pitch and Yosef would have been forced to smell it for days. Hashem takes mercy on Yosef and gives him the pleasant smell.
R' Frand then asked - why does this matter to Yosef? His brothers threw him into a viper pit and then hauled him out in order to sell him into slavery. Why does he have any comfort that the slave drivers are carrying spices?
R' Frand quoted a sefer called Nachal Eliyahu which quoted the Ilui of Telshe, who explained that there are two types of ways that Hashem can punish a person. A person can be abandoned by Hashem and left to the "statistics of the world" [where it seems that his punishment is a random act of violence]. The second form of punishment is directly from Hashem and the person recognizes that it is coming from Hashem. It is this second form of punishment which gives a person comfort, because he knows that it is coming from Hashem.
R' Frand next quoted R' Yonasan Eybeschutz in the sefer Ya'aros Devash that King David said a mizmor when he was fleeing from his son Avshalom. The gemara in Berachos (7b) asks - why is this a mizmor, it should have been an elegy! The gemara answers that David knew that Hashem was going to punish him with an evil from his own household because of the sin that he committed. David thought that the punishment would come from a soldier or a servant of the household, but when he saw that it was Avshalom he was happy. The Ya'aros Devash explains that it is not natural for a sun to rebel and usurp the kingdom, this must be from Hashem and Hashem still cares and is involved with me.
R' Frand said that this is the explanation of Psalm 23 where David says that your rod and cane will comfort me. How does a striking rod give comfort? Because sometimes a potch is a showing that there is a connection.
Yosef recognized that he could have been in a normal caravan with foul smelling items. However, since he was in a caravan carrying spices, he knew that Hashem cared and was administering the punishment with love.
R' Frand next quoted a gemara in Nedarim (50) which talked about how R' Akiva and his wife were destitute and slept on straw because they had no beds. One night Eliyahu HaNavi showed up dressed as a poor man and asked for some straw because his wife was in labor and they had no beds and no straw. R' Akiva gave him their straw and then remarked to his wife - see, there are people who are more poor than us.
R' Frand asked - once Eliyahu HaNavi is coming, why not have him appear as a millionaire and let him give them money so that they could live comfortably? The answer is that for His own reasons, Hashem wanted R' Akiva to learn Torah while poor. But Hashem wanted R' Akiva to understand that there were people worse off than him, so that R' Akiva would continue to learn.
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