Thoughts on intense suffering.
The Israelites suffered intensely under the hand of Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. Exodus says their cries went up to God, and He heard them and saw their suffering.
A few thoughts on this suffering:
- Intense suffering → intense deliverance → intensely great God. That is, intense suffering creates an opportunity for an intense deliverance that points to an intensely great God. Why did God allow Israel to suffer intensely at times? So He would be glorified. Or as Jerry Bridges might explain, for His glory and their good. The same principle must apply to our lives as well. Why does God allow us to suffer intensely at times? To build the canvas upon which His deliverance and glory might be displayed. And the greater the suffering, the greater the deliverance, the greater He is shown to be.
- Even though God rescued Israel and all the people witnessed His astonishing deliverance from Egypt and her “gods,” this didn’t necessarily secure Israel’s heart for the LORD. They still went astray in their hearts. And I see this truth about our sinful nature played out in real time, too. I can think of times of anguish and intense suffering in my own life, when the pain made me cry out to Him again and again … and once relief was sent, I forgot Him. Or in the lives of unbelieving loved ones in my life. Times when it felt like hell’s very flames were licking at their heels, and they cried out to God, and He delivered them. And then once the heat disappeared, they resumed worshiping their idols over Him. When put in that light, it’s mind-boggling why we would do that … but as selfish people, we don’t necessarily respond to rescue. Dead people don’t respond when the cemetery’s overseer chases away bandits and dogs. Sinners dead in their trespasses don’t respond to miracles alone. Not until God works the change in the heart. Because the eyes are not the problem; the heart is.
- God brought hardship on Israel at times to test their hearts. To show them what was in it — grumbles, complaints, ingratitude issuing from selfish, hardened, wayward, sinful hearts. (They did all this while eating the very bread of heaven! While God Himself led them through the wilderness in the form of a cloud and flame!) He allowed them to suffer to show them they needed deliverance from a slavery more horrible and damning than the slavery of Egypt. And at times, He must bring or allow hardship in our lives for the same reason? To show us what is in our hearts? To show us our need of deliverance from the same spiritual slavery that bound and damned Israel? To show us the magnificence and might of our ultimate Savior, Jesus? Or sometimes, through us, to show the world these things.
To Him be the glory forever and ever.