My husband and I started reading chronologically through the Bible 3 years ago. If you have never done this before, I would encourage you to try it out. We just finished the book of Job and started Exodus and as I was reading about poor Job and then on to the enslaved Israelites, I was reminded by the Lord that sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. Let’s dive into what the Bible Says about suffering.
When God Allows Suffering
God calls Moses by the burning bush to go and deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. Moses meets up with his brother Aaron and they visit Pharaoh. They tell Pharaoh that God said to let His people go so that they may worship and sacrifice to Him. Pharaoh is not going to let his free labor go so easy though. In his pride, he has the audacity to say, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” Yikes!! He is about to find out just who the Lord is, but more about that later.
So, Pharaoh is so irritated by this and is so motivated to assert his dominance. He decides to make things harder for the Israelites.
That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”Exodus 5:6-9 NIV
Imagine being one of the Israelites. “Ok Moses, you said God wants to save us. You said we would worship Him on that mountain of yours. Well why are we still suffering? This is worse than before. We are now having to work harder and being punished because the task is impossible.”
Poor Moses is just as confused. Exodus 5:22-23(NIV) says: Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”
Have you ever felt like this before? Ever questioned God? Have you ever just wanted to say, “Ever since I followed your leading or command, Lord, it seems like things just went from bad to worse.”?
You are not alone. This is exactly how Moses felt. This is how Job felt as he took hit after hit. Also, how the prophet Elijah felt after he ran away from a wicked queen. So, stick around, get in your word, you are in good company. The Bible has a lot to say about suffering.
What Can We Learn From the Bible About Suffering?
The Bible says so much about suffering so this list is not exhaustive. However, it gives us an idea as we think about ourselves or others currently in pain, going through trials, or feeling oppressed, of the hopes and promises on which we can stand.
Suffering causes us to call on the Lord.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.Exodus 3:7 NIV
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”Matthew 15:22 NIV
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:17-18 NIV
You’ve surely heard the phrase: when we hit rock bottom, there is no way to look but up. That is most surely how the Israelites felt as they cried out to God. It’s how the poor woman with the demon possessed child felt and how David felt when King Saul was trying to kill him.
God hears the prayers of His children. He is concerned about our suffering and in His perfect timing, He will save us. When we get to place that we realize that our only hope is to trust the Lord, we are in the perfect place to wait on His deliverance.Tweet
Suffering helps us to remember the Lord’s past faithfulness.
God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.Exodus 6:2-5 NIV
God reminds Moses after he cries out to God in agony that He is the Lord and He has been faithful to their forefathers in the past. He has made a covenant and He always keeps His promises. They can count on Him to be faithful now!
One of my favorite songs is from Vertical Worship. It’s called “Faithful Now.” Here are some of the lyrics:
I am holding onto faith 'Cause I know You'll make a way And I don't always understand And I don't always get to see But I will believe it, I will believe it 'Cause You make mountains move You make giants fall And You use songs of praise To shake prison walls And I will speak to my fear I will preach to my doubt That You were faithful then You'll be faithful now You're forever faithful, Lord! And I trust You, Jesus
God was faithful in the past to men like David, Daniel, Paul, and many others. He has also been faithful to us in the past. When our current situation looks bleak, we have to remember all of the many times that God has shown Himself mighty and victorious. We can trust He is working for us again.
When suffering, we have to keep our eyes on the end goal.
“So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”Exodus 3:8-10 NIV
God’s promise was to rescue His people. He had the promise land in mind for them. In the midst of their current trials, it probably seemed like it was never going to happen. Even as the Lord started his plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to copy some and he hardened his heart even harder. But, as the Lord started to make a distinction between the Egyptians and His people, they must have caught a glimmer of hope (Exodus 7-8). Isn’t that just like the Lord to show us that He is working even when we can’t see it.
They had to keep their mind on the prize. God promised them a good land “flowing with milk and honey.” He also promised to bring them out of Egypt. He told Moses, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) Their end had been foretold by the Creator, a trustworthy God who never fails.
Their job was to hold tight to the promise and not waiver. Even when things looked bad, remind themselves that the promised land was coming, redemption was on its way, and their deliverance was at hand. The Bible gives us the same promises in the midst of suffering.
Bible Verses About Suffering
- Remember that Jesus suffered: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Isaiah 53:3 NIV
- Those Who Suffer Share His Glory: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17 NIV
- Learn to Persevere: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV
- Learn Patience: “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” James 5:10 NIV
- Learn to Comfort Others: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
- Pray Fervently: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV
Prayer for When We are Suffering
Lord, I am hurting. I am wondering why it feels like you are not rescuing me. But, I know that you are always good and that you have a plan and purpose for my suffering. Help me to be strong. Help me to trust you. Give me peace and comfort. Help me to stay focused on Jesus and for the hope of eternity. Please allow me to use my suffering to comfort others. I know you are faithful and will wait patiently for your deliverance. You are my only hope. Amen.