As Christians (and really just as humans) we always have this constant question of why there has to be suffering. How can a loving and merciful God allow such misery as that which exists all around us?
There are big answers about free will and the continuous, if already won, battle between powers of Heaven and Darkness. But, that doesn’t necessarily help the specific. What about this specific situation of suffering of so and so?
I was reminded of this constant debate when I was reading Exodus this week. In Chapter 9, God sends the plague that kills the Egyptians’ livestock and the boils. Before sending the hail, God talks to Pharaoh through Moses and tells him,
“But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9: 16.
God makes sure Pharaoh understands that He could have struck Pharaoh down at any point, but chose to save him for this moment. So, Pharaoh is suffering, but not dying, to show God’s power.
But what we cannot ignore is that the Egyptians weren’t the only ones suffering. The Israelites were in slavery. They had been in slavery for generations! As if slavery isn’t bad enough, the conditions of their enslavement were being tightened all the time.
So, for me, the underlying implication of this verse is that, yes, God allowed Pharaoh to live and suffer to show God’s power . I can justify that in my own earthly logic (a tyrant, a slaver) – but He also allowed generations of Israelites to suffer for the same reason for this same moment.
I don’t claim to know God’s plan. But He seems to make it clear that their suffering contributes to a layer of purpose that seemingly does not directly even tie to them. So, if generations of Israelites could suffer for this moment of demonstration of power. Then, why would I think my suffering is always about me?
This can be a hard pill to swallow. So, God is having people suffer – lots of people – so at some future date He can show His power? Maybe.
Or maybe there is a reason this time that ties directly into my life. A lesson to be learned, some blessing to be gained that I cannot see.
But sometimes, I think we make the mistake of assuming everything is about us. And it just isn’t. We are small and insignificant compared to the greatness of His universe. My brain is too limited by the confines of my earthly experience to understand on any intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level the magnitude of our God.
So, I am left with one choice. Faith. I believe and trust a God who loves me and who has a plan for me, but I also believe and trust a God who saved the world and has a plan to maximize salvation, which may mean effects for me or others that I don’t understand or seem unfair.
But, you know what? I’m okay with that.