Suffering, the Plan of God

MP900443254Every time I read through Genesis I am reminded anew that God has a plan for my life. He has a plan for each of us. Knowing He has a plan helps, however rarely do we fully understand or accept the journey He leads us to.

His plan for Abraham was to make him a great nation. God says to him in Genesis 12:2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing.”

Of course we know Abram’s reaction. He was old and had no children so how could he possibly become a great nation.

Abram, like I do so often, ran ahead of God. He thought he could help God out. Abram needed an heir, Sarah had a plan. It sounds good, it must be God’s will, it must be the way God plans of making him a nation.

A son is born to a servant girl. All seems well. God will bless Abram’s son. Abraham will be a great nation. At least I am sure this was what Sarah and Abraham thought.

But God has HIS plan. A better plan. A plan that would be sure to show He was God Almighty. For God would open the womb of an old woman, beyond child-bearing years, and give her a son. This son, named Isaac, is whom God would make a nation through.

Making the impossible possible.

Why don’t I get that? Why do I always think it’s about what I can do? How I think I can help God? Why do I run ahead of God thinking I know what or how He is going to do what He has promised? (sigh)

The promises of God are rarely, if ever, fulfilled in the way we think they might be… or should be. And yet I continue to try to figure it all out. I want to know how God will fulfill what He promises. I want to know ahead of time what He plans for me.

It’s not the way God works. For example God says to Abraham in Gen 15:13 "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions”.

Now if it was me I would think “Wait! What do you mean they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years?” But Abraham didn’t seem to question it. Maybe he just trusted in the promise of God and didn’t worry about how God would fulfill it. He had worried about that before and made a mess of it. Maybe this time he was going to just trust God to do it and not wonder how? I don’t know…just thinking out loud.

What we do know is that several generations what God said He did fulfill. In Genesis 46:2-4 we see God speaking to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, and telling him “do not be afraid to go to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again”

So God sends Abraham’s descendants into Egypt knowing they would be there for 400 years. It would be hard. They would become enslaved, oppressed and wonder “where is God?” But they would grow to be a strong nation. Their numbers would multiply greatly.

We don’t like to think of it. To be reminded that God sent the nation into slavery in order to grow. God sent them to suffer under taskmasters so that they would become a strong people.

God knew that one day His people would cry out and He would save them. He knew they would need to be strong and have the ability to endure hardship before they ever entered into the land of Promise. God knew that the 400 years in slavery would prepare them for the 40 years they would end up in the desert.

What about me? What about you?

I know the promises of God. I know that Jesus will return. I know that while I am here God has a plan for my life. But when faced with hard times do I feel forgotten? Do I wonder what I have done to warrant pain or suffering? Do I automatically assume God must be punishing me?

Or do I look upon suffering as a time of God preparing me for the next step in life. Do I see pain as a way that God may be training me in endurance?

The above example is just one of many examples that show God using suffering as a way to train, prepare, discipline and/or grow His people.

I’ve heard it said that you can’t make a sailor out of a man on calm waters. It’s true of life too. If there was never any trials, suffering, difficulties in life we would be easily overtaken by our enemies.

God uses the rough seas of life to train us and teach us to endure. I also believe, based on my own experience, that God uses whatever trial I might currently be going through to prepare me for the next season of life.

All of life is a training ground. We are being trained, disciplined toward holiness. It’s through suffering that we grow more Christ like. So take courage today and remember

 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. And you won't spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God… So if you are suffering according to God's will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.1 Peter 4:1-2,19

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