I’ve been going through the book of Exodus, particularly the part of Israelites as they suffered under the Egyptians. Among the verses was a set that really struck me:
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
God heard. God remembered. God saw. God knew. He saw what was happening to the Israelites yet, as we know from the story, He didn’t simply remove their pain and erase their suffering. In fact, more trials would come.
Why would a good and loving God, who is all powerful, not simply ease the load and pain of the people He claims to love?
I don’t really know but I have an idea. Though that idea is more a seed than a tenet. I believe it’s because of the universality of God’s plan to draw ALL people to Him. I used to read Exodus and simply think it was about God rescuing the good Israelites from the bad Egyptians. I see now that it’s God rescuing ALL of them from that which was enslaving them. God was freeing the Israelites from the human masters, the Egyptians, and He does, yet over and over, as we follow the journey of the Israelites into a nation, what He is really working on over and over, is freeing them from something deeper. If freeing the Israelites from pain and leading them to a better place was God’s main goal, why then did He allow them to wander in the wilderness for forty years? Because more than a better circumstance, He was working on their hearts, teaching them, showing them, to look to Him NOT the situation. In a similar way, the Egyptians were also enslaved, not by human overlords, they were the current great empire, but slaves to their idols, to their superstitions, to belief systems they believed would bring them greatness, wealth, and security, that God wanted to free them from. In both the cases of the Israelites and the Egyptians, God was tearing down their idols.
And those who trusted in their idols, like the Pharaoh, his army, that generation of Israelites who were seeking a place more than a person, would miss out on the true promise of God: Himself. If we think that God’s ultimate plan is to bring us to a lifestyle sweet spot where everything is spiritually, financially, physically, emotionally, and socially comfortable, than we’ll miss deeper truths in the scripture. We’ll accuse God of not being “good” because people are suffering. Many times we think it’s other people who are in the way of our success and happiness. I’ve learned that my biggest roadblock is myself.
It’s not the unkind man who is in the way of my becoming kinder. It’s the unkind David that bristles at being treated less than I feel entitled to.
It’s not the greedy man who in the way of my financial happiness. It’s the greedy, discontented, David that isn’t satisfied.
It’s not the inefficiencies around me that makes me frustrated. It’s the impatience already in me that gets triggered when things go wrong.
It’s not my accusers that make me defensive. It’s the pride and fear inside me that armors my heart.
If I am to grow in God, I need to deepen my roots into more than superficial knowledge of “good” and “evil” but the truth that all circumstances, all situations, and all events, are God’s ways of bringing all people to Him. I can’t keep casting myself in the Israelite role and casting the people I don’t like in the Egyptian role. That’s not where the divide is. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it,
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
So why would a good and loving God, who is all powerful, not simply ease the load and pain of the people He claims to love?
Like I said, I only have this seed of a thought, and it’s this: We’re all part of God’s universal plan to draw all men to Him, and all of us will journey through different experiences, all involving some (or even a lot) of pain, because God is working on the specific evil in each of our hearts. For some it’s pride. For some it’s fear. For some it’s inflicting injustice. For some it’s accepting injustice. For some it’s grumbling. For some it’s apathy. For some it’s self-righteousness. For some it’s unbelief. For some it’s unkindness. For some it’s man pleasing. For some it’s greed. For some it’s laziness. For most, if not all, it’s a combination of many evils. I know all of the above describe me.
Yet, in His faithfulness, He journeys with me in a very different way from the journeys of others, to love my specific heart and deal with my specific evils. And I can take assurance in the truth, not the opinion, that no matter what happens, in highs and lows, I just need to keep running back to God and trust that He’s drawing me to Him. And when I look at others, even the people I don’t like (there are quite a few), I need to fight my own pride and fear and see them as people also being drawn to God.
That’s really hard. That’s really really hard.
- We see the world from a limited perspective, particularly the perspective of our own narrative.
- The world is infinitely larger than our own narratives yet we interpret the world from that limited perspective. This is what it we mean by the term narrow-mindedness, the shrinking of the world to fit our own limited perspective.
- The Christian perspective is more than a “dogmatic” stance but sees things with an understanding of God’s universal plan to draw all men to Him. The Christian perspective asks, “How are You drawing us to You?”
- The wise man paradoxically has both conviction and openness, seeking truth more than defense.
- The wise man understands that God is working on all of us all the time at the same time.
- The wise man takes assurance that no matter how bad things are, God hears, God sees, God knows, and He remembered His covenant.