Suffering: How can you be released from the suffering God allows? Part 1

This is Part 1 of 4 parts answering the question, “How can you be released from the suffering God allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 2-4 will be posted on succeeding days.

As a pastor, I have seen many people suffer. I’ve watched beloved friends as they physically worked through a painful recovery from surgery, emotionally dealt with the unexplained death of an infant, socially dealt with the rejection of friends or a spouse, and spiritually dealt with a child who has wandered from the Lord into drugs and immorality. I’ve walked alongside those who have lost a spouse of over 50 years and seen the pain overcome them within just a few months. When friends are in pain, it’s difficult for them to focus on the Lord. The choice to fix their eyes on the Lord Jesus is real, but the troubles often deflect their gaze to a mere glance, while they look for relief. That is human and natural.  While we live, we will suffer.

Until you are released from the suffering, God has a solution for you. 

Fix Your Eyes On the Lord’s Provision

The solution is complete dependence on the Lord, which requires looking to Him. He taught Israel this relief principle through Moses. God delivered Israel out of the slave market of Egypt into freedom, but when this nation had the option of pursuing the Promised Land, she listened instead to the ten foolish spies who said there were “giants in the land.” She then wanted to return to the slavery of Egypt!  God was not going to let Israel  do that, but He would give them 40 years of wilderness wanderings in preparation for entering into the Land. This Land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, but they were going to have to conquer it through their dependence on the Lord.

God gave Israel many preparation “exercises” to harden them for the battles that would follow under Joshua’s leadership. One of the exercises was the battle with the king of Arad, who not only wanted to prevent Israel from advancing, but took some Jewish prisoners. Moses wrote,

The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” 3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.” (Num. 21:1-3 NKJ)

Israel had a great victory, but only because they trusted the Lord! And one victory does not guarantee that others will abound. Fatigue fora long period of time, lack of roots in a home and constant travel make one weary and often discouraged,

 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Num. 21:4-5 NKJ)

Israel failed to see or  understand how God was using suffering to prepare her for the future, and complained about the circumstances. She did not see the purpose for her suffering. She did not understand how these trials could help her see the glory of the Lord or comprehend how her difficulties would prepare her for greater challenges in the future. So she rejected the Lord’s plan and will. Hence, the Lord took action,

 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. (Num 21:6-7 NKJ)

When the Jews endured the fiery serpents, they turned and cried out to the Lord through Moses. They acknowledged their sin, repented of their rebellion and sought forgiveness. Moses prayed and the Lord responded,

8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Num 21:8-9 NKJ)

When an Israelite suffered from a serpent bite, all he had to do was look at the bronze serpent and he would be healed. The Lord Jesus mentioned this incident as a “type” of what would happen to Him to take away the sins of the world (John 3:14). This is an Old Testament example of what would come in the future, specifically in raising up of the Lord Jesus on the cross.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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