Exodus 13:17 ~ When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though it was shorter. For God said "if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt".
When you are going through tough times do you ever feel like it takes forever to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Do you ever feel as if you are in bondage to your pain or suffering because it just doesn’t seem to come to an end? There are seasons in everyone's life. Some seasons feel as if we have reached the Promised Land, things are magnificent in our world. But I think more so than not, in this world anyway, life in the desert represents the norm. It seems as if struggling is just a part of life. I think that is the reality of a fallen world.
In the midst of our desert, we cry out to God to stop the pain, stop the struggling and that’s ok. I think that is the most natural thing we can do. But have you ever stopped to consider that suffering may have a purpose? That God allows us to travel the long road for a reason? In Exodus chapter 13 God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt after 430 years; and as if 430 years of bondage wasn’t a long enough road of suffering, God decides “not to lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter”. God knew that if they went the shorter route that they would face war and more suffering and return to Egypt and a life of slavery.
You see, sometimes, we can only see what is right there in front of us. We can’t see what is down the road a little further. But God can! Sometimes God allows us to travel what seems to be the long route through our suffering but in reality He is protecting us from more suffering just as He was the Israelites. I have unfortunately chosen the short route one too many times in my own life only to have more pain in the end. At times, it has been a relationship that I chose because it was right there in front of me rather than waiting on God’s timing for the right person. I don’t have to tell you the pain that a broken heart brings; pain that could have been avoided. Being single seemed worse than slavery at the time, but I could have avoided a tremendous amount of suffering by avoiding the shorter road. At other times, I have chosen to punish my children out of anger or frustration rather than choosing the longer route of daily discipline. It is painful to everyone involved when discipline takes place through our negative emotions even if at the time it seems quicker and easier.
Another reason that we struggle is that God may be allowing us a Romans 5 moment in which our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope! I can tell you this with 100% confidence because I have grown more through my suffering and have learned a greater dependence on God in the midst of suffering than I have any other time in my life. Really, that is the ultimate goal or at least it should be; to learn to depend on God more and learn to be more like Him and suffering does just that. It causes us to cling to God because there is nowhere else to turn. As we cling to Him, we discover that it is producing character in us. Character that blossoms. Character that grows. Character that emulates Him and that my friend is where we find hope! The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. When we abide in Him, we have no choice but to become more like Him and if our character looks like His, like the fruit of the Spirit, then our hope is strong and we can persevere no matter the suffering around us.
So the next time you are in the midst of suffering and pain, consider thanking God for protecting you from the shorter road and asking Him “what can I learn and how can I grow to be more like you”? I promise you won’t regret it!
Thank you Lord that you use every ounce of my pain and suffering for your purpose. When you protect me from the shorter path, I now know that there is a reason. Thank you for teaching me and loving me even when I have chosen the shorter road myself. Please help me to be patient in the desert, trusting you for my provision. In Jesus name, Amen!