I try hard not to whine. How about you? And I find daily encouragement in the promise that something good always comes from suffering (Romans 8:28). Here are a few practical ways I noticed Yahweh fulfill that promise to Moses before Paul wrote it down centuries later.
Suffering Prepares Us to Help Others
Moses seemed to lead a charmed life, at least in his early years. Rescued from the Nile as an infant, he was raised as a Prince of Egypt, afforded all the wealth and privilege of the Pharaohs—until his he killed the Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew slave. That’s when his suffering seemed to begin, right?
Driven from the only home he knew, Moses traveled the criminal’s route southeast. He didn’t take the merchants’ route, the easy way along the Mediterranean. Instead, Moses suffered the dry heat of the desert, through the sand, from oasis to barren oasis. He passed Mt. Sinai and arrived in Midian, where he lived for forty years.
Then God called him to fight Pharaoh for Israel’s freedom. The speeches. The stand-offs. The eventual Exodus. Then the LORD commanded Moses to lead the people along the same path Moses had walked years before–the criminal’s escape route. Though the Israelites felt they were wandering aimlessly in the desert, Moses knew the way because Yahweh had prepared him through suffering…years earlier.
Sometimes the Lord allows our suffering to help others.
Suffering Prepares Us for Our Future
As I’ve researched Egyptian history during the years Moses would have lived in their aristocratic society, I’m not so sure his suffering began only after he left Egypt. Like everyone, he almost certainly experienced bitter disappointments and betrayals during those first forty years of his life as well. On the other hand, I believe nothing in our lives is wasted by a God who knows even the number of hairs on our heads.
When Moses left Egypt and became a shepherd in Midian, he was probably the best-educated shepherd alive. One day, this over-qualified sheep-herder traveled farther than normal to find green shoots for his flocks and arrived on the far western side of the mountain cliffs—a place called Mt. Sinai, known as the mountain of God. It was here that Moses first saw a burning bush that didn’t burn and heard Yahweh speak. Moses was more curious than committed and far more bashful than brave.
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’” Exodus 3:2-3 NIV
Moses left Sinai the first time as timid as a mouse. While enduring the plagues of Egypt, he was challenged in his relationships with Pharaoh, the Israelites, and with Yahweh. He suffered significantly in each of those areas. A month, a year, two years—we don’t know how much time lapsed between Moses’ calling and the tenth plague, but skip forward to the Israelites initial journey out of Egypt to their arrival at Mt. Sinai (also referred to as Mt. Horeb—see Deut. 5:2 NIV). Moses stood with Yahweh’s chosen people at this familiar place, but this time the whole mountain on fire—not just a burning bush! And how did Moses respond to God this time?
“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up…” Exodus 19:20 NIV
Our suffering prepares us for the next step in God’s plan for us.
Suffering Prepares a Path for Others to Follow
Moses had been educated by the finest culture, the most brilliant minds of his time. Historical research suggests that many Israelite slaves were used in high-ranking governmental and administrative positions before the Exodus, so Yahweh had securely established the ability to keep accurate records among His covenant people. The story of Moses—and the recording of Yahweh’s Laws given through him—were meticulously recorded and copied for generations.
And then came a prophet named, Elijah. He emerged at a time in Israel’s history when paganism and Baal worship was at its worst. King Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel rained chaos in the northern kingdom. Though Elijah experienced a dramatic victory for Yahweh at Mt. Carmel, his rejoicing was short-lived, when Jezebel threatened his life.
“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said…Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep…The angel of the Lord came…and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” 1 Kings 19:3-8
At a point when God’s most faithful prophet had nearly lost his faith, Yahweh led him to a poignant reminder of someone else’s suffering—someone else’s great faith. Elijah would have been familiar with Moses’ writing, the first five books of our Old Testament (plus a few others). He would have remembered Exodus 33:11:
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”
Perhaps Elijah yearned for a Friend-talk with God. We can’t know God’s reasons for dealing with Elijah in this way, but we can know that Yahweh knows our individual needs perfectly.
Moses’ suffering prepared a path for Elijah to follow when he needed encouragement most.
Our Suffering Empowers Others to Suffer Well
If Moses and Elijah knew their suffering would someday encourage God Himself, do you think they would have endured the hardship willingly?
Jesus was only days away from His final entry into Jerusalem. Days away from His crucifixion—and He knew it. His disciples didn’t seem to understand—maybe didn’t want to understand. How deep was His suffering on the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem?
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” Mark 9:2-4
Though no one knows upon which Israeli mountain Jesus was transfigured, it was the “mountain-of-God-sufferers” that appeared to our Savior when He needed encouragement. Moses and Elijah—two men who spoke face-to-face with Yahweh (Jesus!) during their earthly suffering—were sent to Him on earth when He needed heavenly testimony of His imminent VICTORY!
Nothing empowers a sufferer like a fellow sufferer who’s won the battle!
- Get concrete examples of good things God can do through personal suffering.
- Nothing empowers a sufferer like a fellow sufferer who has won the battle!
- What do Moses, Elijah, and Jesus have in common? Find out today!
- What good has God worked through the suffering He allowed in your life?