1. God has a bigger plan for future in your unique trials and difficulties.
This is a unique pattern that we see in the Lord God. He had a much bigger plan in His people’s trials and sufferings and they did not know about it. Yet, God knew exactly what He was doing.
God was making a nation out of Jacob and fulfilling His covenant with Abraham in and through all Jacob’s trials and troubles.
Genesis 47:8-9, “Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?” And Jacob said unto Pharaoh,” The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”
Yes, Jacob’s life was tremendously difficult for sure and a lot of evil things happened in his life. But who got the glory through his difficult years of life? God did because God eventually accomplished His perfect purpose in and through Jacob’s life.
In Laban’s house.
Jacob had to serve his uncle Laban for 20 years in total. The first seven years he sweated and worked hard to get Rachel as his wife because Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob. He loved Rachel so much that though he worked seven years to get her, they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. However, on the day of marriage he was deceived by Laban and Leah was given to him as the wife instead of Rachel. All his dreams and hopes for future were dashed on that wedding occasion. Laban asked him to work another 7 years to receive Rachel as his wife. He worked again another 7 more years.
In the midst of Laban’s deception and the dashing of all his beautiful dreams, God knew exactly what He was doing in Jacob’s life. Jacob had to have 12 children as God was forming a nation out of his children- his twelve children became the twelve tribes of the nation Israel. You see, God never makes a mistake.
God’s hand was even on Jacob’s fearful flight to Laban’s house. Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” God assurance and direction was given to him on his fearful journey on that night in a place called ‘luz’ which would later become ‘Bethel’. All these fearful struggles including the running away from home after deceiving his brother and the later struggles and deception he went through were included in the plans of God for his life. He never understood the big plan of God when he faced with all his trials.
God was making a nation out of him – the nation Israel. God was going to fulfill the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 12:2 in and through his twelve children who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel by God himself on his way back to his father’s house after 20 years. At this time, on his way back to home, he was so scared to face his brother Esau whom he deceived by listening and obeying the advice of his mother, Rebecca. On that night, on the way back home, he was in great fear and distress to face his brother. His heart was melted in fear of Esau and we can read all the fearful preparations he made to meet Esau in Genesis chapter 32. He cried out to the Lord God in prayer because he was afraid Esau and his people would come and attack him, his wives and children. In that scary night, He wrestled with God who appeared to him and he said he won’t let Him go unless He blesses him. He needed the blessing of the Lord in this critical and dangerous time of his life. The Lord changed his name from Jacob to Israel. You see God stepped in with his powerful and all-sufficient grace to support him in his tragic moments and revealed His wonderful plan for future by changing his name to Israel. Of course, I do not think Jacob understood all the details of God’s plan even in his lifetime. What an amazing historical record we can all remember! Now we can look back and see what God was doing with his life. God was preparing ways to fulfill his covenant with Abraham- the promise of a land and a nation.
My friend, you may be wondering about the terrible situation where you are in now. You think there is no escape in your sight. You are scared and think there is no way out of your troubles and distress. I am sure Jacob thought the same way many times in his painful life experiences.
But do you know what? God has a perfect plan and future for you right in the midst of your heartbreaking circumstances. You may not understand it fully now. But later you will understand it or your future generation will recognize what God was doing in your life. God can and will bring glory to His name by using your trials and difficulties.
Jacob in his later years lost his only beloved and the most loved son – Joseph- for almost 14-15 years. He believed his beloved son had been killed by wild animals because this was a lie his jealous brothers told him after they sold him to Egypt as a slave due to their severe jealousy toward him. That loving father’s heart had broken into pieces when he heard Joseph was killed by wild animals. Another severe trial and tragedy he encountered after losing his favorite wife, Rachel because she died at the time of his youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob loved her dearly and now she is no more present in his life. One after another Jacob was faced with severe trials and sorrowful times.
It is a true statement that says “God causes all things to work together for good.”
But God helped Him in the midst of all his severe trials and troubles. God’s powerful grace was sufficient for him though he may have thought many times in his life that he could not make it through. I am sure he did and say ‘Lord I can not handle it any more’. But God had a much bigger and wonderful plan in the midst of Jacob’s trails and pains. Jacob was God’s work in progress and God was making a huge population and a nation out of him to literally fulfill his covenant with Abraham. How true the statement of Paul in Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God causes all things, means, God causes all evil and bad things to work together for ultimate good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. Jacob was called and chosen by God even before his birth. God can work all things happened in his life – good and bad- to work together for good ultimately. If you are a child of God, if you accepted Christ as your savior, Bible says you are chosen by God and predestined for adoption into God’s family even before the foundation of the world per Ephesians 1:4-5. God will cause all things happened in your life – good or bad- to work together for good ultimately.
It was God’s plan that He sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of time. Even the trials and severe pains that young Joseph suffered was God’s plan and perfect will. Joseph himself testified this in Genesis 49, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Now Jacob in his old age along with all Joseph’s brothers are in the land of plenty (Egypt) when there was severe famine and no food in Canaan.
The twelve children and their families grew to become a powerful nation in Egypt.
God was actually transplanting Israel and his sons to Egypt in his sovereign plan to make them grow there in a land of plentiful without being destroyed by famine. Exodus chapter 1 starts by saying the names of Jacob’s (Israel’s) children who went to Egypt. Listen to this, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.”
These twelve children of Israel (Jacob) and their families were now set to thrive and grow into an innumerable number in Egypt and they became a vast number of population that even Egyptians were afraid of them. Bible says, “But the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them”. (Exodus 1:7). Pharaoh said the Israelites (the posterity of the 12 sons of Jacob who was later called Israel) have become far too numerous for us…. and they will become even more numerous and if a war breaks out they can join our enemies and fight against us. (Exodus 1:9-10).
Once they became numerous in number, they were now ready to form a nation according to the promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, ” I will make you into a great nation.” God was making a nation in and through all their difficulties and trials. God was fulfilling his covenant and eternal plan. They did not know why certain unexpected things were happening in their life. But God knew what He was up to. Now a new pharaoh came to rule Egypt who did not know anything about Joseph. The new Pharaoh down on the road, who did not know Joseph made the Israelites lives bitter and very harsh. Israelites were ruthlessly oppressed and made them work as slaves in Egypt. Why is this tragedy of ruthless oppression happening now? God already grew them into a nation and now it is time to get them out of Egypt by His own mighty hand and lead them to Canaan by giving them the law for their new nation- ten commandments and other national laws. (Exodus 20). He is going to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham back in Genesis 12 regarding the land and nation.
Time and space won’t allow me to go explain more on this topic now.
I want to bring to your attention one other point and please take this also to your heart.
2. Not only God has a much bigger plan behind your unique trials and troubles, but also God prepares you for a future ministry right in the midst of your trials and difficulties.
Most often the sad reality is this. You do not even know this truth when we experience severe trials and storms. You may be facing a circumstance that you are unable to handle or you may be experiencing wilderness experiences and you don’t even know how to escape from your current trials and tragedies. But do you know what this is how God trained and prepared many in the past to fulfill His work and ministry in future?
David was alone in loneliness away from his sweet home in the wilderness taking care of the flock of his father. No fun in such experiences for a young boy like David. Day after day dealing with wild animals who come to attack his sheep and taking care of and protecting Daddy’s sheep. But do you know this, God was preparing young David for his future calling to take care and protect God’s sheep – the nation Israel. A young lonely shepherd boy, God made him become the most famous king of the nation Israel. While all his brothers were enjoying their lives back in the home having fun with their friends, David was left alone in danger and struggles in taking care of and protecting father’s sheep. But it was God’s training and coaching camp for his future wonderful calling to minister to God’s children. He never thought he would minister the people of God as their king while he was doing this job of a shepherd.
David said in Psalm 23 that the Lord is his shepherd and because the Lord is his shepherd, he lacks nothing. How did he know that at an early age of his life? His experience taught him that lesson. He knew he is the shepherd of his father’s sheep and they lack nothing because he is their shepherd. He takes care all needs of his sheep and they lack nothing. In the same way, he learned the lesson that God is his shepherd and because the Lord is his shepherd, he lacks nothing.
David made his sheep lie down on green pastures and he led them beside quiet waters. He took care his sheep in such excellent ways and he learned the lesson that the Lord being his shepherd does the same thing for him. He wrote, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” He knew his sheep sometimes go through the dangerous places and shadow of death, but they are not afraid. Why? David, the shepherd was with them. The same way he says even though I walk through the darkest valley or shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because David’s shepherd, the Lord, is with him to protect him in the dangerous places. When the sheep were being attacked by bear and lion, David protected them from wild animals. He was trained properly to use the stone and sling to kill even the bear and lion. We know later he used the same instruments – sling and stones – to kill the Goliath who was challenging Israelites day and night. Truly, he feared no evil for he knew the Lord is with him.
All these dangerous situations and trails of his life were God’s appointed preparation times preparing him for a future unique task. Not only these earlier times even after Samuel anointed him as the king of Israel, he had to experience painful trials for about 15 more years. Though he was anointed, he had to experience untold miseries, heart breaking pains and fear of death before he became the king of Israel. Through all these miseries, trails, frustrations and pains, the Lord was making a ‘man after His own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14) before he leads the people of God for the next forty years (seven years in Hebron and 39 years in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 2:11)
The same is the life experience of Moses. He escaped Pharoah’s evil scheme of killing all Jewish infants by God’s providence. Not only that, in God’s sovereign providence, the young Moses was cared for, protected and educated by their enemy Himself. Think the irony in all this. God prepared Moses for his future ministry by allowing him to grow in Egyptian palace as Pharoah’s daughter’s son and by giving him the opportunities to learn and grow in the best educational institutions in Egypt. But Moses knew in his heart God has a special call for him. Bible says in Hebrews 11:24-27, he left all his favorable and luxurious circumstances of life available in the palace in Egypt. He refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Rather he chose to be mistreated along with God’s people. He preferred to be obedient to God’s plan than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin in Egypt. He considered the disgrace of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because He looks forward to God’s approval and rewards in future. He left Egypt not fearing the king’s anger because he saw Him who is invisible. He understood the plan of God for his life.
You see, the plan of God is far better and superior to all other agenda this world offers you. Moses, though he was highly educated in Egypt, had everything at his disposal decided to submit himself to God’s plan and program for his life. He was recognized as one of the faith warriors of the old testament saints because of this decision he made in his life.
But immediately after understanding God’s calling for his life and responding positively to that call, for the next forty years, he struggled a lot. He ended up killing an Egyptian when he found him fighting with an Israelite and had to flee to the desert to hide from the Pharaoh. The next forty years passed. He married one of the seven daughters of a Midianites priest and restarted his career as a shepherd for his father-in-law’s sheep. That sounds like a demeaning job for a long time in his life. Moses may have questioned God many times about his condition for forty years. But as David was, Moses was also in God’s seminary and coaching camp for a long period of time. God was going to groom Moses into a great leader of the nation Israel through all his sufferings and trials. There was not another leader like Moses for Jews. God knew exactly what He was up to with the life of Moses. Forty years was a long time and Egyptian palace and all its luxuries became a very distant memory for Moses. Then one day God stepped in at the burning bush right in front of him and called “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4). God said I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob…. I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt… and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10). In other words, God said, now, you are the man for the task of delivering His people from Egypt. Why? In God’s training camp of loneliness, trials, and frustrations, God groomed him for the task at hand.
My friend, I don’t know the trials you face in your life. You may think there is no way out of your painful circumstances and sorrows. I faced with such trials one after another in my life. Though I teach Bible and write Bible articles, I had and still have my own portions of severe trials and testing. many times, when I thought I won’t come out of such trials, God somehow got me out of it eventually. Do you know Bible promises, “He (God) will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”? (Romans 10:13 (d). The trials and problems we have gone through in our life, though my parents were faithful believers and prayer warriors, seem to be untold. But I admit from my heart this -His all-powerful grace was not in short supply in each of those times. Were we worried? Of course, we were. Were we discouraged and tempted even to quite Christian faith life? Yes, we were. But God’s presence and all-sufficient grace sustained us thus far and I am sure there was God’s purpose behind all that. I know and know and know in my heart that His grace is sufficient for me all through my life and after this life. Dear friend, His powerful grace is sufficient for you as well. The Lord said this to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul had a severe ‘thorn in the flesh” that weakened him and temporarily disabled him to do God’s work. We don’t know for sure what is the thorn that severely affected him to continue his ministry. He said it was a messenger of Satan to torment him. Paul prayed to remove the thorn three times. But God did not remove the thorn. But the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Of course, we should pray and God wants us to pray to him. We end up praying not just three times, but we pray 300 times or 3000 times. Still no answer. What would we do? Maybe God allowed that thorn to remain in your life. But along with the thorn, Lord promises His grace is sufficient for you, for his power is made perfect in weakness. You see God’s power is made perfect in your weakness. Humanly a strange answer from God, but a powerful revelation from God, right?
If our trials and difficulties won’t go away after continuous prayers, maybe God intended and planned it in our lives. There is, of course, a purpose behind such thorns. When God did not remove his thorn, he understood God gave that thorn to him with a purpose, so that he will be humble and not get proud over the surpassingly great revelations he received from God. Of course, he was given many superior revelations and he wrote many peoples in the Bible by the inspiring work of God and His Holy Spirit.
He said this, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul said God has a bigger plan and purpose behind my severe thorn in my flesh and instead of grieving over it and complaining about it, I am going to boast all the more gladly on his weaknesses. Why? So that Christ’s power, not his superiority or power, may rest on him. So he delighted in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. He said when he is weak, then He is strong.
Yes, it is true when you are weak, then the Lord is strong in you.
I can explain many other life examples in the Bible. But the time and space won’t allow me to include all.