God’s People Who Suffer


In 1992, my wife and I were called. God had made it clear in unmistakable ways that we were to move to Austin to do ministry with his leadership and blessing. But as soon as we got here, everything went wrong. Our home was not ready, and we had to live in a hotel with our three children who were under five years old. Our baby got meningitis and was in the hospital for three weeks. We almost lost him. Standing at my child’s hospital bed late one night, I was faced with a question I struggled to answer: If God had called and blessed, why did my life seem like such a disaster?

  • How do you make sense of the promise of God’s blessing and simultaneous pain in your life?


1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Describe how verses one through seven are a fulfillment of God’s promise to bless Abraham (Jacob’s grandfather) and make a great multitude of his family (Genesis 12:2, 15:5).
  2. About 400 years passed between verse one and verse eight. What had changed, and what were the Egyptians’ emotions toward the Israelites (vss. 10, 12b)?
  3. Make a list of all the adjectives and verbs that describe how the Egyptians treated the Israelites. Describe the life that the Israelites were living.
  4. It must have been difficult for the Israelites to reconcile the promise God had made that they would be a great nation and the reality of their enslavement. What are the challenges of life that are hard for you to reconcile as a child of God? Do you trust what God is doing in and through your life?


It is difficult and confusing to make sense of any kind of suffering, especially in the face of God’s promise to love, care for, and bless us. How did being ruthlessly enslaved fit in with being the chosen and anointed people of God, the ones through whom the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:3)? But, this is the way of Jesus. He was both God and the anointed one of God (the Christ), through whom all humanity might be saved. And yet, he knew that he would suffer, be rejected, and killed (Mark 8:31). In God’s economy, it seems that suffering and blessing sometimes go together. Through Israel’s suffering God was made known to all the world, and through Jesus’ suffering the world is invited to become children of God.

  • Ask God for patience, strength, and endurance to walk through the parts of life you don’t understand. Ask God to give you eyes to see how he can fulfill his plans through you and your circumstances.
  • Spend some time thanking and praising Jesus for enduring suffering so that you could be saved from sin and become a child of God.