God’s plan for the Israelites included more than freedom. His plans for us extend far beyond our comfort and convenience.
For The Israelites
The Israelites would have preferred to move home soon after Joseph died, rather than be enslaved for 400 years. However, God had a bigger plan.
God wanted to transform a small nomadic shepherd family into a nation of millions with skills, leadership, traditions, education, and wealth.
(The Egyptians gave the Israelites gold, silver, and clothing before they departed, fulfilling a prophecy God gave Abraham centuries earlier.)
God wanted the Israelites to forge a collective identity that would endure throughout history, despite subsequent dispersion and persecution. He wanted to be an intrinsic part of that identity.
God did not orchestrate the Israelite enslavement to achieve these goals. He cannot do evil things.
The Egyptians willfully enslaved the Israelites, without his interference, because free labor suited their economic self-interest and they were powerful enough to make it happen.
God let this evil persist across centuries—only he knows why it had to endure that long—but he used it to produce his intended outcome.
God allowed that which he abhorred—the Israelite enslavement—to achieve that which he treasured—their emergence as a nation.
Amid affliction, we want God to protect and pamper us, but he has a higher aim. He wants to perfect us.
God wants to use our distress to draw us to himself, the source of true contentment, and to change us for the better.
He wants us, and those in our orbit, to learn that he is always good, his ways are always superior ours, and his love is unfailing.
He wants to reorient our lives around his plans, priorities, and precepts, much to our ultimate delight.
He wants us to love him unconditionally, even when he disappoints us, just as he loves us unconditionally, even when we disappoint him.
God never sponsors affliction to teach us these lessons. He can only do good things. Affliction is simply the natural byproduct of a damaged world filled with fallen people who make wrong decisions based on moral untruth.
God dislikes our suffering more than we do—he grieves when we hurt—but he is also provident. He uses our distress to produce goodness in, through, and around us, as we walk in harmony with him.