This Week I’m Thankful for the Hard and Here’s Why

There’s an age old question: How could a good God let bad things happen? It just doesn’t make any sense to us. It feels incongruent because good and bad don’t go together. Yet there’s no way around the fact that God allows, and at times even ordains, both (Isaiah 45:7).

Devotional Scripture: Exodus 1
Key Verse: “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:27b, NLT)

The first chapter of Exodus places a similar question before us: What kind of a God would let his chosen people be slaves in a foreign land for not just one or ten or fifteen years, but four hundred long, hot years? We’re talking generations who experienced nothing but brutal slavery while the iniquities (sins) of the Amorites and Perizzites and all the other “ites” in the land of Canaan rose to a level in God’s eyes that warranted destruction. (Gen. 15:13-14; Deut. 7:1-2)

Because that was the deal, do you remember? God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He wouldn’t destroy the peoples of Canaan without just cause. Without time to repent of their wickedness. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” He is a gracious God.

Yet on the flip side, he willingly enslaved His chosen people, not just allowing them to be treated harshly but planning for it. Psalm 105:25 says, “He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” 

The Pharaoh who first oppressed the Hebrews likely rose to power about eighty years after Joseph’s death. A foreigner – he cared nothing for Egypt’s history or a Hebrew governor named Joseph who died before he was even born.

He just wanted to be sure the growing people group in the Negev didn’t escalate to numbers that might pose a threat to his reign. And the best way to do that – keep them busy. Really busy. Afflicting them with heavy burdens like building storehouses for Pharaoh called Pithom and Raamses (v. 11).

Verse 14 goes on to say the Egyptians “made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.”

Day after day they got up and felt the whip of slavery on their back, thirsting for not just water but freedom. Yet in spite of the injustice upon them – they multiplied. They fell in love. They married. Men went home after long exhausting days and loved their wives. And women in turn came alongside their husbands and they had families.

The people increased greatly – growing “exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (v. 7), much to the dismay of Pharaoh, who decided to take an even more extreme approach when he realized the people were still increasing.

He called Shiphrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives, and explained, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but it if is a daughter, she shall live” (v. 16).

But they wouldn’t do it. Fearing God more than man, they let every new baby breath life. And as a result, God rewarded them with families of their own.

Yet He didn’t make the problem go away. He didn’t instantaneously strike Pharaoh down for such a grossly detestable idea. He let him live and since the midwives couldn’t get it done pharoah instructed the Egyptians to take on the task. “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (v. 22).

I almost can’t even think of it – the smell and feel of my own newborns always just one lucid memory away. Inviting me to recall the sweetness of their small innocent frames.Their button noses. Their milk white puckered lips.

I shudder at the realization this was not a bad dream these sweet mama’s woke up from, but a nightmare they lived through. Their babies, their little ones, their sweet boys ripped from their arms and tossed into a river as though they were nothing.

Why LORD? Why did it have to be that hard? Why must life be that unfair? Why must we go through things that shatter our already tired and tattered hearts into even tinier pieces?

Couldn’t it be easier? It could. But here’s what I’ve realized: It’s only in the grip of great need, that we begin to grasp the expanse of a great God.

Just think for a moment – If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t know God as Healer (Ex. 15:26). If we didn’t have needs, we wouldn’t know God as Provider (Gen. 22:14).  If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t know him as powerful. And if we didn’t have worries, we wouldn’t know him as the God of Comfort.

If we could walk through every inch of life on our own, we’d never know He was willing to carry us (Deut. 1:31). If we could fight all of our own battles, we’d never know He was willing to fight on our behalf (Ex. 14:14). If we were never thirsty, we’d have no idea how satisfying He really is (Ps. 107:9).

And if the Israelite’s hadn’t been enslaved, they’d never have known God as Redeemer. Nor experienced a rescue beyond anything the world had ever seen then or now. A rescue that symbolizes the life of every believer – once enslaved to sin, but set free through Jesus Christ.

Why does God sometimes allow the hard?  So we can get to know the Healer.

Because there’s simply nothing better than knowing Him. A God who is good and right and perfect. Who’s just in all He does. Whose greatness is unsearchable. Whose understanding is beyond measure. A hiding place for the wounded and a shield to the faithful – he is the LORD and there is no other.

Ezekiel 34:27b says, “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (NLT)

Sometimes it’s hard my friend, not because God doesn’t love us or forgot about us or turned his back for a few minutes, but so we will will know and experience beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the LORD.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What difficult circumstances has God used to reveal himself to you?
If you’re going through a tough time right now, how might these insights change your perspective?


It’s week one of a year long study through Exodus. If you haven’t signed up to receive Deeper Devos in your e-mail, please do so! And do me a favor: tell a friend! It thrills me beyond words when you share Deeper Devos with others. Thank you! Until next week, Stacey

The Most Important Thing We Can Teach Our Kids

Do you have any goals? What about for your kids or grand kids – have any hopes or dreams for them? Of course you do. I do too. And we should. Without dreams that grow into goals and goals that beseech us to try we wouldn’t have things like indoor plumbing or best selling novels or the Olympics or HGTV. That’s right we’d be living in a world without books and Olympians and Chip and Joanna Gaines. And to make matters worse – we’d be going to the bathroom outside.

Scripture: Genesis 48
Key Verse: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

So don’t get me wrong. We need dreamers and thinkers and doers and tryer-outers. We need people willing to fail and try again, people willing to pave the way for the rest of us who avoid science like it’s a bad plague.

But passion doesn’t need prompting. It will come naturally. God makes each of us with unique abilities and gifts and talents and loves. What needs prompting is purpose.

The motive behind the drive. Is it for my own glory or God’s? This is what our little loves and big loves and in between loves need help understanding. Because we don’t naturally seek to glorify God. If we did, well, then every pastor would be out of a job and we parents could hang out at the beach. But from my vantage point no pastors or parents are going to be out of a job any time soon.

We seek fulfillment. We seek pleasure. We seek after success and accomplishments and money and fame, but we don’t naturally seek God. It’s He that seeks us (John 6:44).

So it’s of grave importance we nudge and teach and at times push in the direction of purpose. As Joseph plainly did with his two boys. When Joseph heard that his dad had taken ill, he found his sons and took them to see grandpa.

At the mere sight of them, Jacob rallied, and sat up to do what he’d probably been praying about for quite some time – the blessing and adoption of Joseph’s boys – Manasseh and Ephraim.

Now I can’t help but wonder if he’d already run the idea by Joseph, or if it was a complete surprise. “Oh by the way Joseph, those two sons of yours – I plan to adopt them as my own.” “Oh, well that’s nice dad. But I tell ya what,  why don’t you give me a few days to run that one by Asenath, my wife. Remember her? And then I’ll give back with ya.”

But there is seemingly no hesitation on Joseph’s part. In fact when it was time for the official blessing Joseph urged his boys forward. “It’s ok guys go see grandpa.” So they did and Jacob kissed them and embraced them. Then Jacob stretched out his arms crossing them to place his right hand on Ephraim (the younger) and his left hand on Manasseh (the older).

Joseph thinking his dad had just gotten a little confused correct him, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head” (v. 18). But Jacob assured he knew what he was doing. Manasseh would be great but “his younger brother shall be greater than he” (v.19). A common theme we’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis.

And in a matter of moments it was over. With the ceremony concluded, the boys adopted, and the blessing given, Ephraim and Manasseh were forever sealed as Israelite’s. Their children and their children’s children would not be Egyptian, they would be Hebrew. Why? Because Joseph pushed his boys in the direction of purpose.

Instead of teaching them the family business to ensure their financial well being; instead of encouraging them to stick close with their mother’s family for their social well being; instead of  discouraging them from the abominable lifestyle of shepherding to ensure their political well being; Joseph emphasized purpose, to ensure their spiritual well being.

Teaching them that there’s no greater honor than being part of the family of God. There’s no greater privilege than serving the Almighty God. There’s no greater task than bringing glory to God. Because He alone is God and does great and marvelous things (Ps. 86:10). It’s He who gives and takes away. To Him belong greatness and power and glory and majesty. All that is in the earth is his. Therefore riches and honor come from God alone. (1 Chron. 29:11-12)

How do I know Joseph taught them such things? Because their dad was second in command of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. They had wealth and prestige and immense popularity among the Egyptian people and the surrounding kingdoms. It would have been natural and completely acceptable for Joseph to one day pass the position to Manasseh.

Not to mention their mama was Egyptian with an Egyptian family and an Egyptian heritage. It was what they knew until their dad came home one day to announce an entourage of Hebrew uncles had arrived.

But they walked away from all of it. They left behind the financial, social, and political security Egypt had to offer, for the eternal security God had to offer. Knowing full well the riches of this world do not compare to the riches of God’s kindness.

My dear friend, are we teaching our kids the same? Do they have any idea they’re here to glorify God? Do they understand that there’s no greater privilege than being a part of God’s people? Do they know there’s no greater honor than serving the LORD God Almighty?

As they grow and learn and gain independence, let’s not just support their passions, let’s also be sure to teach them their purpose. That they might leave behind the riches of this world for the immeasurable riches of God’s great and loving kindness. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As followers of Jesus Christ, what is our purpose? How are you living out that purpose and how are you promoting it to the next generation?
Do your kids know why they’re here? Do they understand there’s no greater accomplishment than learning to live heart, soul, and mind for God? What can you do today to encourage them in the right direction?

Why I Pray for Israel

Maybe it’s because I’m with them all day. But for some crazy unheard of reason my kids don’t always listen to me. Can you believe it? However if daddy declares it or says it or asks for it – there’s usually a response. And a quick one at that.

Devotional: Genesis 47:7-31
Key Verse: I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3

“Why is that?” I asked the kids after a long morning of hearing myself give instructions to apparently no one in particular. “Maybe because daddy always means what he says.” (Emphasis on the word always please.)

“Well how very insightful my dear, sweet, precious children.” At least that’s how I think I responded. Or maybe responded or wished I responded. Anyway, once the shock wore off of hearing I only sometimes mean what I say, I realized maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing. Not that the kids don’t mind me, but that they have a dad who always follows through with what he says. Because they also have a God who does the very same thing.

Every single word God speaks comes forth exactly as He says it will, because the LORD always means what he says. Proverbs 30:5 says “Every word of God proves true.”

So when God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,” He meant it. Anyone who stood by Abraham would be blessed, but anyone who stood against him would suffer the consequences.

It’s a promise wrapped in what we like to refer to as the Abrahamic Covenant. A group of promises given to Abraham, reiterated to Isaac and Jacob, and passed to their descendants – the nation of Israel.

So when Pharaoh reached down into the pit and made Joseph governor of Egypt; when he graciously welcomed Jacob’s family into the kingdom; when he granted them rights to the best land in all the region, he was not just being nice. He was unknowingly blessing God’s people.

Therefore God blessed him in great abundance. First through the words of Jacob who was brought into Pharaoh’s throne room after his sons were escorted out. And then by the work of Joseph…

When the Egyptians ran out of money to buy food during the famine they came to Joseph for help.  “We’re out of money but we need more food!” So Joseph allowed them to sell their livestock in exchange for more. But a year later they were in trouble again. With no money and no livestock left to their name they suggested Joseph buy them and their land in exchange for more food that they might survive the famine.

So he did. He sold grain to the people in exchange for their land and they became Pharaoh’s servants. It may sound harsh to us but it was a win win as far as the Egyptians were concerned. They not only had food to eat and seed to sow but got to keep four fifths of the crop for themselves. Even in years of plenty, only twenty percent would go to Pharaoh.

And through it all, Pharaoh was immensely blessed with livestock and land and great wealth. Why? Because God was faithful to his word to bless those who bless his people. Is the promise still in effect today? Does God still bless those who bless Israel and curse those who dishonor them? Well quite honestly I don’t see why not. And have no desire to test God on the matter.

First of all the promise was restated in a blessing spoken over Israel in Numbers 24:9, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” Secondly, God still loves Israel.

They are the apple of his eye (Zech. 2:8). He chose them out of all the peoples of the earth to be his treasured possession because of his oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (cf. Deut. 7:6-8) And I don’t know about you but I don’t usually discard my treasured possessions.

Romans 11 says the Jews are ““beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (v. 28-29). He cannot and will not go back on his word.

Though for a time God has hardened the heart of Israel, “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25), he has not deserted them. Look with me at Revelation 21. When the holy city, the new Jerusalem, referred to as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” comes down from heaven it will have a great wall with twelve gates and twelve foundations. On the gates will be “the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” (v. 12). And on the foundations will be the “names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (v. 14).

Someday, in someway, God will bring his beloved bride and his beloved people together forever. Until then we stand by their side because “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all” (Rom. 9:5).

Beloved of God, pray for Israel. And pray for the leaders of our nation. Pray with me that we will always and forever be a blessing to Israel not just for our own protection, but because they are God’s treasured possession and a vessel of blessing to all families of the earth through Jesus Christ our LORD. My friend may we never forget, our Savior bled Jewish blood.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Since World War II America has given over 120 billion dollars in aid to Israel. We have stood by their side continually. Do you think there is a correlation between the great blessings our nation has experienced and the hand of blessing we’ve extended to Israel? Why or why not?
How has God been faithful to his promises in your life? What promise are you holding onto today?

If today’s Deeper Devo was encouraging to you or insightful you have my permission to share it! My heart’s cry is for God to use my writing to encourage, enlighten, and educate hearts of believers and nonbelievers every single week. Thanks my friend!