Sometimes, God allows things to get worse before they get better.
Recently, our church has been going through the book of Exodus together. You may know the story. God’s people, the Israelites, are slaves in Egypt. They cry out to God because the Egyptians treat them brutally and ruthlessly. God hears their cry and raises up a deliverer to rescue them. His name is Moses.
God meets Moses at the burning bush. There he tells him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Moses is initially reluctant about this idea. But God finally convinces him to go.
Before Moses meets Pharaoh God even provides a few things for him that would have boosted his confidence. He transforms Moses’s staff into “the staff of God.” With it, he can perform miraculous signs (Ex. 4:19).
God reveals to Moses that he thinks about Israel as his own son (Ex. 4:22-23). He sends Moses’s brother Aaron to meet him. They kiss each other before they catch up about everything that Moses has experienced recently (Ex. 4:27-28). When they go to Egypt, they see that God’s concern moves the elders of Israel so much that they bow down and worship God (Ex. 4:29-31).
God really seems to be in this!
So God has set the stage. After Moses’s initial hesitations, he is ready to roll.
With his newfound confidence, Moses marches up to Pharaoh boldly and commands him to let God’s people go (Ex 5:1). The writer sets up the narrative in a way that it almost feels as if Pharaoh will immediately fall on his knees before Yahweh and promptly obey him.
But unfortunately, this is not how the story unfolds. Not only does Pharaoh refuse to let the Israelites go, but he makes their work harder. Now they will have to gather their own straw to make bricks but the Egyptians will not reduce their quota (Ex. 5:7-8). The Israelites are furious with Moses and Aaron (Ex. 5:21).
If you put yourself in Moses’s place, you can imagine how crushed he must have felt at this moment.
He was just trying to do the right thing and obey God. Though he had his initial doubts, he was convinced that God would be with him. He was confident God would use him to deliver his people. But now things did not get better for God’s people. They got worse!
The last thing Moses wanted to do was to make things harder for his people. This is not how he expected the narrative to play out. Moses complains to God, asking God why he even sent him to Egypt (Ex. 5:22-23).
God sometimes allows things to get worse before they get better.
You might be able to relate to Moses here. While you are trying to do the right thing, things are getting worse instead of getting better. Why would God allow this?
God actually gives Moses the reason. Firstly, he is doing it so that the Israelites will know his name: Yahweh, the one, true, and living God of the universe (Ex. 6:2, 6, 8). Secondly, so that they would know—beyond the shadow of a doubt—that it is God who has delivered them because he loves them and wants to be with them (Ex. 6:7).
In other words, God has bigger plans for his people than just bringing them out of slavery. He loves them too much to just solve their problem and leave it at that. When everything is said and done, he wants them to know him, and to be with him. This is the most important thing! To ensure this happens, sometimes God allows things to get worse before they get better.
Of course, Exodus sets a pattern for the greater deliverance that God would bring about. This involves, not just bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He will deliver his people from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13).
In this mighty act of deliverance, even for Jesus, things had to get worse before they got better (Phil. 2:5-11).
So, this pattern of Scripture is clear in the lives of Moses and Jesus—as well as countless others throughout Scripture and church history.
Do not be surprised if God seems to allow things to get worse in your life before they get better. Even as you try your best to follow and obey him, remember that God wants to do more in your life than just solve your problems. He wants you to know him and to be with him.