The Songs of Suffering

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  • God’s ultimate purpose in all suffering is joy.  Scripture is full of songs of praise that came out of great trials.  The feat of the Passover commemorated God’s deliverance from the long slavery Israel had endured in Egypt.  The last day of the Passover was to be a pilgrim feast, according to God’s command, so that they could tell their sons what God had done for them when He brought them out of Egypt.  The sacrifice of the firstborn male of every animal and the redemption of every firstborn son were signs of this great delivery, sacrifices of thanksgiving.  

    When God miraculously saved His people from the chariots of the army of Egypt by driving back the sea all night with a strong east wind, the people put their faith in Him and in His servant Moses, and all sang a song together.

    I will sing to the Lord, for he has risen up in triumph;
    The horse and his rider he has hurled into the sea.
    The Lord is my refuge and my defence,
    He has shown himself my deliverer.
    He is my God, and I will glorify him.

    Exodus 15:1-2

    The song goes on for pages, recounting the Lord’s marvelous power, love, and mercy.  Miriam the prophetess took up a tambourine and the women danced while Miriam sang.  The greater the peril they had been in, the greater the joy of deliverance.

    The terrors and privations of their long journey through the wilderness had to be endured, but how much more wonderful the promised land would be as a result.  Who can enjoy the fire who has never been cold, or cold water who has never been thirsty?

    The heartbreak of the prodigal’s father turned into dancing, singing, and feasting when the son came home.

    The angels in heaven sing more joyfully over the repentance of a single sinner than over ninety-nine who need no repentance.  

    The woman who loses a small coin is so ecstatic to find it that she calls on her friends to rejoice with her. 

    And the virgin Mary, a humble village girl, sings her Magnificat:

    Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord, rejoice, rejoice, my spirit, in God my Savior; so tenderly has he looked upon his servant, humble as she is.

    Luke 1:46-48

    **Excerpt originally published in A Path Through Suffering, pp. 87-88.