There is a sentence in Acts 16 that has always bugged me. Paul and Silas were in Philippi as missionaries and they encountered a young woman who was possessed by a spirit with the ability to tell fortunes. This young woman followed them around yelling, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved" (Acts 16:17, HCSB) Then the passage tells us in Acts 16:18, "She kept this up for many days" (HCSB).
What? A woman possessed by an evil spirit followed them around for days and Paul didn't cast it out of her? How does that make any sense at all?
Maybe Paul enjoyed the free advertising. Maybe Paul knew what would happen when he finally did cast the spirit out (her owners would start a riot). Maybe Paul wasn't quite sure that it was an evil spirit. I don't know why Paul waited as long as he did. But for days, this woman continued to follow them around yelling, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved!" Until, finally, in frustration, Paul did turn around and cast out the spirit. The girl's owners did get upset and start a riotous mob that resulted in Paul and Silas being beaten and imprisoned. After that, most of us are familiar with the story of how Paul and Silas sang hymns in the prison, how an earthquake at midnight shook the prison, opened the doors and freed all the prisoners. We know how the jailer came in ready to kill himself for allowing the prisoners to escape, only to be stopped by Paul and Silas because the the prisoners whadn't gone anywhere. When the jailer realized that he did not have to kill himself, he asked Paul and Silas a question that most of us have probably never been asked, "What must I do to be saved?"
How did the jailer know to ask that question? Because Paul and Silas had been followed around the city for days by a woman possessed by an evil spirit who kept shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved!"
Sometimes, it seems like God is being cruel because God allows hard things to occur far longer than we think they should. Sometimes we wonder where God can possibly be in the middle of such horrible suffering and injustice. I am not qualified to speak to every such instance but I do know that, sometimes, just like with Lazarus' death and resurrection and with this woman's prolonged demonic torment, God allows hard things to continue because even better things will result from them. When we find ourselves in the middle of something hard or painful, and we find ourselves asking, "God, how long will You let this continue?" Remember, the jailer and his family who were saved because he knew the right question to ask and trust that God will not allow you to suffer in vain.