The Indispensable Value of Affliction
We all hate problems. Heaven for us would be to be completely free from difficulty. In fact, we build high walls of protection to keep affliction from our door and we whine and complain when it arrives.
But all of us face problems. It is the natural result of living in a fallen world. God not only knows this, but He has sovereignly allowed this whole process and works all things together for His ultimate agenda: to develop a people who know Him and who are equipped to rule and reign with Him in eternity.
Wise is the man who has made peace with affliction. Who does not see it as an enemy but a friend. Who counts it all joy when he falls into various trials because he knows that it comes to develop him. (James 1) Happy is the one who has learned the indispensible value of affliction.
AFFLICTION CORRECTS OUR WALK
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
Our natural bent is away. Away from God, away from what is valuable. All of us, like sheep turn aside in our fallenness from God and the result is always disastrous. We need a reminder of our helplessness and need, and affliction is our most relentless teacher.
Luther said, “Affliction is the best book in my library.” Problems push us to the Lord and help us realize that the only way we can navigate such a life successfully is by walking in intimacy with the Lord. It is here that His word becomes our Living Bread and we understand that man is not to live by physical bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
AFFLICTION TEACHES US HIS WAYS
“It was good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:71-72)
When we are pressed into God through difficulty, we discover that our best posture is to listen carefully to all that He says and do explicitly what He desires. As we do, we realize that His word is perfect. It revives the soul. It is “profitable for reproof, for correction, for teaching, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ” (2 Timothy 3:15-16)
Things become valuable to us when we are desperate. We see the worth of God’s word–the indispensible worth–when we are in affliction and what He promises is the only thing that sustains us and guides us. It is richer than temporary gold and silver to discover the inexhaustible treasure of God’s Word.
AFFLICTION RESTORES OUR FAITH
“You are good and do good…” (Psalm 119:68)
It was when he was in the trouble that the Psalmist came to this most critical conviction. It is always the great temptation from the enemy to point to God during our affliction and blame Him. There must be someone to charge and God seems the logical source because He rules over the world. “Why does God allow suffering?” we always ask. The devil whispers so instantaneously that we think it’s our own original thought. “Because He is not good,” he says.
This whisper started in the garden as the devil charged God with withholding from Eve. She believed his lies, pulled away from trust in what God had said, and took matters into her own hands. The results were tragic. Satan does this to divert attention from himself—the source of all evil—and to cast doubt upon the One he hates. If he can successfully convince us that God is not good, then we will never trust God and the enemy has gained one more ally.
If we naively listen to the enemy’s rants we will come out of trials thinking less of God. But if we will pursue Him in the midst of difficulty, we will always discover what the psalmist declared. God IS good. And the end result of His goodness is that He always DOES good, because His nature demands it. He cannot deny who He is.
When we’ve worked through affliction we know this as we’ve never known it before because we discover Him in the midst of trials to be the only One who cares. We come to know that His way is always right and there is nothing that can separate us from His love. (This is why the Psalmist constantly praises God’s “steadfast” love.) We also learn the incredible truth that God’s love makes it possible to “work all things together for good” in our life, conforming us to His image. Trials cannot destroy us when we are looking to God. In fact, they strengthen us by pushing us deeper into the bottomless well of His strength.
AFFLICTION CAN BE EMBRACED
We can resist and rebel, complain and wallow in self-pity and discontent in our current affliction, or we can embrace God’s sovereignty over all of life. Only here is rest…right in the loving arms of our good God.
©2012 Bill Elliff. Originally posted on October 27th, 2012 at Bill Elliff’s Blog.