Before I was afflicted, I went astray: But now have I kept Thy word … It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn thy statutes.” – Psalm 119:67,71 (KJV)
Come on and be honest with me.
When’s the last time you found yourself consistently rejoicing in the midst of your trials?
When’s the last time you were able, not just to tolerate the pain of your circumstance, but to actually praise God for it?
Better yet, when is the last time you actually embraced suffering?
If you have been able to achieve this with any type of regularity, congratulations!
Not only are you among the minority of believers, you have also learned to embrace the advantage of affliction.
It’s almost become a Christian cliché for the well-meaning believer to spit out that phrase: “Don’t worry about it. God’s working it out for your good,” when trying to encourage another hurting soul. But in light of that timeless truth, don’t our senses still challenge us?
Don’t our feelings sometimes frustrate our ability to grasp the validity of that statement?
I mean, think of your lowest point. Your darkest moment. Your driest day. Think of the time when friends were few, money was funny and change was strange.
Everything you touched wilted. Every attempt at progress failed. Every effort to rectify seemed to bring more enemies. Every time you tried to force a smile, tears flowed freely. It may have been days, months or years ago that your wilderness situation began to seem victorious. Or it maybe as recent as right now.
“God, I’ve learned my lesson!” we might exclaim, in the midst of the messiness. Wouldn’t it be easier if the all-powerful Creator could, in His sovereign nature, find another way to push us into purpose rather than through problems?
Of course, He could do it. But He wants us to learn a deeper lesson: That resistance is the best method to build our strength.
That’s where the muscle-bound athlete gets his strength — through resistance. That’s where the marathon runner finds her endurance — resistance. And that’s where the Christian gains the character and the fortitude to be able to handle “greater.” It’s through resistance.
Psalm 119:67, 71 shows us a couple of advantages that affliction can bring us.
First, affliction produces Repentance. Verse 67 paints a before-and-after portrait of affliction. Paraphrased, it simply says: “I messed up consistently. I had no direction, no purpose, was aimless.” That’s the “before.”
“After” says: “Now I’m stable and secure because the afflictions forced me to find an anchor in God’s Word.”
See the turn in attitude? A complete 180-degree change. That’s exactly what repentance means. Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change of behavior.
True repentance says, “I was going this direction, but now I choose to go the opposite way.” God knows that problems in an authentic Christian’s life will push him into His life-changing presence.
Are you brave enough to admit that you never prayed as much as you did when in trouble?
God knows what He’s doing.
Secondly affliction produces Reward. The writer concludes in verse 71 that it was literally “good” to have been afflicted. Good, meaning advantageous. Good, meaning beneficial. Though the feeling of these afflictions wasn’t good, the resulting fruit of the afflictions is something to shout about!
I feel like I need to tell somebody (including myself) to hold on. Don’t give up. The struggle is meant to strengthen you. Regardless of the pain, the hurt, the misunderstandings, the mistakes, the tension and the turmoil, know that God is on your side.
I challenge you to rejoice in the midst of your afflictions today in light of the victory they shall bring you tomorrow.
Gabriel Stovall is a sportswriter for the Clayton News Daily and serves as the founding pastor of NewLife Christian Church in Forest Park.