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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good Affliction

Twice in Psalm 119:65 – 72 the psalmist exults in affliction.  He says that affliction resulted in his keeping God’s Word and that it helped him to learn his Statutes.  That is rarely – actually never, my response to affliction – at least initially.
Do you view affliction as good?  Thoughts at DTTB.
On my timeline, I can point to three significant afflictions – there are more, but those three are head and shoulders above the others.  Each of them caused significant and deep pain, pain that lasted – a gift that kept on giving.  Some of that pain is still a word, a glance, or a unexpected encounter below the surface – perhaps it will always be there – a reminder like Paul’s thorn in the flesh that His grace is lavishly sufficient, 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10.

But as I reflect on those afflictions I began to see a pattern.  The pattern of God’s sovereign hand directing, carefully, and with lavish grace and mercy the situations to move me in directions and to protect me from situations that would have possibly rendered me ineffective in the use of my passion, gifts, and abilities – in fact He used the situations to shape those passions, gifts, and abilities.

Purposeful and Protective
In one case I was spared having to decide between my understanding of the Bible and the entity I served, another saved us from probable financial ruin, the last destroyed an idol of security I had constructed and left me with nothing but trust in God.  These were painful.  I railed against them.  In the rear view mirror I am grateful for the loving grace I can now see dimly.


  1. A perceptive and very helpful meditation on this topic! Truly affliction is difficult to accept. If it was easy, it wouldn't be affliction, and probably wouldn't bring about any of the benefits you listed, Mike. Why do I need to trust, or learn from God, when things are smooth? Not that we don't need and benefit for those times as well. But we likely can't learn as much.

    In my study this week I greatly benefited from Peter's (rather negative) example in Matthew 26. At the Passover supper Jesus observed with His men He clearly asserted that they would all forsake Him that night. He even quoted specific prophecy to that effect (v.31, Zechariah 13:7). A specific promise! Also, Peter must have had at least a slight lingering idea that one of them was even going to betray Jesus in some manner (v.21-24); if so, he didn't seem concerned it might be him.

    But of course we know the story. Peter asserted his loyalty (v.33) to which Jesus made the prediction very personal - Peter indeed, and not just once but three times before morning. Peter pledged death before HE would do such a thing!

    I'm not surprised at Peter. What did impress me, however, was how Jesus handled him. He totally dropped the subject and headed out to the Garden with the Eleven after Judas departed. Then He did an even more amazing thing, He selected Peter as one of the three to go on to be closer with Him in His agony! Did Jesus hope that would help convince Peter not to deny Him?

    I don't think so. I believe Jesus was training this future leader of the Church to emerge after His ascension. In v.38 He reveals His deep agony of soul (talk about affliction!) and asked them all to keep watch with Him. He desired their company at this critical time, and perhaps even their prayers. Of course they can't stay awake. When Jesus comes to them He specifically calls out Peter and encourages him to pray in the face of temptation, making the pregnant observation - "the spirit willing, but the flesh is weak (vs.41,42)."

    The brave Peter, who couldn't be convinced just a few hours earlier, was about to find out how very weak his flesh really was.

    I believe this was the plan of Jesus, to break his arrogance and fleshly independence and at least begin to grasp the need for the promised Spirit to come in Acts 2. This breaking through his deep agony (Matt.26:75) was necessary to fulfill the great promise of Ch.16:17-19. God's strength, not his own.

    I wish I could learn more quickly the lessons God would teach me easily if He could. My flesh, however, is fearfully resistant. It usually takes painful experience for God to get His lessons across. I look forward to the day that will no longer be necessary.

    1. Really good stuff. The last sentence will probably be in glory... at least for me...