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.
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.