“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 NIV
Every day we are learning. We learn from past experiences, we learn from what others teach us (erroneously or not), we learn from what we read, what we watch, what we absorb through various means of media; we are constantly learning.
God can and will use many things to teach us his ways. The Psalmist mentions the use of afflictions as a blessing rather than a curse. “It was good…” How often are we overcome with afflictions and declare, “Wow this is great”? Well, I know I am not usually responding that way. Often it is not until the trial is long past that I can see any good. Sometimes I have never understood the good. There are some circumstances I hope and expect to understand someday when I see Jesus face to face but until then I ask, “What am I to learn?” I don’t want to miss what the trial was teaching. For whatever reason God has allowed the hardness into our lives, we can be sure there is something there to be learned.
“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8
Afflictions bring us into obedience, and Christ Himself learned this lesson! What a privilege to be tested in the same way as the Son of God! How do you react to the test? Does it bring you to obedience or do you feel compelled to rebel in anger and self-pity?
“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15
We can’t talk about afflictions without mentioning Job. Surely, this righteous man of God knew a thing or two about suffering unjustly! What happened? God spoke to him through his afflictions. Which, by the way, God sovereignly allowed to come upon Job for no other reason than the devil asked God if he could test him! No secret sin to be revealed in Jobs life, only the certainty that Job would remain faithful to God and not curse him or fall into the poisonous cycle of cynicism. God delivered him, and spoke to him while he was suffering. God meets us in our affliction, and teaches us there. We must not shut our eyes or cover our ears to his message during that time! Self-pity is the number one silencer to the voice of God. Focus on yourself for a while and you’re sure to lose sight of any lesson God was trying to teach you.
“I applied my heart to what I observed and I learned a lesson from what I saw.” Proverbs 24:32
Are we determined to see Gods message? This is another vital point in the afflicted one. We must press on and wrestle if we are to discover the lesson God has set before us. I don’t want to leave any trial without that “blessing”. I have said as much in my prayers, “Lord, I am not leaving here until you show me what I am to know!” Sometimes he wants us to persevere and show some determination. Do we give up or press on? How focused are we on getting taught?
“We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Romans 5:3
“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Peter 2:19
How else can we experience Gods pleasure over our passing the test unless we’ve been put to the test? How else can we mature as believers unless we are stretched like an archers bow? Are we willing to endure trials in faithfulness to receive the prize that is waiting? Do we trust that we will gain what he has promised through the refining fire?
We behave what we believe. If we’re not behaving like we trust him, we need to find out exactly what we believe about him.
“Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” Isaiah 49:13
Know that God is not pleased that we must endure suffering, but he is pleased when we come out of it shining with a crown of endurance! We can be sure he is pleased when we have sought his face and desired to learn his lessons with the pain! We can know that he is waiting to tell us, “Well done!” And won’t that be a marvelous day indeed! Well worth any trial!
Lastly, may our afflictions teach us not only how to trust our Lord, seek him, lean on him, and listen to him, but also to be contented with him.
“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, (Every situation!) whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
Christ Himself gives us His strength to endure any trial allowed in our path. That alone should elicit a shout of praise, “Teach me more of your wonderful ways!”
Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide and for using whatever means necessary to teach me your ways. I confess the times I have indulged in self-pity and loathed over my circumstances. I confess the times I have focused so much on my own misery I have completely missed you in the trial. I don’t want to leave here without understanding your lesson for me at this moment. Teach me your word and help me to trust you more. Bring me to that state of contentment in any situation; that is my prayer. I want to hear you say “Well done” when I see you face to face so I ask for your endurance through these difficulties. You have called me to press on, and I accept this calling with joy!