Psalm 119:67, 71, 75 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
This is a pretty remarkable trio of verses, and they say a great deal about the person who wrote them. Not many people advance to this level of faith, frankly. We place our “creature comforts” ahead of knowing and obeying God, and I think we lose a great deal as a result. Peter had the same understanding as the Psalmist. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2) I doubt that passage is used very much in sermons today! We aren’t talking about masochism here; this isn’t seeking suffering. Rather, it is recognizing that God never allows anything that can’t be for our good, (Romans 8:28) and allowing God to teach us about ourselves and about Him through our suffering. Any time we encounter suffering, not just in ourselves but particularly then, we need to ask God what His purpose might be in allowing it, and so reap the blessings He intends. I am reminded of what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph is actually a good example for us, because in spite of the extreme injustice and temptation he faced, he placed God first, and many people benefited as a result.
From my current perspective I don’t feel like I have suffered very much in my life, but I have gone through some things that weren’t much fun at the time, most recently kidney stones. However, my wife has a medical “rap sheet” that’s so long she has to carry around a written copy of it (in English and Japanese) to fill in any medical personnel whom she might need to call on. That’s certainly not anything she has chosen, either deliberately or by lifestyle choices, but rather than destroying her it has made her the sort of person many people just want to be with – sometimes to our inconvenience! As has been said, God is far more interested in our character than our comfort. We need to remember that, and remember that comfort is just a momentary thing, but character echoes for eternity. As a pastor I have to be careful people don’t feel I’m taking their suffering lightly, but I must always point them to Jesus, not just as our Savior but also as our example. Too many just want Him to save them out of their suffering, not thinking about the suffering He went through to give us eternal life. I am to speak the truth in love so that people may be lifted out of the lies of the enemy and the self-centered prison they produce.
Father, You’ve given me another message, but I’m not preaching next Sunday! Help me recognize and make full use of the opportunities You provide, so that Your Word through me may accomplish everything for which You send it, (Isaiah 55:11) delivering many and bringing You glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!