2007-04-14 - Learning from Affliction
Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees."
Sometimes God's dealings with us can seem similar to that good, hearty, slap in the face that wakes us up and makes us say, "Thanks, I needed that." This is true, and we all know it by experience, but it almost never seems good, hearty, or in any way positive while we are growing through the growth, trial, or experience. But saints have long testified, and many reading this can also affirm, that it has often been good that we have been afflicted - that we might learn the ways of God. We are slow learners and more apt to glory in our dunce cap, than to learn from the providential care of our Lord. The school of God's affliction subdues our pride. We rarely see such books published today, but the old writers, the profound writers who drank deeply in the things of God's Word, used to write books and articles with titles like, "The Advantages of Sickness" and "The Lord's Kindness in Affliction." Such titles would not be best sellers today, but what a blessing it would be for us all to be taught and trained when we are forced to imbibe deeply in the well of suffering. Learning to use such times to our advantage and growth in godliness is one of the hallmarks of the child of God who has matured into a lively faith.
It is never pleasant to go through afflictions, but reflection can bring out the pleasant part of affliction that we can't see as we are going through it. When we come out of affliction loving the Lord more, trusting His care and providence in greater measure, and having developed and grown in sanctification, we can look back on our trials as a mercy. They were for our advantage. We can say with the Psalmist, "It was good for me to be afflicted." In volume 40 of Spurgeon's sermons, he gives an illustration of a woman who he visited who had been bedridden for, as he says, 20-25 years. He says of his visit, "She sat up in bed as best she could, and, oh, I wish that I could preach such sermons as she preached to me when she spoke about the goodness of the Lord to her..." (40:305). She had a walk with the Lord that was probably only enabled to be as strong and vibrant as it was by the condition she was in, and I doubt not that she would have kept to her bed, if being free from her afflictions meant she would lose any part of the sweet communion she then enjoyed with the Lord.
Lastly, I would point out how gentle the Lord has been with us. Most of us really are blockheads in our spiritual lives. How kind and gracious have the Lord's dealings been with us, in helping us to learn His decrees. He could have been harsh with us, but most of us, if not all of us, would admit that the Lord has treated us kindly, and awakened us in just the right manner to grab our attention, and adjust our impudences. The affliction that grabs our attention and adjusts our path is always coupled with the precious promise of the Lord that "he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) It is a great comfort in affliction, to trust in this precious promise. May the Lord give us grace to apply this.
Soli Deo Gloria,