It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Psalm 119:71-72 (NIV)
Recently I attended a Sunday service at a fine evangelical church and enjoyed a sermon that beautifully developed Christ from the Old Testament story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The people were very friendly and I felt welcome among them.
Following the service I left but not before being greeted by a number of people who had known me from a former church where I had preached. Upon seeing me for the first time with a cane, their love for me caused them to express concern for my well being. I thanked them for their desire to see me well and then quoted our verse for today.
As we conversed, it occurred to me that they might think I was flippant about my medical issue. So I shifted the focus of the conversation around to speaking about the blessing of suffering.
In our evangelical churches today there is an unhealthy aversion to any form of suffering or adversity. We all recognize that every one of us is programmed from birth to avoid harm, and this is a blessing from our Creator. We need to protect ourselves every way we can from any form of danger—or threat of the same.
Having said that—I still believe that adversity has many benefits to the child of God that cannot be obtained any other way. For example, in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul speaks very clearly about the blessing of suffering. Listen to what he said so long ago:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
Paul believed he was a sinner who could be enticed into “conceit” because of the spiritual blessings poured out on him. After three special times of prayer for relief from the “thorn in the flesh”, he realized that God was behind his difficulties.
The thorn in his flesh came to prevent sin. Only the Lord desired to keep His servant Paul humble. Satan’s desire was to destroy Paul spiritually, and so God allowed Satan to send a “messenger” to “torment” Paul. Satan, half wit he is, thought the thorn in the flesh would discourage Paul and get him to cease his ministry. God arranged for Satan’s action against Paul to be the very thing to draw Paul closer to Him.
Christian, never lose sight of the fact that all hell can break loose around the child of God, and all that will result is the coming of the superabundance of God’s amazing grace. We shall overcome though death and hell obstruct the way. Learn with the Psalmist today “It was good for me that I was afflicted” and search the Scriptures to learn more about the blessing of suffering.