Affliction is indeed painful, yet from such we can still have joy, it's our choice, and we are able to count our many blessings. Not the blessings we have in spite of our current affliction, although that would be true too, rather the blessings that come from our suffering. Are you thinking I've finally dropped over the edge? Think again, is this not what Scripture tells us to do?
Granted, I'm not looking for more affliction to come my way so I can count more blessings, but I am looking back at what I've suffered and what I'm suffering now and asking God what good has come from it? For me the trial has been over a span of about 13 years with a break now and then and the end possibility in sight, yet each day can change that and the end may not be near at all; instead it may well be the beginning of a deeper affliction.
Suffering can come in many forms, mine came by way of betrayal from two family members on two separate occasions, both involving financial difficulties. The first causing both business failure and semi-homelessness, which was temporarily improved by my attempts to solve the problem without resting in the Lord to fix it, yet the end result may become worst then the state I was left in by the betrayer. The second betrayal, also by a family member, promised a financial rescue of the first, yet in the end, after many hours of dedication to the project, it was an empty promise. In some ways the second was worst than the first: the first betrayal, I believe was done in ignorance of the lasting consequences while the second betrayal was done with absolute knowledge of the consequences. So what possible good can come of all this? I made a list:
1) Reliance on God - Had I waited on the Lord rather than trying to solve the problem myself, the affliction would have lasted about two years longer back then, but it would be over: 8 years in all instead of 13 with a 3 year resting period and more affliction to come with no end in sight. Now I'm letting God handle it!
2) Freedom & Peace! - Although my attempts to solve the problem did not work out in the end, I now have freedom and peace about what is to come whether it be good or bad.
3).Trust - This time I've given it to the Lord and it's in His hands, I'm trusting in Him to bring the outcome He desires.
4) Patience – This has developed in me because the Lord works in His time, not ours and we must wait on Him to act.
5) Enlarged Faith - A reward as I've seen God do only what God can do! To list these would require its own list, however, I will mention two: a $450 car repair for $0 (zero), a delay without explanation of the time table in which I was to lose everything.
6) Forgiveness – I've been able to love those who betrayed me in spite of what was done to me by them.
7) Gratefulness – The outpouring of God through His saints at the right time as needed. I've, at times, had to pass on the goodness given because it was too much.
8) Compassion – I've been able to see the world from the eyes of others less fortunate than myself and therefore I know and see the needs of others better than ever before and I understand their situation better as well.
9) Self-Reliance, the lie! – I don't know why but I have been blessed with the ability to do many things: built my own home to code mostly by myself, crewed a feature length film solo, preaching and teaching and writing, Christian articles and screenplays, all without difficulty. According to the “world” I can do anything I set my mind to do, yet without God opening the doors of opportunity, even someone more talented than I can't accomplish anything.
10.Humility – As mentioned above, without God opening the doors of opportunity no one would be anywhere they are; it's not about what we can do, it's about what God lets us do.
11.God is in Control – This has been made so real to me through my suffering. While they were wrong to do what they did, God used it to refine me and cause me to grow in Him. Nothing good or bad happens to us without God's approval.
12.Prayer – so powerful, yet so under used both by me and others. God wants us to ask Him for strength, blessings, health and healing, salvation for others and the list goes on, yet we are like the group praying for Peter's release; when he knocked at the door, we don't believe it's him. God may not answer our prayers our way, that doesn't mean He's not answering them. It means we don't like the answer so we keep asking and waiting and wondering why He won't answer even after He already gave us the answer. Discerning between God's no and wait can be hard to do.
13) Grace – God's power to overcome has been seen greatly in my affliction. Grace defined: God's divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in life, including gratitude.
14) Hope – Looking forward to seeing what God will do next is actually exciting! He has no limits!
The list above is a partial listing of the blessing that God has given me throught my suffering. There is however, one item not on the list that would be good to talk about in more detail. “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Psalms 119:67
Affliction and suffering, if welcomed, rather than resisted will produce a bond between God and man. We will grow in intimacy with God rather than distance between Him as we embrace that which God brings into our lives. Job is a good example, Joseph and David too. Adversity will either bring us close to God and the ones we love or it will destroy those relationships. The result is up to us, not because we have some awesome power within us, rather because as servants to the Lord, He lives in us and He does the overcoming. We however must make the choice to surrender ourselves to God and He's will or the power to overcome will not come.
Sin brings us delight for a season; affliction brings us sorrow and either resentment for what God did or allowed to happen or joy for accepting it. Once we embrace God's will as He presents it, including the suffering, we see the futileness of sin and desire to abandoned it more than we desire the pleasure of it. Thus we cling to God and hate sin. The joy spoken of in James: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:2-4 (KJV), is ours to enjoy. This is how such an apparent counter-diction can be true! It's not a counter-diction after all: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts Isaiah 55:6-9
God knows how we will handle temptations, He is merely showing us who we really are! God uses both affliction and temptation to reveal to us our heart. We say we believe and we will stand for the Lord, but will we? God shows us what's deep within and sometimes we don't like the truth of who we are.
Thankfully as we endure the trials we see our faith grow through patience and we are made complete before God as mentioned in James and we grow to trust God for He doesn't do things as we imagine because His ways are above us as mentioned in Isaiah. Additionally we have God's promise regarding temptation: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Cor 10:13 (KJV). This provides us the confidence that whatever is thrown into our lives, God will bring us through and it reminds us that when we do succumb to sin, it's because we chose to do so, not because we were not able to avoid it. Thus placing upon us the responsibly to accept our behavior as our own.
This too beings us joy! Owning up to personal responsibly and accountability for our actions is being honest with ourselves. If we honest with ourselves, we can deal with what we need to change in our lives by asking for God's grace to deal with it. Our joy is full as we focus on what God is doing and the blessings we are receiving as He does His work in us.
Hymn writers have lived this truth and/or been inspired by this truth and shared it with us through songs. Listed are only a few:
1) "It Is Well with My Soul" is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
2) "Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) published in 1779. With a message that forgiveness and redemption is possible regardless of the sins people commit and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, "Amazing Grace" is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world. Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction but his life's path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed into the Royal Navy and became a sailor, eventually participating in the slave trade. One night a terrible storm battered his vessel so severely that he became frightened enough to call out to God for mercy, a moment that marked the beginning of his spiritual conversion. His career in slave trading lasted a few years more until he quit going to sea altogether and began studying theology.
3) “Trust and Obey” In 1887, just following an evangelistic meeting held by Dwight L. Moody, a young man stood to share his story in an after-service testimony meeting. As he was speaking, it became clear to many that he knew little about the Bible or acceptable Christian doctrine. His closing lines, however, spoke volumes to seasoned and new believers alike: I'm not quite sure. But I'm going to trust, and I'm going to obey. Daniel Towner was so struck by the power of those simple words that he quickly jotted them down, then delivered them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics to Trust and Obey. Towner composed the music and the song quickly became a favorite. It remains popular with hymn singers today.
God can use anyone anywhere to do anything and He doesn't need us to do it, however, He has chosen to use us despite us. God is totally and completely amazing!
What challenge is God calling you to? What affliction are you or have you suffered that God will use to bring Himself glory, IF you choose to let Him? What good has God brought into your life through your suffering? What are you doing to embrace God and live for Him? “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James 1:22-25.
Go do the Word and let those around you see God! Christ, while on earth said, if you see me, you see God, likewise, we, are the only God the world will ever see! We are not God, but we are His representatives here on earth. Just as our government has representatives in DC to do the will of the people, we are God's representatives to do His will and just as those in DC choose to do either their own will or the will of the people, we must choose to do either our own will or the will of God. Live for the living God and show the world who God is!