The Subject is Affliction

AFFLICTION is described in my dictionary as a condition of pain, suffering or distress. Some of the synonyms for affliction are; adversity, hurt, harm, ruin, woe, grief, heartache, misfortune, sorrow, anxiety, misery. You get the picture. We don’t like to think about it, but there is no way around it, because every human being that has ever been born and lived has known affliction of one kind or another. Job said man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

 

The “why” of it depends on who you ask; an existentialist will tell you it just happens and there is no rhyme nor reason. It is just life. A Biblicist will tell you it is the result of our human nature which is up to no good when left on its own, and so we afflict ourselves and others by our bad behavior. (Those who say man is inherently good are lying or suffering serious self-deception.)

Then there is the question of where God Himself comes into the picture. For the one who does not believe that there is a sovereign Creator this produces a lot of heated emotion, mostly negative. Unfortunately, it does that for many who profess to believe in God, but it shouldn’t. Even as His children we may not like what He has to say on the subject, but He has made it plain to us through His Word, and the longer we live the clearer His purposes should become to us.

We come to agree with Malcolm Muggeridge who said before he died that the most important things he learned in life he learned through affliction. Amen! The psalmist said that he had gone astray but affliction put him on the right path and he recognized that it was good for him to be afflicted. The author of the book of Hebrews says plainly that God corrects us because He loves us, and is always ready to forgive our disobedience whether done in ignorance or stubbornness. Trouble causes us to look to God for help and understanding of our situation.

BUT…some of God’s children endure trials not because they have done wrong but because it is part of God’s distinct plan for their lives. Remember what God told Ananias about Paul? “…he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And when Paul asked for relief from some of it, God told him that He would give him the grace to bear it. He did.

God has a plan mapped out for each of His children. His desire is that during our lifetime we will become more and more like His Son with whom we will spend an eternity. He uses affliction as part of that process. We accept that He is a loving and gracious God who knows what is best for us. And we need to remember Paul’s words as he encouraged the Corinthian Christians not to lose heart in times of trial: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

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