Suffering is one of the most widely resourced topics in Christian literature. Every one of us has been well acquainted with pain and hardship, and for me personally, it’s one of the largest driving forces behind my prayer life.
The verses I want to cover exhibit an especially radical, upside-down way of viewing, interpreting, and responding to affliction. Whether it’s the hardships of a society in lockdown, the intimate experience of suffering caused by sin, or the more general brokenness of living in a fallen world, the bible has much to say on pain.
Let’s start in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4. Take a moment to read these verses… If you’re anything like me, this text can feel un-relatable. ‘Consider trials and pain a joy?’ ‘Rejoice in suffering?’ What planet did James and Paul live on?
Now I want to share the verses that the Lord graciously confronted me with this morning. They are Psalm 119: 65, 67 & 71. Take a moment to read these verses. One of the things I love about the Old Testament is that it constantly displays a spiritual continuity, clarity, and dimension to the realities we read about in the New Testament.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good… It is good for me that I was afflicted”.
The Lord used this to speak to me and to humble me. It freed my heart to give thanks for God’s goodness and sovereign purposes in my suffering, instead of harbouring distrust and bitterness.
It is the spectacular and inscrutable wisdom of God that in his mercy he uses our pain to draw us into repentance, humility, and a dependence on Christ.
We know that because of Jesus, our suffering has an expiration date. God uses the pain we face today to prepare us for an eternity with Jesus. Where every tear will be wiped away, and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
Let us agree with the Psalmist and the Apostles and exclaim that it was good for me that I was afflicted and that it is in faithfulness that you afflicted me.
Written by Andrew Stober