Have you noticed that people react very awkwardly to affliction? My first instinct is to want to fix the situation, but it's often out of my control. If it's someone else's affliction, I feel a deep desire to empathise, but am full of doubt about whether I really understand how they feel. Without God, we're left wanting to "wish" away the affliction, knowing that our well-wishes are trite, but having nothing better to give.
I recently read a devotional which reminded me of what one psalmist writes, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word." (Psalm 119:67) In the midst of my afflictions, I may have baulked at this verse. In hindsight, I can resonate with what this psalmist writes. Even when I did not bring my affliction upon myself (though sometimes I do) God demonstrates his grace by using the situation in shaping my character, deepening my hope in God or making the Bible come to life for me as verses suddenly become very relevant.
John Piper writes in this devotional: "Affliction takes away the glibness of life and makes us more serious, so that our mind-set is more in tune with the seriousness of God’s word. [...] Affliction knocks worldly props out from under us and forces us to rely more on God, which brings us more in tune with the aim of the word. For the aim of the word is that we hope in God and trust him. [...] Affliction makes us search the Scriptures with greater desperation for help, rather than treating it as marginal to life. [...] Affliction brings us into the partnership of Christ’s sufferings, so that we fellowship more closely with him and see the world more readily through his eyes.[...] Affliction mortifies deceitful and distracting fleshly desires [...]"
Without God we can only react to affliction with trite comments. But if we believe that God is loving and gracious, we can hope that even affliction is redeemed by a deeper purpose God has through it. Will you pray with me that in our affliction, we would not just seek a change in circumstance but also a change in our own heart? Will you pray with me for those facing affliction, that when they have come out and look back they will see the hand of God redeeming and giving purpose to that which was so painful at the time?
Click here: Five Ways Affliction Helps by John Piper to read the original devotional.