PSALMS 119:67: “Before you made me suffer, I used to wander off, but now I hold on to your word.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Can anything good come from suffering? In all honesty, no one wants to suffer. Our natural inclination is to avoid difficulty at all costs. We are tempted to build a theology that is devoid of suffering in this life. We would rather hear about blessings and miracles than suffering. Yet, to avoid the importance of suffering in our lives is to ignore an important and recurring theme in the Bible. And, it is also to forfeit the wonderful blessings and lessons that only suffering can teach us.
There are two kinds of suffering in our lives. There is the suffering that is caused by our sin, or by an overt attack of the enemy – and – there is the suffering that is allowed by God and is simply the result of living in a sinful world. We are to resist the former, but learn to understand and embrace the latter. The Psalmist recognized that the suffering he was going through was that which was allowed by the Lord. It was allowed to bring him to the end of himself, to turn him from trusting in his own strength, to trusting in the power of the Lord and of His Word.
This is exactly what Paul speaks of in both II Corinthians and Philippians.
- “…Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he told me: “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It’s clear that when I’m weak, I’m strong.”. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 GW)
- “It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering. In this way I’m becoming like him in his death, with the confidence that I’ll come back to life from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11 GW)
Think of the place that suffering had in both of these passages. Without suffering Paul would never have experienced the strength of Christ. Without suffering Paul would never have entered into the fullness of the righteousness of Christ. Why? Because our tendency is to rely on our own wisdom and strength. And, even though we turn to the Lord during our times of struggle, we tend to drift back to our old patterns of self reliance. It is God’s wonderful grace that allows us to go through various trials and difficulty so that our faith can be refined, and our trust can be purified.
- “My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.” (James 1:2-4 GW)
Lord, thank you for the struggles and difficulties in life that bring me to a full surrender and dependence upon You! Grant me the grace to learn to abide in You, rest in Your strength, cling to Your word, and trust in Your righteousness. May I turn from my flesh, resist the enemy, and cling to Your cross! Let me rejoice that –
- “…I use to wander off, but now I hold on to Your Word!”
In Jesus Name!