One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Joseph Hall, an Enlgish Puritan renowned for his devotional writings. Hall wrote, “Not to be afflicted is a sign of weakness; for, therefore, God imposeth no more on me, because he sees I can bear no more.”
The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult on my wife and myself. Within that time frame we have dealt with being certain of the Lord’s calling only to see an opportunity completely dissipate, a miscarriage and all the emotional fallout entailed with that, frustration over the thought that none of our plans for ministry seemed to work out, a rash of injuries to family members including a painful bone spur injury to my mother-in-law and a work accident that resulted in my dad having three fingers and part of his left hand amputated. If Hall is correct, and I think he is, there were definitively times in the last 18 months when I wished God thought I were weaker!
The thing about afflictions are that they tend to drive us to our knees more quickly than comfort. As a guy suffers from damnable self-sufficiency, afflictions are the shortest route to remind me of my constant need for the grace and care of my Father.
I have learned 4 truths through my 18 months of affliction.
- Don’t bear burdens on your own. Frankly, you can’t. If you try, you will fail. God has placed brothers and sisters in Christ in your life to spur you on towards love and good deeds and to help bear your burdens. One of the more refreshing aspects of our 18 months of suck was that we came out of it with 6 or 7 incredibly deep relationships. Let God minister to you through others.
- Wait for the Lord’s provision. This can be incredibly difficult, especially for a self-sufficient person like myself. Our afflictions led to several unforeseen hardships, including financial difficulties. The Lord was faithful to provide exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.
- It’s ok to complain to the Lord. Read Job. Read Psalms. They are full of complaints to God. However, when you complain don’t neglect to speak affirmations of God’s character. Speak his truth, his promises of provision, and his faithfulness. Complaining to God gets us nowhere if we don’t remind ourselves that he is trustworthy, just, and merciful.
- Seek sanctification in your trial. If we believe that God allows affliction to refine our character or to change our course, then this makes sense. Spend time in the Word and in prayer asking the Lord to refine your character or to complete his work of sanctification in you. Journaling is incredibly helpful in this regard. Remember, God’s perspective of our trials is much more wide and deep than our own. We are pitiful creatures who are offended when our comforts are disturbed even when our comforts prevent us from a deeper faith. Thank God that he loves us enough to shake us from our slumber!