In Psalm 119:71, David says, “It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn Your decrees.” Not long after I was converted and afflicted (some time ago now), I found myself echoing that same sentiment on reading it. In spite of the dire circumstances I found myself facing, I could see God’s hand within them, working for my good. Years later, still facing much affliction, my sentiments are the same.
Just the other day, my mind wandered back to a time early last year when I was extremely sick. I remembered how hard it was, but also how I longed for it when it passed. Crazy much? I’ll explain. During that brief time, I couldn’t do a lot for myself due to the pain I was in; I had to rely on others, but more importantly, I had to lean hard on God. I prayed and talked to Him constantly while in bed, each time receiving His peace that surpasses understanding, and ultimately victory. However, after the victory, and after the joy and laughter, came the agonizing over certain daily “stressors.” And one day, on walking into my room, I was hit with the realization that none of that was the case when I was down. Instead, I was praying and talking to God all day, trusting Him to work it out for my good. Instantly, I missed those moments and longed to be that near to God again (and He would answer!).
Now, I said all of that to show you a different perspective of affliction. It’s easy to think when it comes knocking that God must be punishing us, or must have removed His favor from us, or some other sin-induced nonsense that arises, when the truth is it has come for our good—to strengthen our faith, to draw us closer to the Father, to mold us into the likeness of His Son, and to display the truth of His promises, a chief being Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (And yes, sometimes it comes for correction, too; nevertheless, still having the above good at heart.)
Affliction, friends, is good… and needed.
Before Job was afflicted, the Bible says he’d learned of God and walked in His ways (cf. Job 42:5; 1:1), which was great, honorable. Nevertheless, enduring hardship pushed him closer to God, enabling him to get to know God on a deeper/personal level. He says to God, in Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.” In other words, “It is good that I have been afflicted, as it has drawn me closer to You.”
Job’s trial was necessary—a point Peter implicates concerning our own trials in 1 Peter 1:6-7, where he says, “In this [Heaven, our imperishable inheritance] you rejoice, though now for a little while [meaning, the whole of life] if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (bracket notations mine).
Everything that we go through, he’s telling us, that God sends us through, serves a purpose—a necessary purpose. And whatever God wills or permits will work together for our good (Romans 8:28), and to the glory and honor of Christ.
That said, it was good for me to be afflicted, and it is good that I am still afflicted (although it doesn’t feel good). Through the afflictions I have come to know God, have experienced His promises of peace, provision, and comfort, and can now share with others that God lives and His Word doesn’t return to Him void. If He said it, He will do it.
This is the goal for all of the saints of God.
“Afflictions do and will work very much for good. Many have found it good to bear this yoke in their youth; it has made many humble and serious, and has weaned them from the world, who otherwise would have been proud and unruly. … Happy shall we be if we learn to receive affliction as laid upon us by the hand of God.” – Matthew Henry