“Affliction greatly helps us understand the Scriptures, especially the promises.”
– John Newton
No one likes suffering. We try to avoid it at all costs. This avoidance is seen through the existence of painkillers, recreational drug use, the mind-numbing effect of social media, and a host of other things we use to numb the pain that comes from living in a fallen and sin-cursed world. A recently divorced wife turns to alcohol to numb the pain of separation, while a 16-year-old teenager turns to drugs to feel alive to reduce feelings of depression caused by the rejection of her peers.
Despite this attempt to flee suffering, it still finds us. Why can’t we hide from hurt? Why does the pain seem to grip our hearts and go with us? Why can’t we escape from ourselves?
Christians are not called to escape suffering but to press into God through suffering.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article titled “Faith Over Fear” in which I gave some background regarding my journey with my eye condition – it has been a constant in my life from birth. Just within the past month, I had another scare of a potential retinal detachment. And, if I am being completely honest, I did not respond as a Christian should respond.
I gave in to fear, anxiety, and sleepless nights. I did not think of God as “good” but became angry and asked, “God, why would you do this to me?” I envisioned and expected the worst. All is stable with my retinas, for which I am grateful.
My deeper concern was that the trial revealed where my heart was really at. I was grieved by what I saw – unbelief in the promises of God that suffering was for my good. My fearful outlook only made the trial more difficult.
I share this so that you know I write from a place of struggle in this very same area. I write to myself as much as to you. We are fellow pilgrims in this journey of faith.
The world says run, get as far away as possible, and make your life easy and comfortable. Scripture (and our own human experience) clearly says that this tactic does not work. In fact, the Psalms remind us that the very opposite is true.
Not only does this escape tactic not work, but it does the very opposite of what we desire. While we try to avoid affliction, Psalm 119 reminds us that affliction is meant for our ultimate good. David writes, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues” (Psalm 119:71). How different is this mindset from that of the world?
I am not saying that affliction should be chased and actively sought after (see Romans 12:18). Yet when, in the providence of God, affliction does find us, we have an anchor for our souls: the goodness of God amid the suffering. Where the world tries to escape suffering, the Christian is called to press into trials as God’s sovereign work of goodness in the lives of his children.
This sounds nice when spelled out – we can easily agree with the truths we read in Scripture when it comes to suffering – yet how many of us believe this is meant for us individually? That there are real-world consequences and real-time effects for how we respond to suffering as believers? Are these tangible truths for us or are they purely hypothetical?
Take time to meditate on the goodness of God in your hardship – whether that be a divorce, medical issues, separation from family, or whatever the case may be. Pray through Psalm 119, take courage from the prayers of David and delight in the law of God. And remember this trial will not last forever – it is a vapor that is here then vanishes.
This world will one day give way to an eternity with God with no tears, mourning, or pain. We have eternity with the King of Kings. Christians, let’s run the race well - run towards Christ in the trials he sends our way, and do not try to escape the work he desires to do in our hearts. It is for our good.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So We Speak.