by Rosetta Thomas
The Bible tells us in Psalm 34:19 that many are the afflictions of the righteous but the joy of it is that the Lord delivers him out of them all. We may not know how and we may not know when but God has made us a sure promise that if we remain righteous, He will surely deliver us from all of them. Joseph was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, was lied about and then went to prison to serve time for a crime he did not commit. He remained resolute in his faith and was eventually delivered. He later went on to serve as the prime minister of Egypt for eighty uninterrupted years. This highlights the fact that no matter how much one is afflicted, once they remain in the Lord, God will deliver them and will ultimately make them a testimony.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines affliction as “a cause of persistent pain or distress”. From all account, affliction is a core component of the life of a true child of God. In Philippians 3:10, the scripture tells us:
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”.
Fellowship is “a company of equal friends” and suffering is to experience pain. The fellowship of Christ’s suffering is therefore the pain we face in trying to live a victorious Christian life. Essentially, in order for us to reign with Christ, we have to suffer with him (2 Tim 2:12).
We are furthermore called to rejoice in every affliction that we face, because doing so enables us to be a partaker of Christ’s suffering (1 Peter 4:13). Having said that, it is imperative that we understand that affliction is “married” to our faith and cannot be separated.
The scripture tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. This “all things” does not only includes the good that happen to us, but also the bad, which includes every persistent pain or distress that we can ever face in life. Affliction will therefore work in favour of a believer. On this note, I will now briefly highlight three of the reasons why God permit them in our lives.
1. Character Building
One of the reasons affliction come is that they help in building of our character. Job experienced a lot of suffering: The scripture tells us that he lost everything from his children to his physical assets to his health. Although he was an upright man, the Bible tells us that he made sacrifice on behalf of his children daily to protect them from the devourer. That however did not mean that Job did not have room for improvement in his life. Essentially, at the end of his experience, we are told that he was delivered from his affliction when he prayed for his friends:
“And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” – Job 42:10
It is all good to care for and intercede for our own families, but God also want us to carry the same kind of burden for others outside of that circle. Job’s deliverance was wrapped up in interceding for the needs of others and so it was only after he prayed for his friends that he got his own breakthrough.
In line with the same subject matter of character building, the children of Israel could have made it to the promised land in eleven days (Deut 1:2), but they spent 40 years wandering in the desert before they finally went to the promised land. Why? The answer to this question is in Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where the scripture tells us that:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.
The children of Israel were murmurers and complainers and God wanted to mold their character hence the reason why the affliction of wandering in the desert for 40 years, was introduced in their lives.
Sometimes the assignment that is on our lives is so heavy that God has to ensure that we are worthy of it and he does this by fortifying our character. Joseph was exposed to a beautiful woman but he fled. If he had given in to the pressure imposed on him, it would have aborted the plan and purpose that God had for his life, in the same way Samson’s purpose was aborted prematurely. Moses grew up in luxury and he got himself on a pedestal that was so high that in his attempt to deliver his fellow Israelites in his own strength, he killed a man. God could not use him in that state and so he had to build his character by allowing him to languish in the wilderness for 40 years, before the assignment for his life could be brought to fruition. We know that Moses eventually changed because when God appeared to him in the burning bush, he was so humbled that he said to God:
“… “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exo. 3:11
Essentially, it was only after his character was molded by God that he was able to be used for the great assignment of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt.
2. It leads to Repentance
Another reason why affliction comes is so that it can lead us to repentance. The entire book of Judges has a running narrative that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and as a result, God brought affliction upon them. Until they learnt their lesson, the affliction would never cease. Essentially, when it comes to God, one can never move on to another level until they learn the lesson that is being taught. We may be languishing at one place today because there is a lesson that God is trying to teach us, and until we learn, we can never move forward. God is waiting on a number of us to repent before he can remove some limitations on our lives. Barring that, we will continue to go around in circles as the Children of Israel did.
3. It is for a greater good and is intertwined with God’s own plans.
Another reason for affliction is that it is always for a greater good and it is usually connected with God’s own agenda for our lives. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph had this to say in relation to his own experience when he was relating to his brothers:
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
The truth is that we may not know in the beginning, but at the end of the tunnel of every affliction lies a glorious ending that is connected to the will of God for our lives. There was a great assignment on Joseph’s life but it was from the trial of his faith that it was materialized. God who knows the end from the beginning knew that a drought would hit the earth. He wanted to preserve life and so he prepared Joseph for that assignment. When he was separated from his family, he had no idea that that would have been the end game but with time and walking in obedience to God, that purpose which was initially seen dimly through his dreams and visions was made manifested for everyone to see.
The fact that affliction is for a greater good is also highlighted, when the Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:10-11 that:
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Even though the devil may have his own agenda, affliction is a training ground used by God to bring forth the fruits of righteousness in the life of a believer. God wants to lead us to the counsel of his own will by the skillfulness of his hands and because his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not like our thoughts, he can use even our greatest pain or distress to conform us to his will.
A Sure Deliverance
In spite of all the affliction that we may be going through, we can rest assured that they have an expiry date because God himself will deliver us out of them all. In this regard, we are told in Nahum 1:9:
What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.
This simply means is that no matter how great an affliction is, eventually, God will make an utter end of it and when it ends, it will not rise another time.
Joseph’s deliverance finally came and he went on to set the record for one of the longest serving leaders that the world has ever seen, having served for eighty long years. Job’s deliverance also came at last and it landed him in great Joy. The scripture tells us in Job 42:12-16:
12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. 15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. 16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.
Finally, the children of Israel had their own deliverance when they ultimately entered the promised land having wanderered for 40 years in the desert. In the same breath, God wants you and I to know that nothing lasts forever, and that includes any persistent pain or distress that we may have been going through.
In Conclusion, I’d like to remind us that there is a purpose for every affliction that we faces in life. God is basically using those situations to mold our character, lead us to repentance and basically to bring to manifestation his own plan and purposes for our lives. While afflictions serve their purposes, God will eventually bring them to an utter end. I therefore encourage us continue to hold fast to the profession of our faith because “this too shall pass”. The hand of the Lord is not short that he cannot save and neither is his ears heavy that he cannot hear. In due season, ever affliction concerning our lives will expire. We may have sowed in tears but we shall reap in joy. We may have lost things but there shall be a restoration. God will put an end to every harassment of the devil in our lives, He will put a song on our lips and he will cause us to laugh again. Whatever the situation is, God will cause the opposite to occur (Esther 9:1) and if we faint not, we shall end in victory like Joseph and Job.
God bless you.
The Intro and Exit Music used for the audio podcast included in this article is: “He didn’t throw the clay away” by Michael English. The background music is unknown. I do not own the rights to any of the music used in this or any of my audio compilations.
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