Affliction

The following was a response I sent to a brother inquiring about particular troubles he is facing that I thought might also be of encouragement to you. Love, bro Steve

Dear brother M, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. The same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. Thus, God is in control of circumstances and even temptations themselves. See I Cor.10:13; I Pet.5:9,10.

You indicated that you are distressed over a continuing ailment. I know virtually nothing of your situation, but let me offer these words that I trust will be of comfort and encouragement to you. The Psalmist says: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” [Ps.119:71]. It was due to a bodily affliction in Paul that the gospel was first preached to the Galatians [Gal.4:13].

In the wisdom of God, the Lord not only allowed, but refused to remove a thorn in Paul’s flesh on the grounds that His grace was sufficient for the power of God to be manifest through that weakness [2 Cor.12:7-10]. Having so said, Paul confessed that he was well content with [and I will provide here an alternate translation of verse 10] “inability to produce results [i.e. weaknesses], mistreatment [i.e. insults], necessities [ i.e. distresses], with persecutions, with anguish [i.e. difficulties], for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So, dear brother, in that you are presently reduced to weakness and distressed over that state is designed for your good and everlasting benefit by loving wisdom from on high. Do not fret over obtaining a rapid release from what seems to be set against you presently. In good time the Lord Himself will bring you forth into broad places. Yet even a Timothy was beset with a chronic affliction for which no supernatural remedy was forthcoming [I Tim.5:23].

It is quite natural for us to search our hearts when things appear to be “going wrong.” But do not become morbidly introspective; this is never the Lord’s will. The deeper one peers into that darkened cesspool of self, the more removed we become from the solution. David rightly prayed thus: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there by any wicked/hurtful/way of pain way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” [Ps.139:23,24].

This is the prudent and safe way; ask God to search your heart rather than attempting to do so from our own distracted, confused, and untrustworthy assessment. If there is something needing mending, He will surely lovingly bring that to our attention for our blessing and His glory.

It may be so that our situation and the silence of God are, in fact, due to no fault of our own. It was so for the brethren in Ps.44. “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You, and we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from Your way” [v.17,18]. Read that Psalm; in the midst of it is the striking statement that we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered [v.22], the very passage that Paul quotes as proof that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord [see Rom.8:35-39].

Brother, you indicated that you have a sense of failure. I, at least, would not wish to boast about my own “success;” I am acutely aware of my numerous shortcomings-failures, actually-and have nothing to glory in but the cross, through which I have been crucified: not a very complimentary resume’. If I have been crucified, then there is hope in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life that something good may yet come forth from the tangled disaster of which I am made up of.

The song that arrested your heart, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” is taken from Christ’s own words in Mt.11. There He continues in v.29, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” What is it that we are to learn from Christ? Meekness. Vine’s Dictionary describes meekness as an inwrought grace of the soul consisting of that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting: as even receiving the insults and injuries of evil men as employed by Him for our chastening and purifying. 

Think of all the contradiction of sinners against Himself that Christ endured with this disposition of heart. Truly we need to learn from Him; and surely this will bring rest to our souls.

Love, brother Steve