Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Trials and Afflictions

This is a letter I wrote recently to someone who is going through a time of trials and affliction.  I am posting it in the hope it will be helpful to you or someone you know.

The Lord alone knows what all He is using these series of trials to accomplish in your lives. However, I do know that so many times He is taking the knowledge we have about Him from our head into our heart, so that the knowledge ceases to be academic and becomes experiential; and, as such, becomes part of the fabric of our person, part of who we really are and how we really live. It is one thing to know about the fact that His grace is always sufficient, and then quite another to know the sufficiency of His grace because you have experienced it and lived it through a season of trial and affliction.

Being that we do have similar temperaments, I would offer this bit of insight into what you are going through, and I hinted at it a little yesterday over the phone. Both of us have a very strong strand of self-sufficiency, and are very good at taking care of things and getting things done for ourselves and by ourselves. For people like us, the Lord has to get us in a situation where we are past the point of being able to handle it by ourselves, where the situation is bigger than us and our own abilities, and keep us there for a while. He wants us to understand that He is bigger than we are, and that He is absolutely in control, not us. He wants us to become dependent on Him, and learn to stay dependent on Him. Again, it is one thing to know that, and another to experience it to the point where it affects a permanent change in us. Also, in James 4, He tells us that He is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The root of self-sufficiency is a very subtle form of pride, a pride that says I can do this, I can handle this; and in essence says, “I don’t need the Lord.” So the Lord shows us that we do indeed need Him. He shows us that we cannot handle it, successfully, completely, and consistently without depending on Him...casting ourselves completely upon Him.

So many times a trial we are experiencing is comprised of many trials, sort of trials within a trial, and they are all related. During this time they tend to hit us like waves from the ocean, so as soon as we get our head up from the prior wave a new wave engulfs us. I was thinking of this when you were telling me about your children getting sick and throwing up right in the middle of everything else.

My wife and I were talking a few days ago, and she told me of a quote she had come across that day. It is “Circumstances are the expression of God’s will.” God is sovereign over your circumstances…all of them. Psalm 103:19 tells us, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” He is ruling over what you are going through right now, and it did not come upon you without His will. A section in Psalm 119 gives us some insight into His purposes in times of affliction:

119:65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
According to Your word.
119:67-68 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
119:71-73 It is good for me that I was afflicted
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
119:75-77 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For your law is my delight.

The word affliction means to have hardships, to find oneself in a stunted, lowly, humble position; and it is also the means by which God brings us to that stunted position.

I am praying for you, not just for relief from your circumstances, but also for all that God has for you in and through this time of trial and affliction…for I know His grace is truly sufficient, and His mercies are new every morning.

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