Affliction, anah in the Hebrew, is to find oneself in a stunted, lowly, humble position; and it is also the means by which God brings us to that position. It is be brought low, to have hardships. Afflictions are a tool in the hand of God, and are never without purpose. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 understood this very well and shares this understanding, this spiritual insight with us, and this teaching is concentrated in verses 65-80. Let's take a look.
This section in Psalm 119 starts out with a poignant declaration in verse 65, "You have dealt well (tob, a good thing, benefit, welfare) with Your servant according to Your word." So he sets the stage right here by letting us know that when God deals with us, He deals with us in a good way, for our welfare and benefit. How has God dealt with the Psalmist? By bringing affliction upon him. Look at verse 67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word." What had the Psalmist gone astray from? The way of God, the path of life that the Lord would have Him take; and this path is taken by keeping the word of God. It is no strange coincidence that Psalm 119:105 tells us, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." In other words, the word of God keeps Him on the right path, the path of God.
When we go astray from God's path, He is faithful, and good, and for our good and welfare will bring affliction to us so that we will return to His word, and walk according to His way; and returning to God's word and walking in His way is actually returning to God, Himself. Let's look at a couple of examples from the OT. First, look at Hosea 5:15 "I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." Next, look at II Chronicles 6:26 "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess your name, and turn from their sin when you afflict them." In both instances God brought the affliction upon the people so that they would turn from their sin and turn to Him. In other words, they would no longer be going astray in their sin, but would return to God and walk in His way, not their own.
Now, notice how verse 68 follows up the verse on affliction. It states, "You are good and do good." The Psalmist declares this after saying that he has been afflicted, and that affliction has God as its source. He is acknowledging God's goodness in bringing affliction upon Him. He understood it was for his good, and God was good in doing it. Which leads us to verse 71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes." What a perspective! What Godly insight! Through affliction we return to His path and learn His word, and by His word we walk in the path of righteousness. This path is the path that leads to joy, and it is the path of spiritual blessing.
This perspective and insight lead the Psalmist to this declaration in 119:75 "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Wow, this man knows His God! He knows that God's decisions regarding Him, God's dealings with Him, God's bringing affliction upon Him, are done in faithfulness...because God is faithful to him. He understands affliction from God always has a purpose, and it is because of His faithfulness that He brings it about.
May we also have this perspective. May we see God's faithfulness in our affliction. May we, with the Psalmist say not only, "It is good for me to be afflicted," but Father, I know that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." And may affliction accomplish its God intended purpose in our life. Amen.