Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. NIV
Whenever I am experiencing a time of difficulty, I often think of this verse of scripture. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted…” the psalmist said. Though many might think that this is a strange and foolish verse of scripture, believers who are striving to mature in their relationship with the Lord understand that pain is sometimes a part of the process. In order for plants to grow – they need both sunshine and rain.
Suffering under the hand of God has many benefits. Let me share with you just a few of them.
1. Suffering can stop us from going down a destructive path
Sometimes in life our self-will becomes strong and we start to live carelessly. Years ago I heard a comedian make a joke about driving while he was sleepy – “The road is straight. The car is going straight. Why can’t I close my eyes for just a few moments?” The problem is that our eyes will stay closed longer than we expected and before we know it, we’re off the road and headed towards the ditch. Sometimes God has to use suffering as a way of waking us up and causing us to get back on the right path. The psalmist wrote – “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (Psalm119:67 ESV)
2. Suffering is necessary in order to humble us
The Bible tells us that God hates pride. (see Proverbs 6:16-17; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) Pride not only causes us to become self-centered, it also causes us to become independent. If every day was nothing but sunshine and blessings, sooner or later we would forget where those blessings come from. We might even begin to think that we deserve the blessings. Therefore, the Lord has to periodically humble us in order to remind us that grace is His ‘unmerited’ favor, and not something we deserve.
3. Suffering can cause us to need God
During my years in the ministry, I have encountered many people who were suffering. Though none yet have rejoiced that they were suffering, many have expressed to me that their suffering has drawn them closer to God. For some strange reason, whenever we are suffering we seem to have more time to read God’s Word and to pray.
4.Suffering can make us stronger
Lastly, let me say that suffering can ultimately make us stronger as a believer. The psalmist wrote – “It was good for me to be afflicted – so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71 NIV) Suddenly God had his full attention and he was drinking in everything the Lord had to say. As a result, his faith was becoming stronger and deeper.
We read from the book of Hebrews – “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.” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV)
Job is a perfect example of this. Consider what he said ‘after’ his time of suffering – “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:2 ESV) In other words – before I suffered I knew about God. Today I know God.