When we are going through the fire, one of the first things that comes to our mind is the question, “Why is this happening to me?” Often the answers to this question are not obvious. But there are answers.
Here are some thoughts along with Scriptures that might shed some light on the purposes of the affliction you might be going through now.
God May be Using The Affliction to Cause Us to Draw Near to Him
When life is going smoothly, most of us have a tendency to give God very little attention. When adversity strikes, then we tend to cry out to God for help! David experienced this phenomenon and wrote about one third of the Psalms crying out to God in times of adversity. (By the way, many of these Psalms will give voice to your own cries during times of adversity.) Reading the Psalms aloud can be of enormous help during fiery trials.
You will frequently find words like these in the Psalms.
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; do not let me be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me..” (Psalm 25:1-2)
“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When Thou didst say, “Seek My face,” my heart said to Thee, “Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.” (Psalm 27:7-8)
Sometimes Affliction is a Form of Loving Discipline
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father does not chasten?…For truly they [our earthly fathers] chastened us for a few days according to their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now chastening for the present does not seem to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.” (Hebrews 12:6-7, 10-11)
Sometimes affliction is a form of discipline used by God to keep us “usable.” For example, affliction may be a wonderful cure for pride.
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(James 4:6)
Affliction in the form of discipline will remind us (and others around us) of our inherent weakness. God likes to choose weak vessels to accomplish His purposes in order that it might be obvious to all that He is the One Who is doing the work!
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Sometimes Affliction is a Natural Consequence of Our Sin
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
We live in a society that tries very hard to gloss over the consequences of sin. Often advertising, television, and movies seem to teach that sin is no big deal, that it is fun, and that it has no serious consequences! How sad when some people begin to believe that lie!
But when sin leads to the pain that inevitably comes, we begin to see through the lie, and learn to hate sin.
Here are a couple of examples. Many more could be given.
“Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you.”(Ephesians 6:2-3)
If things are not going well with us, it may be because we have not given honor to our parents.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.Then I will rebuke the devourer for you…” (Malachi 3:10-11)
If it seems that the “devourer” is loose in our lives, it may be because we have been keeping God’s tithe for ourselves!
It may help to think of these consequences as spiritual pain signals that may help us avoid worse things. Our physical bodies provide an analogy at this point.Our bodies are made with nerve endings all over. When our bodies are being damaged, these nerves send pain signals to get our attention. If we did not experience the pain, our bodies would soon be maimed, crippled, and dead! We don’t enjoy pain, but it keeps us from destruction!
Sometimes Adversity Simply Means That Our Adversary is at Work
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Part of our preparation for eternity is to learn how to engage in spiritual warfare. We have an “adversary” who is capable of causing us adversity! The Bible contains information that we need in order to carry on the battle effectively.
Afflictions May Serve to Prepare Us for Our Responsibilities in Eternity
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
You may remember hearing the story of a man who saw a moth struggling to get free from it’s cocoon. The man had pity on the moth and it’s terrible struggle, so he carefully cut the cocoon to allow the moth to come out more easily. The moth was free, but could not fly. He learned, too late, that in order to develop the ability to fly, the moth had to struggle with it’s wings to overcome the constraints of the cocoon. No struggle, no flight!
God May Use Your Affliction to Prepare You to Help Others Later
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of merciesand God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
It’s pretty powerful when a friend sits down with us in our time of adversity and says, in effect, “I know what you are going through. I’ve been right where you are. Here’s how God brought me through it. I’m sure He’ll bring you through it too.”
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply:
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine”