2010-05-19 - Afflictions
Originally Published 2004-09-20
Ezra 9:13, "And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since Thou our God hast requited us less than our iniquities deserve..."
The above verse is a tough one. It is shows judgment mixed with mercy. They admit their guilt and the evil they had done, and acknowledge that God has not treating them as they deserve. Their iniquities are great, and yet God has been merciful. This is an attitude that is tough for us to adopt, but we must admit that our sins are great, and God has not treated us according to our sins. There are two ways to look at this. The first is the ultimate mercy that Christians will experience after death, and the second is the mercies we see while we live. I have in mind today the mercies and afflictions we experience while we live. In spite of our sins, God does not deal with us according to our sins.
We can never complain about our afflictions being great, until we can say that our sins are not great. It is justice that when we sin greatly against our Creator, that we should be afflicted greatly. God often shows us mercy and does not treat us as our sins deserve while we live, but justice would dictate that he would afflict us. "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you," 1 Peter 5:10.
We should look upon our struggles and afflictions within the light of the gospel. If we look upon our afflictions through the gospel, heavy afflictions will seem light, long afflictions will seem short, bitter struggles will seem sweet, and great afflictions will seem little. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal," 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18.
If we view our afflictions outside of the gospel, we will never see them correctly. Like the fool, our own shadow will be an affliction to us. The slightest trouble will overwhelm us. We will feel that there is no affliction like our affliction, no burden greater than our burden, no loss comparable to our loss. We have to remember that our afflictions are nothing to be compared to the glory that awaits us in Christ. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us," Romans 8:18.
As a final observation, may I suggest that if we experience or are experiencing great afflictions, complaining about them will only make them worse. What good is dwelling and obsessing about our struggles and how unfair it may seem that this happened to us when so and so is a much worse person than we are? It will not help us at all. Rather, we must thank God that things are not worse with us than they are currently, seek to move forward, and trust the Lord regardless of what happens. Remember that the Israelites complained about their afflictions, and it only made them worse (Read Numbers 14 for an example).
Soli Deo Gloria,