Affliction: How a Good God Loves His People (Sometimes)

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Struggle
Embrace the Struggle

The reformer Martin Luther described the Christian spiritual life as consisting of three primary operations under the guidance of the Spirit. In Latin, those three operations were, Oratio, Meditatio, and Tentatio – Prayer, Meditation, and Struggle/Affliction.

The disciplines of prayer and meditation over the word of the living God is pretty straight forward albeit, difficult at times. But “Tentatio” (Struggle or Affliction) is a harder sell to the American spirit. We like our lives comfortable, convenient, and uncomplicated. The thought of struggle is why we are one of the more obese countries on the planet. We have become, whatever battles our ancestors have fought and overcome, a soft people.

Athletes know differently. Their oft repeated slogan is “No Pain, No Gain.” Contestants on America’s Biggest Loser know differently as well. Anyone who has had to overcome anything knows differently. Overcoming, becoming something new is hard.

But none of us like it.

So when we read verses like these from Psalm 119, we tend to either not understand them or run away from them as quickly as possible.  

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
     but now I keep your word.

You are good and do good;
.    teach me your statutes.

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
.    that I might learn your statutes.

I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
.    and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

Psalm 119:67-68, 71, 75

But what is true in athletic performance, or dieting, or educational or business achievement, or the overcoming of significant relational barriers, is true spiritually as well. Progress in holiness is not without effort and suffering and sacrifice and struggle and affliction. It is not without tentatio.

Lord, I want a different process. I want an easier road. I want less pain and more gain. But Lord, if affliction

  • is the process that will keep me from going astray from Your word,
  • if heartache and sorrow and loss will be guided by Your good hand, that I might learn Your statutes,
  • if in faithfulness You will break me that I might become useful to You,

then give me the courage to pray with boldness that You would use every means to grow the character of Christ in me. For the glory of Your name, I ask it.


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