He Was Leading Us
The storms of affliction have battered me, too. While the storms were in progress, I saw no purpose in the buffeting winds. I screamed out in lament to God, protesting the injustice of my pain, but no answers could be heard above the roaring wind.
Months and years have passed since some of those storms of affliction. I look upon them now with more perspective. Though there are many unanswered questions, I’m beginning to detect the outworking of God’s will. I know He didn’t bring the storms, but I now see how His strong hands led me through the storm.
Paul Tournier observes that we face uncertainties and have only vague ideas of the future, but God leads us step by step, event by event. It is often not until we look back at those moments in our lives that we see progress and realize God was leading us. It is a marvel that God leads us, a marvel of love!
The Greatest Sufferer
When the human family turned away from God’s perfect plan and deliberately took the road to affliction, God became the greatest sufferer. We read God’s lament in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In a short time, the depravity of humanity was near self-destruction, and God was grieved in His heart. He could not violate the law of love and free choice. Instead, He chose to enter into our affliction. He enacted a plan that was designed before the creation of the world. This plan called for the Son of God to bear the human race’s failings and die the eternal death that rightfully belonged to the wayward creation. The perfect life of God’s Son is credited to all who accept it as a free gift and open their life to His guidance.
Careful searching of the Scriptures reveals that God doesn’t promise immunity to affliction in return for living a good life. Sickness, suffering, and tragedy come to the just and the unjust. Satan uses these cruel roadblocks to separate us from God. He has even convinced highly intelligent people that God is the cause of affliction. The generator of all affliction has camouflaged himself with erroneous concepts of God.
Jeremiah, Moses, Job, and Paul—spiritual giants of Scripture—suffered unbelievable reverses in life. God didn’t insulate them from disaster; He gave them the courage to endure and live victoriously despite the adversities.
He Gives Us Victory
In her book Affliction, Edith Schaeffer writes: “Tremendous victory is only possible in the face of a tremendous battle.”
God includes His followers in the great conflict between good and evil. As we face the batteries of affliction, God gives us victory in two ways: He sometimes delivers us from the affliction. At other times He gives us abundant strength to go through the affliction without losing our faith. These are the two paths to victory.
In the eyes of the evil one, both types of victory devastate his cause. Deliverance from specific afflictions strengthens us to endure specific afflictions. The staggering questions are why God has not chosen to terminate the entire conflict before now. These questions have occupied the minds of the greatest theologians through the centuries. Their answers have not been adequate.
God explained the inadequacy through the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
God Will End Our Affliction
Our oldest son preached a sermon on the book of Job a year before his accidental death. He said, “The only sure answer to suffering is this: God will end it. When God seems to disappear or turn tyrant, keep talking to Him. When it seems that He has cut Himself off from you, do not cut yourself off from Him. He is there!”
Continue to see His presence until the day when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner wrote a fascinating book about Psalm 23. He indicates that the passage that God leads me “in the paths of righteousness” is sometimes translated to say that God leads us in a straight path. Kushner believes the Hebrew translation of that verse is saying that God leads me in roundabout ways that end up in the right direction. This happens because God is by our side when we are in the middle of trouble.
Frank Mncina, a Nazarene pastor in the Republic of South Africa, watched a storm building up over the majestic mountains of the Drakensberg Range. Perched on a small wattle tree limb by his house was a sparrow. Leaves, paper, and corrugated roofing from surrounding houses blew past the window, but the sparrow kept its grip on the limb. Other birds on the wing were thrown against buildings and killed, but the sparrow, clinging to the wattle tree, held fast. Some of its feathers were blown off its body. Still, it kept facing the fury with the courage of a creature many times its size. Finally, the storm passed. The sparrow straightened its feathers and, after a bit of preening, was able to sing and fly away, thanks to its ability to hang on through the storm.
Our God gives us the strength to hold on to Him during the storm of affliction. The tribulations of this life will not cause us to lose our grip on the promises of eternity. The fury of the storm will never separate us from God’s love.
After the storms are over, we will stand in the presence of our saving Lord. We will see this earthly struggle from God’s perspective. Then we will sing, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11, NASB).*
On that day, when affliction is permanently banished, we can say, “It was worth hanging on, even when we couldn’t understand the reasons for the storm.”
“Hope is suffocated when present suffering is so acute that it does not allow a hopeful window on the future. And hope is stimulated in its intensity when the present era of suffering is viewed as a provisional reality soon to be redressed by God’s climactic saving intervention.”—J. Christian Beker
Larry Yeagley writes from Arkansas.
Larry Yeagley, A Tree Across My Road (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2005).
Richard Rohr, Job and the Mystery of Suffering (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1998).
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