A Biblical Response to Life's Afflictions

Where do we turn in days of trouble? This is a question that we must all ponder, because where we turn when darkness strikes reveals a lot about what we value.

Why Does God allow affliction in our lives?

First, God’s purpose in His children’s lives is that they will grow in conformity to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). According to Thomas Watson, “Afflictions work for good, as they conform us to Christ. God’s rod is a pencil to draw Christ’s image more lively upon us.”

Second, affliction teaches what sin is. Watson says, “In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore, God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon.”

Third, afflictions work for our good in the sense that they often strip us from our reliance on things of the world. In prosperity, our hearts are likely to be divided. We rely partly on God and partly on the world. Prosperity tempts us to live with the “pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) Afflictions, on the other hand, assist us in setting our hearts right before the Lord.

What is our duty?

How are we to respond in moments of affliction? I believe that Asaph, the author of Psalm 77, was correct in his response. He said, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord.” (Ps. 77:1-2)

Asaph prayed fervently and earnestly in the moments of tribulation. Oh, that we would imitate this in our response to affliction! As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Diseases and tribulations are easily enough endured when God is found of us, but without Him, they crush us to the earth.”

When we find ourselves faced with afflictions and tribulations, we should boldly go before the throne of God. As the writer of Hebrews states, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

How is it that we can enter with confidence? Verse 15 gives us the answer: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

When and how may we hope for deliverance?

Toward the end of Psalm 77, Asaph has a breakthrough. He said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Ps. 77:10-11)

Asaph doesn’t allow his present circumstances to overshadow the faithfulness of God. He knows that he can appeal to the character of God because God never changes. Paul states, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13)

God’s character is immutable (unchanging). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 3:18). Asaph found encouragement in the past faithfulness of God to deliver His covenant people. He recounts how God redeemed His people in the Exodus (Ps. 77:15). When life seems grim and all hope seems lost, we must recount the character of the God that we serve.

When we are in the middle of the storm, let us be a people that cling tightly to the precious gift of salvation. The blood of Christ has cleansed us of our sin, and, as Thomas Watson said, “The blood of Christ can make a prison become a palace.”

Josh Chambers is the lead pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. He blogs regularly at https://thereformedlife.net. You can follow him on Instagram @jchambers5 and on Twitter @josh_chambers5.