Out of options. Discouraged. Jaded. Disgusted. Fearful. Bitter. Fatalistic. I have experienced all of these undesirable aspects of life. I wish I could boldly declare that these facets of living below only occurred before my delivering conversion. I prefer not to lie to you, however. No, I have often hit some low spots in this journey with Jesus, and I know the suppressing sense of the walls closing in, the clock running out and the clouds pouring down.
But I’ve also known the joy of God’s relief. I’ve experienced the soul-satisfying building up of my faith through the gift of adversity. Before I was afflicted I went astray, so it became a good thing for me to be afflicted from time to time. Maybe you do not like the way that last sentence sounded. You were glad that you were afflicted? You went astray before difficult circumstances came to rest on you for a while? Well, the statement is not actually mine. It belongs to King David and it is preserved in your bible (Psalm 119:67, 71). It is no loss at all when your self-reliance is diminished in your heart. When those most precious resources that you have previously relied upon cannot or will not overcome that which threatens you, it is then that God’s resources become your lone source of hope. How gloriously good of Him to prevent you from leaning upon a reed that can only pierce your hand (Isaiah 36:6), but never sustain the weight of what you are facing. Read the inspired Psalmist’s words below and know that this testimony belongs to you, child of God. He will not abandon you because He cannot abandon you. He is not distracted from you, disinterested in you nor disconnected from you. He is actually using the very thing that you fear to eventually bring about in you the deepest delight. You say of that thing surrounding you, “Oh no! Here it comes!” Soon you will say, “Great God! There it went and I am still standing!”
Courageously wait, friend. He knows what He is all about. Yes, you are being afflicted, but not for your demise, dismay or destruction. The affliction is actually bringing you to another level of abandoning trust on anything other than the Father. Jesus does not share a soul with anything or anyone else – He bought you outright. You are His. The more we recognize this, the less we struggle when He ordains a season wherein we cannot deny the limits of our power, intellect, or ability to self-sustain. Affliction, trouble and brokenness are all used by Holy Spirit to strip us completely of misplaced confidences. To grow in spiritual maturity, we must walk through multiple seasons of decrease. There is no side-stepping this reality. Think about it: everyone in Scripture who inspires you went through a time when God allowed circumstances that deeply revealed their powerlessness. Moses got trapped at the Red Sea with a million people under his care. Joseph, the visionary who loved God, was tossed into a pit by his brothers who then sold him into slavery. Ruth buried a husband prematurely and had to leave the land of her birth with nothing in her hand. Gideon was called to defeat the enemy but stood by and had to watch as God whittled down his army to an impossibly small size. Peter had to face personal failure of denying Jesus three times after he had previously boasted that he would never forsake Him. Paul lost his reputation, his possessions, his physical strength and his impeccably religious pedigree.
Even Jesus had to choose to drink the cup of the Father’s wrath as His bloody agony seeped through His pores in Gethsemane’s Garden.
So, why do we feel so strange when life takes us into the spiritual olive-press that crushes us to bring forth the oil of anointing?
Let’s not despair of the season of affliction. Let’s yield to it and expect God to meet us there in unprecedented and profound ways. Let us pursue again that sometimes-elusive virtue called courage. Courage for today. That is all He requires.
“Blessed be the LORD, for He has wondrously shown His steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from Your sight.” But You heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to You for help. Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” – Psalm 31:21-24