“It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”  (Psalm 119:71)

My heart is bleeding with the beauty of this verse.  It took a long, painful road to get here, but I see the beauty.  My heart has been laid wide open for the majority of this year, with pain being the norm.  I have been on God’s surgery table while He has been uprooting destructive sin from my heart.  I have spent years being blind to my own wickedness, living what looked like a great Christian life.  It took affliction for my eyes to open up.  This was a good thing.

Have you ever been afflicted?  If so, would you call it, “good?”  We do not like pain.  We do not like being exposed.  Sometimes, however, this is exactly what we need.  I am living proof that it is good when God afflicts us.  Why?  That we might learn His statutes.  Would you rather live in sin, either hidden or willful, and put your eternity at risk?  Or would you rather be afflicted in order to learn God’s statutes and be cleansed from sin?  The healing, brother or sister, is well worth the surgery.

I want to examine two other verses in Psalm 119 that give us clarity and a right view of God’s affliction on His people.  I want to look at who it is that brings the affliction, as well as the purpose of the affliction.  I believe that both will change our view about the hard seasons of life.  The goal is for us to say with joy, “It was good for me that I was afflicted.”

Who brings the affliction?

“I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”  (Psalm 119:75)

Who brought the affliction in this psalm?  The psalmist clearly knew who it was.  It was the Lord.  Here’s the crazy thing: the Lord did it in faithfulness, according to the one who endured the affliction.  We must understand this.  We are so quick to give Satan credit for the hard times of life.  Sure, he is gunning for us and is relentless in his pursuit of us.  However, it is the Lord who will gut us when He needs to.  This is faithful.  This is loving.  This is good.

God will afflict us ultimately to save us.  Jesus shows us the beauty of this in John 15.  He says in verse 2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Did you catch it?  God will only prune the branches that bear fruit and are in Him.  If a branch does not bear fruit, there is no need to prune it!  So God will take the branches that are growing and bearing fruit, and He will prune them.  Why?  So that they may bear more fruit.

Think about the pruning process.  It can be nasty.  It involves cutting.  It involves pain for the branch involved.  However, the painful process results in further growth.  God will snip back the things in our lives that are hindering growth and choking us out.  We may hate this process while it is happening, but there will come a day when we see the beauty of it.  God could either leave us in a stunted, choked out place, or He could cut us a bit to make us grow.  Which one would you consider loving and good?

Let me give you my example.  For the majority of this year God has been cutting out the things that have choked out my growth.  God basically said to me, “Clay, you want to teach my Word?  Great!  First, we are going to deal with some things.”  Ever since then it has been a slow, bloody process of purifying my soul.  It has been a painful process for Makinze and me, but it has also been a painful blow to my sin and Satan’s deception in my life!  

Never once have I blamed Satan for this season.  It has clearly been God doing the cutting.  Sure, I have pleaded with Him to hurry up the process.  However, His affliction in His timing is faithful.  If He thinks there can be and should be more fruit on the branch, then He will lovingly cut the junk back.  We may not like the process, but we will always love the result.  Trust God in His affliction.  He does it in His faithfulness.  It is always done for a reason.  It always brings more fruit.

What is the purpose of affliction?

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.”  (Psalm 119:67)

This verse, dear friend, is one that should be preached over and over again.  This is why we can say that our afflictions are good.  This verse has become so real to me.  God’s Word has been a Treasure of mine for years.  I am a reader who loves to spend time in the Bible.  I have memorized a good amount of Scripture.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t find myself in God’s Word at some point in the day.  I have learned, however, that this means nothing if I am not keeping His Word.

Before I was afflicted I went astray.  I read God’s Word, but I did not always keep God’s Word.  Sin had a grip on my heart.  Deceit grew so deep in me that I could not even see it.  I  needed to be afflicted.  I needed to be pruned.  God did just that, faithfully.  It has taken nearly a year of pain, a lack of patience, and seemingly wasted time, but God has done a life-saving surgery.  Now, I keep His Word.

My advice to you would be to learn from my pain and the afflictions of others.  Be willing to let God gut you.  Be more than willing to let God gut you.  It is a good thing.  If you are going to bear fruit, then there are going to be times of cutting.  Welcome these opportunities for growth and purification.  You are becoming more like Jesus in these moments and seasons.  This is a good thing!  

The question is this: who do you ultimately want to be?  I’ll answer first.  I am done being a man who hurts others with selfishness.  I am done living in lies.  There is a better way.  I want to be like Jesus.  I want to live a radical life with the needs of others as my first priority.  Thanks to God afflicting me, that is where I am headed.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep God’s Word.

I pray for this to sink in for you.  Who do you want to be?  Do you want to be more fruitful than you are now?  If so, pain may come.  It is more than worth it.  God is going to dig out the sin in your heart.  He will do it in faithfulness.  No longer will you go astray.  You will see the beauty of God’s surgery table.  God will wound you before He uses you.  This is loving.  There is purpose in your pain!  My year is a perfect example.  I am bruised, hurt, and scarred up, but I am better off than I was before this season.  God is faithful.  It was good for me that I was afflicted.

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