Summary: When you undergo afflictions, go over your convictions.
JOSEPH BAYLY ONCE SAID, “Never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light.” But we do, don’t we? When we go through times of trial, we lose sight of what we believe. We have a tendency to see only the bad our afflictions.
For example, when the heat’s on, we may assume right off that God is punishing us in some way. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that our suffering indicates divine displeasure.
Do you remember the incident when Jesus and his disciples encountered “a man blind from birth” (Jn 9:1)? Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Do you remember what Jesus said? “Neither.” Neither! Affliction is not always the sign that God is angry with us. Sometimes, in fact, we suffer “for righteousness’ sake.” Jesus said, “Blessed are you” – in other words, you have God’s blessing – “when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Mt 5:11).
So, what do we do when we suffer? How do we cope with what the book of James calls “trials of any kind” (Jas 1:2)? Here’s what I want to suggest: When you undergo afflictions, go over your convictions. That is, rehearse what you believe. Go over what you firmly hold on to in your faith. Or, to quote Bayly again, “Never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light.” So, while we have a tendency to see only the bad in our adversity, we need to see also the good. And what I mean is: We need to see God’s purpose in our suffering.
And the first thing we see is that, in our suffering, God reveals the awful consequences of the Fall. Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians. The truth is, Paul and his companions hadn’t done anything wrong. They didn’t deserve to suffer. And yet, they did – to the point, Paul says, that they “despaired of life itself…. [They] felt that [they] had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor 1:8, 9a).
We know what that’s like. When we go through unwarranted suffering – or, when we see someone else suffer – we find ourselves asking why God lets bad things happen to good people. That question – as natural a thing as it is to ask it – reveals a problem with our understanding. The fact is that we live in a fallen world. And we forget that. The reason innocent people suffer is that this is not the world God created it to be. When our first parents sinned, they did not just incur guilt on themselves. Their rebellion affected the whole created order. It created a fault line in every aspect of life. If you look, you can see the effects of the Fall in our relationship to each other, you can see it in our relationship to ourselves, and you can see it even in our relationship to nature. We must never be surprised that so-called “good” people suffer. The fact is, we live in a fractured, fallen world, and because of that, all people suffer.