Psalm 119:71 – My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. (NLT)
He was a godly man, but suffering caused him to question God's purposes. Ted was driving down the road one day, doing what he did best: visiting members of his church. Though he didn't feel quite right that morning, he decided to work nevertheless. As he prepared to turn into the church's driveway, things went black. The next thing that he remembered was sitting in a ditch. While waiting on a wrecker, he suffered a seizure which broke one of his shoulders and dislocated the other. With slings on both arms, he was incapable of doing anything for himself. As he prepared for bed a few nights later, he suffered a stroke, which took 95 percent of his vision in one eye and left one side of his body numb. As we visited with him and his family, his repeated questions were, "Why did God allow this to happen? Did I do something wrong? Is He punishing me?"
Ted had to learn to accept the same spiritual advice that he'd been giving church members who faced unexplained suffering. The psalmist found good in suffering even though the nature of it was bad. An important lesson emerged. Suffering taught him to pay closer attention to the principles of God's Word.
My times of suffering have brought me, as well, to God's Word more often for comfort and assurance. I've had my share of suffering — physical and otherwise. I didn't enjoy any of it, but I did discover that, when I responded correctly and viewed it with the right perspective, there were benefits from the experience. Suffering focuses my attention more keenly on God, Who controls the type of suffering as well as the length of it. Suffering drives me deeper into spiritual exercises such as prayer, searching the Word for promises and comfort, and paying closer attention to the pain that others are facing. Suffering also forces me to accept the same assurances that I've given to others when they've suffered and asked me "Why?"
Rather than turning away from God and becoming bitter, let episodes of suffering lead us into a more fulfilling relationship with Him.
Prayer: Father, while we don't enjoy suffering, we believe that You have a reason for allowing it. Help us learn the lessons that You desire to teach. Amen.
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