The Bible doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear.
We tend to skip over those parts.
Prepare your heart for Affliction, Round 2.
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
We weren’t accidents. God’s hands made us. Then His hands shaped us — and that shaping is still going on. Affliction is one of those “shaping” experiences that either gets us “bent out of joint” or helps us learn and grow. Look at how intricately God fashioned our bodies — “He is prepared to take equal pains with the soul.” (Spurgeon) We need only to trust the hands of the Potter as He continues to shape us, and pray for understanding instead of becoming embittered.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
Here’s why. People are watching to see how we handle adversity. A suffering believer who doesn’t lose faith has a powerfully positive impact on others. Christopher Ash says it better than I can:
When they see me, afflicted but trusting, hurting and hoping, holding on to your word of promise, they too will rejoice and take courage…
When I see the living faith of a suffering believer, I am deeply encouraged to persevere myself…
It is good to hear of answers to prayer that change circumstances. But it is better to hear of answers to prayer that change people, so that they persevere in unchanged circumstances…
To be quite honest, I am not nearly so encouraged in my struggles as when I see a believer who is really going through hard times, and yet still holding on to the word of God. (Bible Delight)
I’ve known people who gave up on faith when their prayers didn’t stop the suffering and bring a miracle. I’ve known people who got their miracle healing, but still drifted away. And then I’ve known a mother of four young children sit in the front pew on the Sunday after her husband’s funeral. And every Sunday after that. Which one had an impact on my faith? Who inspired me to hang on?
I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Ouch. This verse stings a little. Perhaps it reveals that we have a faulty understanding of the point of affliction. We tend to think we need to “just get through” times of trial until everything is back to normal and we can continue on our merry way. We grit our teeth, power through, and get back on track with God when it passes. The Psalmist saw it differently. He saw his hardship as the concrete proof of God’s faithfulness!
Were He not faithful to His promise, He would not trouble to afflict me. For he does not willingly afflict; He afflicts because it is the only way to achieve His promise and to keep me walking in His way. The affliction is not the failure of God’s faithfulness, but precisely the expression of it. (Bible Delight, Christopher Ash)
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
David wrestled with this, but instead of begging for the trial to be lifted, he asked for comfort from God’s hand while in it. He craved that “hesed” love during his time of trouble, claiming his right to it under the covenant, as a humble servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
The King James Version says, “Let Thy tender mercies come unto me…” As Spurgeon stated, “He needed not only mercy, but mercies, and these must be of a very gracious and considerate kind, even tender mercies, for he was sore with his wounds.” David knew, as we should, that the mercy of God always comes. It comes especially easy for those who continue to delight in His Word.
Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
Although David desired his arrogant, proud persecutors to be publicly exposed and to receive just punishment, he didn’t take it on himself to carry out justice. He left that to God. Even in the days of King David, there was the spinning of lies to undermine leadership. It must have been so hard to refrain from retaliation. How did David do it? He meditated on the covenant promises and truth of God’s word.
Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
David turned his attention away from his accusers and toward his fellow believers. He asked to be an encouragement to his community of faithful followers. Christopher Ash asks important questions: “What happens when Christians turn to us? Do they see in us men and women who hope in the word of God, who walk his way, who in the midst of affliction have our hearts and minds filled with his testimonies rather than the lies of the world?” (Bible Delight) Are people impacted by our testimonies? Or do we keep our afflictions under wraps so no one has any idea of the pressures we’re facing, and therefore can’t rejoice in the inspiring example of our faith? What are we missing by refusing to be vulnerable and honest?
May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!
The word “blameless” in Hebrew means “entire, with integrity”. One version says, “Let my heart be whole.” (Voice) Although we have sin natures and can’t be perfect before God, He provided a way for us to be “whole and holy” (Message) through Jesus Christ. We don’t need to worry about being put to shame when we are whole-heartedly living for Him.
Things I know for sure from this passage:
- The same God who created me is continuing to work in me.
- I need to re-consider my understanding of affliction.
- Comfort and delight are possible even during times of trial.
- I am meant to have a positive effect on believers in my community.
- Suffering teaches me things I couldn’t learn any other way.