Psalm 119 is a beast–it is 176 verses long and divided into 22 sections (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). So I’m going to divide it up, and write about my observations from each section, and see how each can help me continue to walk the road less traveled. Today, the “Teth” section:
We all know the saying, “No pain, no gain.” Most of the time, that isn’t a good saying to follow. Pain is a sign of a problem. But sometimes, it is a good rule to follow. When you haven’t done any strenuous exercise in awhile, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to be sore the next day, and will continue to experience soreness until your body adjusts to your new routine and you learn how to warm down to decrease the lactic acid in your muscles. No pain, no gain…
If you’re a follower of Jesus, “no pain, no gain” is exactly what you need to hear. Unfortunately, our culture has morphed Christianity into a safe, comfortable religion. We’ve somehow come to believe that if we’re really following Jesus, then we’ll experience little difficulty and we’ll be safe and secure in our life. When something goes wrong, we freak out. Some of us question why God would allow us to suffer. Yet, when we look at the Bible, we come away (well, we should come away) with the idea that suffering should be more of the norm for a follower of Jesus than not.
The author of Psalm 119 thanks God for suffering. Look what he writes in Psalm 119:71,
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
When do we learn life’s lessons best–while comfortable, or while under pressure? Of course, it’s while we’re under pressure while we are suffering. The author of Psalm 119 declares his thankfulness for suffering because it helped him focus on God and His statutes.
Most of us look at suffering like it is punishment. In some cases, it will feel like that–especially when we’re guilty of sin. God simply allows us to suffer the consequences so that we might repent and refocus on Him. Sometimes we suffer because life throws us a curve–we suffer from things out of our control. This isn’t punishment, but God does use such times to regain our attention, or to draw attention to an area of life that needs to be turned over to Him. Sometimes we suffer because we’re doing the right thing. Think about the apostle Paul–he suffered greatly for spreading the gospel of the kingdom. Yet, he considered them momentary light afflictions.
The next time we’re experiencing some form of suffering, we need to remember that, in most cases, someone else is going through something much worse. Also, maybe God is trying to get our attention and show us an opportunity for repentance so that we can be more like Jesus. Should we chase after suffering? No. But when it comes, we don’t have to freak out… and we may actually see it as an opportunity.
When was the last time you suffered and came out on the other side closer to God and more like Jesus because of the experience?