“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71, NIV)
Why do we seem to learn more through our afflictions than we do through our peaceful times? I think it is because it is only then, for most of us, that we ask the question “why?” We could ask the same question in our times of peace, but we don’t feel the need and are content with where we are. Not many people sit and ponder the question, “Why am I so favored and blessed with such peace and prosperity?” We tend to think that this is somehow the normative state, so we just exist in it. But when suffering and affliction comes our way, then the question “why?” begins to fly. We no longer feel we are in a normative state and feel out of control to put it back. We feel helpless!
It is in this vulnerable state of affliction that we finally stop to ask the right question, “why?” In so doing, we gain answers to questions more important than the one being asked. In the book of Job, Job laments the days of his life and his current state of affliction. He pleads for God to provide him an answer to why he is suffering so. You can read the book of Job from beginning to end and you will find that God never answers Job’s question. But He does something even greater. He reminds Job of who he (Job) is and who He (God) is in relationship to him. He clearly shows Job that He is a loving God who is in control of all that is happening. He empowers Job to trust in Him and His Word even though his experiences and senses would tell him otherwise.
Like Job, we learn much about God and ourselves through our affliction because it is only then that we are willing to be honest about our brokenness and our reliance upon God for everything. Through our affliction God shows Himself to be faithful and true to His Word. Hence, we learn to live and die on those decrees.