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Afflicted . . . But Stronger

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“The Lord's mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Today we begin a two week sojourn through the Epistle of James (1:1-11), a letter that Biblical Historians have generally come to agree was written to Jewish Christians scattered beyond the borders of Israel. He begins this correspondence with words that undoubtedly raised some eyebrows. For many it still does. “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials.”

James goes on to explain this enigmatic and puzzling statement, pointing out that the testing of our faith yields perseverance, a virtue needed to complete the journey home to our ethereal destination. With God, everything always points to Heaven, our inheritance if you will, provided we are willing to compete well for it. Do so so we must grow in perseverance. Put simply, no cross, no crown.

Psalm 119, chosen in accordance with today’s passage from James, uses the word afflicted 3 times today. This can be no coincidence.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I hold your promise.”

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.”

“I know, all the word that your ordinances are just, and in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

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I draw your attention in a particular way to the second verse. C.S. Lewis used to refer to affliction and suffering as “God’s megaphone.” It was Lewis’ belief that God uses hardships to get our attention, perhaps to remind us of who it is we must turn to in these difficult times, times that all of us will encounter at one point or another. But suffering passes, as do all things, good or bad. When they do, we are reminded that we were made for eternity, which inevitably comes more firmly into focus when the storms pass, as they always do. Even those seemingly precious few glorious moments in our life, the victories, the enormous successes. They too pass, which is fine because they are merely minuscule harbingers of that which is to come, minuscule against the backdrop of the beatific vision and eternal paradise.

“Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” These were the profound words of author Richard Sibbes. God speaks to us in our afflictions so as to deliver our souls from death. Affliction is merely a temporary state. It pales in comparison to the eternal glory of the spirit.

I leave you with a prayer to recite and reflect upon during times of affliction, spiritual or otherwise. I ask you to consider the words of the previously quoted Charles Spurgeon as well, who said “ The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”

“O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in thine ineffable goodness, look down upon thy people gathered in thy name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. Thou knowest our weakness. Thou hearest our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. Grant us the gift of perseverance so that we may continue to serve thee in peace and glorify thy most honorable and majestic name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.” ~ Amen.

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