Each morning I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again.
7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee;
but with great mercies will I gather thee. […]
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed;
but my kindness shall not depart from thee,
neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed,
saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
(Isaiah 54:7, 10)
A good Father disciplines his children. He does so out of love, with great tenderness. It grieves his heart to see his children sad–he does not want to cause them grief–and yet for their own good and often for their own safety, he must set them on the right path.
So it is with our relationship with God, and one of the ways he disciplines us is through the trials we face (James 1:2-4). Through them, God is making us new, conforming us to the image of His son. For those who stand as enemies of God, suffering is at once an act of judgement and of grace, meant to demonstrate the magnitude of God’s anger against sin. But for those who love God, suffering becomes something entirely different.
For the sake of those called of God, all of the Father’s wrath against sin has been absorbed by Christ at the cross. Now, because of Him, affliction comes to us not as judgement, but as a gift, meant to refine us, and deepen our intimacy with, and dependence upon the Lord. Speaking through the prophet Zechariah God says, “I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (Zechariah 13:9).
So there are two questions for us to ask today: First, to the person who still stands at enmity with God. We’ve all to some extent or another stood where you stand, thinking “surely I deserve better than this!” But the fact is that all of us are guilty of treason before God, deserving of the death penalty… eternal death. If you’re still breathing, that’s because God is showing you mercy, allowing time for grace to work in your life, drawing you to repentance. In the words of the apostle Paul, “as though God did beseech you by [me]: [I] pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Second, to the Christian: When we experience affliction–no matter how great, or how small–we have two choices; We can either use the pain as an excuse to run from God, or we can embrace it as a friend, and suffer well. Perhaps it would help to think of yourself as a piece of iron in a forge. God is the blacksmith, hammering you into shape, and the troubles you face are the white-hot coals that make you malleable in the craftsman’s hands.
Choose well, friends, and I pray one day you will find yourself echoing the words of King David; “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).