This edition of our Newsletter discusses afflictions that believers may experience in their daily lives as they prepare for the second coming of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. An affliction in this paper is consistent with that which has been defined by Webster and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. According to Webster, affliction is the state of pain, distress, or grief. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia also explains afflictions as a sustained pain of the body or mind, as sickness, losses, calamity, adversity, persecution or that which tends to cause bodily pain or mental distress (ISBE).
Types of Affliction
Scriptures teach that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Psa 34:19).
Afflictions are many but each person may suffer from a different kind of them. Paul rhetorically asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom 8:35-36). Paul further narrates his ordeal as having been beaten several times with rods, frequent in prisons, suffered threats of death, has been stoned, experienced shipwreck, and he has been in the deep, journeyed in perils of waters, and robbers. He has also suffered from his own countrymen, and from the hands of heathens, he has suffered both in the city and in the wilderness, in the sea and in the hands of false brethren (2Co 11:23-27). In fact, many of Paul´s contemporaries including women also suffered various degrees of torture, pains, humiliation, and even to the point death.
Causes of Affliction
Afflictions come from different sources. Some people may suffer from one form of affliction or another as a result of hereditary or environment. In the case of the environmental factors, an individual´s own mistakes or another person´s negligence may be the cause of the troubles that affect people. Some afflictions may also be a result of a curse from some superior being or another. Sometimes, the evils that fall upon people are attributable to God (Isa 45:7, Amos 3:6) but evil Spirits also cause afflictions as in the case of Soul and Ahab (1Sam 16:14, 1Sam 18:10, 1Kgs 22:20-22).
Purpose of Suffering
Suffering in the life of a believer may suggest that God is working on the believer to accomplish His divine purpose in his/her life. James, therefore, writes that believers must rejoice over their afflictions because the trying of their faith is intended to produce patience. They are, therefore, advised to allow patience to complete its work in their lives in order to make them perfect without lacking anything (Jas 1:2-4).
Again, affliction is a way by which God disciplines those He loves. Here, discipline should not be confused with punishment. Believers are encouraged to embrace afflictions from God because that is an indication that they are true children of God (Heb 12:5-7). According to Elihu, one of the friends of Job, tribulation is intended to instruct a man to abstain from the pride and presumption that issue in destruction (Job 33:14-30). Similarly, Paul asserts that his affliction or the thorn in his flesh was to teach him to humble himself before God (2Co 12:6-10).
Responses to Afflictions
Almost all people in the world have one thing or the other that afflicts them but each of them has a way of responding to their afflictions. There is one group that physically confronts the challenge head-on believing that such is their lot so they would fight till they die. This is good but not all great fights of afflictions (Heb 10:32) could be won by physical means because not all things are seen with naked eyes (2Co 4:18).
Some people commit suicide when they feel that their afflictions are unbearable for them. There are others who resign to fate and they become consumed with self-hatred and self-pity because they think that they cannot do anything about their circumstances. Many people also resort to deities or superior beings for support. These deities include shrines, diviners, and astrologers (1Sam 28:7-25) but those who know their God engage themselves in prayer and seek same from fellow believers (Jams 5:13-15) either for complete deliverance or for the strength to endure the pain. Paul testifies that persecutions and affliction came upon him but the Lord delivered him from them all (2Ti 3:11) which confirms the words of the Psalmist in Psalms 34:19 as written above. God is faithful so He would not allow those who trust Him to suffer beyond their abilities. He would make a way for them to escape so that they could bear whatever afflictions confront them (1Co 10:13).
Afflictions come upon all persons that are born of women. The responses to the afflictions would tell whether or not they would defeat those afflictions. Those who commit their battles to God are those who are in the best position to emerge victoriously. Whatever afflictions you are going through see it as light compared to the surpassing future glory.
Prayer: May the Lord God give you the strength and the power to endure whatever pain you might be going through, and may victory be yours, in the name of Jesus Christ.