- Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
The risk we run is to camp out in the shadow of our afflictions. If we take residence there, the fallout will be harrowing:
- We become engrossed in the hurt, replaying the issues in our heads over and over.
- Then, we act out in that hurt in blasting toward those who we feel are responsible, and (worst of all)…
- Deflect all responsibility that needs to lie at our doorstep, failing to see any the part we played in those unfolding events.
- We become bitter, angry, narcissistic, anxious–and dangerous. To others. To self.
I’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. And it leaves you a hot mess that stinks to such a degree that others won’t want to be around you. In fact, you may not want to be around you. See what I mean? Dangerous!
Edwards gives us perspective. Wednesday night, we looked at Edwards’ Resolutions on the subject of ‘Suffering and the Glory of God.’ With Resolution #67, Edwards does not deny that afflictions will come. And none of us should deny them as well.
At the core of each of Edwards’ Resolutions is a denial of self. In this instance, Edwards refuses to camp out in its shadow, playing the blame game. He refused to be victimized. He would not wallow in the pool of pity. And he refused to commiserate with people who would fan those flames and feed that pity. Romans 8:28 was an active ingredient in his spiritual life.
He realized that afflictions are often the canvas God uses to show His glory in a fallen world. Good comes out of these. Painful lessons for our benefit emerge once we move past ourselves away from the shadow of afflictions (and bitters, anxiety, pity, and narcissism) and into the shadow of His throne, where we can find mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Afflictions and suffering develop character, endurance and hope (Romans 5:1-5). James has the audacity to tell us to count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds, because of the benefits that come from those trials (James 1:2-8).
As I stood behind the podium in our chapel Wednesday night, I remembered the emptiness and hopelessness I felt when my wife was diagnosed with lupus, a disease for which there is no known cure, and wondering how much longer I would have her with me (thanks, WebMD, for listing all the possibilities). I remembered how three weeks after her diagnosis, her father died at a young age. Hoo-boy!
I then looked out an saw:
- One who is struggling with a significant form of cancer, but is still glorifying and praising God in the midst of asking God to heal and grant wisdom for the decisions ahead.
- Others who groan at troublesome family issues, but aren’t just groaning but praying and praising.
- Another whom doctors thought would not live past infancy but just celebrated his 47th birthday this past Monday–and never misses a worship gathering time.
- Another who still grieves over the loss of her husband and daughter that’s taken place in the last seven years, along with others who have lost children as well.
- Another who is sight-impaired, but still leads our singing on Wednesday nights with a contagious joy.
And this was in a room of 25 people. If I cast the net to the church proper, you’d be here reading endless commentaries of our people’s hearts of how God brought glory through adversity. The maturity and spiritual stability that the cross and resurrection bring give testimony that suffering has a purpose and can bring glory to God. Our Teacher longs to teach us lessons during suffering that we would never learn otherwise.
You have a choice. You can choose camping in victimhood and blaming all others and even God for what’s happened, or claiming the victory that Christ has purchased for you, knowing that God is in control and has you in the palm of His hand.
Reflect on your adversities and afflictions and look at “how I am better for them.” Whether now or later, you’ll be amazed at how none of this surprised God.