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Good to be Afflicted

“It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.”

Psalm 119:71

 

Y’all. It’s been a hard two years. And sometimes, reading this verse is hard too, because when I think back on the past few months and years of my life, “good” is not the word that comes to mind.

 

Recalling my very first doctor’s appointment where I described the new, strange symptoms I was experiencing that had seemingly appeared overnight for no reason whatsoever, I don’t think “good” when I remember how my physician furrowed her brow looking over my chart and suggested that I see a psychologist.

 

It didn’t feel “good” when Hubs and I drove hours to see a specialist who spent 20 minutes with me before declaring that he couldn’t do anything for me.

 

“Good” certainly isn’t my first thought when I remember all the times I sat right here on the couch and sobbed because I felt so hopeless.

 

Let me tell you, the amount of money that Hubs and I have thrown away on test after test after test, all of which came back normal, is anything but “good.”

 

But as the psalmist says, it is good that I was afflicted, because I have learned the Lord’s statutes.

 

While it is true that I was a Christian years before I got sick, it is also true that I wasn’t growing in my relationship with God. Yes, I prayed, but they were stale, cautious prayers. Yes, I went to church, but I did so mostly because I lived in the Bible Belt and there was a degree of peer pressure to do so. Yes, I was a part of a Bible study, but I rarely carried the truths we discussed with me into my everyday life.

 

My faith, just like every other area of my life, has been a major caterpillar the past few years—growing, changing, evolving, and slowly but surely becoming something more beautiful than I ever could have imagined at the start of it all.

 

And at the core of all of it are God’s statutes.

 

Let me give you an example.

 

The very first of the Lord’s Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3). Simple enough, right? When I first became a believer, my idea of the word “god” was limited. So I allowed myself to kind of mentally check out and coast through that first commandment, not worrying too much about it because I knew at that point that I had no interest in converting to any other religion. I felt safe and confident in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be worshipping any other gods.

 

God is faithful though, even in my ignorance and misunderstanding of His Word. He has revealed to me that worshipping another god doesn’t have to necessarily look like me standing on a pedestal with a bullhorn and denouncing my Christian faith in favor of another religion and another god. Not at all. The other gods that I’ve worshipped have been much stealthier in their takeover. These are things that, from an outsider’s point of view, appear normal and healthy and even good.

 

At first, it was my career. I busted my butt for four (and a half) years in college to get a degree that I felt certain would allow me to get a good job and make a difference in this world. I just didn’t know what that job was. In school, and even after graduating, my god was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, and then putting myself on the right path to make that career a reality. I studied. I took personality tests. I took aptitude tests. I looked at jobs. I kept my résumé updated. Even after I got sick, I kept pushing and pushing on the matter. “Someday I’ll be better, and I’ll want to have a job lined up!” Sure, I prayed to God, but most of my prayers consisted of me begging for direction and then accusatory statements hurled at the Creator of the Universe when I got no response.

 

Then, one day, I realized that I wasn’t getting better any time soon, and my god quickly became my health. I worshipped this god mightily. Some days I still do, if I’m being honest. For me, worshipping my health means putting more faith in doctors, medicines, diets, rest, exercise, meditation, and tests than in the One who ultimately has the power to heal me. It means identifying more with #ChronicIllness than with #GodIsGood.

 

Along the way, there have been other, lesser gods that have come and gone: family, Hubs, even the idea of moving back to Tennessee for a while was a god.

 

These are not bad things. It is good to want to have a productive, meaningful career. It is good to want to be healthy. It is good to love your family and your husband and your home. But it is not good to get so wrapped up in these good things that you forget about the One from whom all good things come.

 

I can’t sit here today and tell you that I’ve got it all figured out and that I never let my health slip into my #1 priority spot while God slips down to #2 or #3. But I can tell you, that even when this happens, my God…my real God…is quick to forgive, quick to catch me when my health fails me or when I think about how I may never have a “real” job, quick to draw me back to Him, quick to comfort my broken heart and spirit.

 

This is why it is good that I have been afflicted. Learning God’s statutes has given me a deeper understanding of His goodness and faithfulness. As I learn His laws, I see Him more and more as a loving and compassionate father than a distant overlord trying to keep me in line. And what freedom and joy have come along with that!

 

If you’re facing affliction of any kind today, I understand. It is hard and ugly and messy and it feels anything but good. God is faithful though, and He won’t let you suffer without creating something beautiful from it. I hope and pray that He would reveal to you the goodness that can only be found in the midst of your pain.

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2 thoughts on “Good to be Afflicted

  1. Thanks for sharing such a raw and honest part of your personal story. It’s so easy for all of us to put creation before the creator and I’m thankful for your reminder to stay focused on God, the one in whom we can have a hope that will not disappoint!

    1. Thank you Natalie. It is wonderful indeed to have such a hope! And to have the grace and forgiveness when I get wrapped up in other, lesser gods.

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