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Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

Psalm 119:71 NLT, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.”

Psalm 119:71 MSG, “My troubles turned out all for the best, they forced me to learn from Your textbook.”

I said,

“God, I hurt.” And God said, I know.”

I said, “God, I cry a lot.”

And God said, “That is why I gave you tears.”

I said, “God, I am so depressed.”

And God said, “That is why I gave you Sunshine.”

I said, “God, life is so hard.”

And God said, “That is why I gave you loved ones.”

I said, “God, my loved one died.” And God said, “So did mine.”

I said, “God, it is such a loss.”

And God said, I saw mine nailed to a cross.”

I said, “God, but your loved one lives.” And God said, “So does yours.”

I said, “God, where are they now?”

And God said, “Mine is on My right and yours is in the Light.”

I said, “God, it hurts.” And God said, I know.”

Written by K. C. and Myke Kuzmic

(Posted on the wall at the Oklahoma City bombing site)

Just beneath the surface of every believer’s life, especially the more mature is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged in a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear, and for good reason. We were designed to enjoy a better world than this one, and until we actually enter into God’s promise, we continue to groan for what we do not have. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

So an aching soul is not necessarily evidence of neurosis, spiritual immaturity, or psychological problems, but of realism. But we spend all of our Christian life trying to ease the pain and escape from the groaning.

Let’s take a long, hard look at ourselves. What is your pain? I know too much introspection is unhealthy, but too little can be devastating. To focus on our negatives and our heartaches can be depressing, and it could leave us cynical, and dejected.

Why do we need to face our pain? Not just physical pain, but emotional, spiritual and relationship pain. Pain disrupts life. It can rob of us sleep. It can trigger harsh responses toward people we love. It can drive us away from our responsibilities to a life filled with seeking immediate relief from the pain with alcohol, drugs, sexual activity, overeating, crying spells, anger, bitterness, laziness, just to mention a few. Then we feel guilty and we cry out to God for help, but it seems sleepless nights sobbing out our frustrations to God doesn’t always take the pain away.

The great Apostle Paul lived with an aching soul, and probably with physical pain as well. “Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT). We cannot be certain what Paul’s thorn was, but it caused him to live with a great deal of pain. Listen to the Psalmist, “From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

Now let’s examine our text: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

Here’s a man looking back on all his yesterdays. He is walking again along the road of life he has already traveled. Obviously his life has not been one of green pastures beside still waters. He has gone through some deep valleys and climbed some high mountains. He has faced some real storms in his life. He has had some treasured things torn from him, and I would guess that he has felt hot tears of pain, anguish and despair coursing down his cheeks. But as he looks back on those days of stress and strain, he is now convinced that they did him no real harm. In fact, now he is saying, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted…” The very stress, trouble and pain he thought was going to ruin him, actually has been the making of him.

He washed my eyes with tears that I might see,

The broken heart I had was good for me;

He tore it all apart and looked inside,

He found it full of fear and foolish pride.

He swept away the things that made me blind,

And then I saw the clouds were silver lined;

And now I understand 'twas best for me,

He washed my eyes with tears that I might see.

He washed my eyes with tears that I might see,

The glory of Himself revealed to me;

I did not know that He had wounded hands,

I saw the blood He spilt upon the sands.

I saw the marks of shame and wept and cried,

He was my substitute for me He died;

And now I'm glad He came so tenderly

And washed my eyes with tears that I might see.

(Ira Stanphill)

All we have is the promise that Jesus will come and take us out of this present evil world. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

What’s the problem. The problem with man is man! Man is a fallen creature, and only God’s amazing grace can rescue him from his fate. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12). “As in Adam all die…” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

DO WE REALLY UNDERSTAND THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN? We cannot understand our pain until we understand the extent of our fall. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). I was already affected by sin when I was born, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). I was infected at birth, “These men are born sinners, lying from their earliest words!” (Psalm 58:3, TLB).

God puts man on the examining table, here’s his diagnosis, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

Sin effects…who I am, what I do, where I go, my thoughts, actions and my relationships in life. That’s what sin has done to the human race. It has ruined mankind for life. The doctrine of total depravity has left us utterly dependent on the grace of God.

God’s Word describes the heart of man as, blind, darkened, covetous, full of evil, unrepentant, lustful, proud, rebellious, stony, hostile, sick, hard, and dead, and in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Take a long, hard look at your life, it’s a struggle isn’t it?

•Sexual fantasies flood some minds and there seems to be little control over their thought life.

•Thoughts of stealing invade other’s minds, covetousness, wanting what others have.

•Rebellion against authority. The rebellious nature of Adam was born in us.

•Because of the sin of pride we are quick to criticize others, break relationships and withhold forgiveness.

•To make ourselves look good in the eyes of others, we judge those who do not live up to our standards.

•We feel sorry for ourselves. We have the nature of Adam so ingrained is us that we refuse to take the blame for anything, and if we were really honest we would even like to blame God for the way we are. “It’s not my fault, cries Adam, it’s that woman you gave me, she made me do it.” “It’s not my fault, cried Eve, It’s the serpent you created, he made me do it.” We think things like, “God if you had not created the Internet, magazines, and movies I would not have sinned.” Putting it simply, “I’m a mess, I guess.”

ENTER THE WONDERFUL LOVE OF GOD! Nothing is more humbling than the recognition of the depth of corruption that stains everything I do. The deep thirst that makes me totally dependent upon someone else for satisfaction.

Just look at the incredible things we do to try to alleviate our pain. At best, most of us go through life by coping, not by changing.

As long as our minds are occupied, we’re OK. So we work, 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day, because when we’re working we don’t have to worry about our pain or our relationship with God and others.

Or we try to cope with our particular pain with church stuff. Trying to cope with a problem marriage or trouble with the children by immersing ourselves in religious activities. I have seen wives in a bad marriage try to supplant their impossible home situation with work at the church, and much of the time, their absence from the home makes it worse.

Many try alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, even among God’s people! The pain is so intense some will use anything to try to ease the hurt.

Recreation is another means of escape. “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” That’s a great lie of Satan! Boats, campers, motorhomes, dirt bikes, etc. Nothing wrong with any of these, if they do not take away from your service to God. Billy Sunday preached against riding bicycles, because people were going on long bike rides on Sunday morning, rather than going to church.

Entertainment is another escape from the pain. But it can never satisfy, you always want more. In order to avoid a confrontation with your deepest feelings or a confrontation with God, many metaphorically go through life with a boom box blasting, the television on, or an I-Pod blaring. The answer to dealing with pain seems to be just turn up the volume.”

Or, unfortunately, some are in so much pain they turn to the most selfish act of all, suicide. Most of us know someone who could no longer cope, so in an effort to end the hurt, they leave others to live with the pain and guilt of their final act of desperation.

One thing is certain, there will always be pain, longing, anguish, and sometimes even despair. Some preachers tell us we can live without pain, without suffering, without sickness and disease in perfect health, peace an d harmony, but that doesn’t wash with Scripture. God’s children have always had to live with pain.

The following is a poem I wrote many years ago when I was going through a particularly hard time in my ministry. You can sense the pain, anguish and despair…I titled it “The Valley of Despair.”

When your weeping fills the cold, night air,

And all you can do is sit and stare,

And God can’t be found anywhere.

Is this the Valley of Despair?

When words are painful in your prayer,

And others words sound like a dare,

And Satan has made your house his lair.

Is this the Valley of Despair?

When you sit and pout in an awful chair,

And you don’t even seem to care,

And God’s Word really lays you bare.

Is this the Valley of Despair?

Is there any way out of the dark despair?

Is there anyone here who can declare,

That God is here, not over there

In someone else’s deep despair?

Oh, friend of mine, you’d best beware,

This valley I’m in isn’t rare,

For many others have journeyed there,

This is the Valley of Despair.

Psalm 137:1-3, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

They were a hurting people? What’s the lesson here? You cannot sing the Lord’s music when you are the foreign land of…“pain,” “depression,” “anxiety,” “anguish,” or “grief.”

Maybe you’re going through a very difficult time right now, you’re hurting and your troubled mind feels that God has abandoned you, that He can’t be bothered with your heartache, it seems as if He has forsaken you. You feel as if God has gone on vacation and has taken the checkbook with Him. It may be the most hurt you have ever experienced, and maybe you feel like God has not only betrayed you, but that He also can’t be concerned with the pain you’re going through. You are not the first person to feel like that, listen to the Psalmist:

•“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled” (Psalm 6:2).

•“Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah” (Psalm 77:7-9).

•“You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths” (Psalm 88:6).

•“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O Lord—how long?” (Psalm 88:6).

Job felt the same way. He felt that God had betrayed him. He perceived that God couldn’t be concerned with his pain. He felt that he was being made to suffer unjustly. Job wasn’t aware that he was allowed by God to be made a “a bet,” “a dare,” and “a deal” between God and Satan. It was a test for Job, that he almost failed. He complained to God in chapter after chapter, even asking God to kill him to ease his pain. In all of my times of hurting and feeling abandoned by God I never once asked Him to kill me.

Job lost everything! All of his livestock was stolen, his servants were killed, his family and riches were all taken away. If that wasn’t enough, he was covered head to foot with agonizing sores. Then his wife tells him to curse God and die, his friends criticize and condemn him. Of course we know that God richly rewarded him and restored everything. Only then Job learns that God was testing him. Remember, child of God: Satan is the one who is working on your mind and promoting this suffering in your life. Why would he do that? He wants you to think that God’s promises do not work. That putting all your trust is God is useless.

How can we live with the pain?

•You can surrender to the pain and let it control you! In Charles Dickens novel, “Great Expectations,” Miss Haversham was about to be married. The wedding day had arrived. The guests were gathered, the wedding feast prepared. The wedding cake was on the table. She was adorned in her beautiful gown. But she was jilted, the bridegroom never showed up, she was left at the altar. Her devastation was so great that she had every watch and clock in her home stopped at 20 minutes to 9, the hour of her grievous humiliation, the hour of her first and one great sorrow. All sunlight was shut out of her house, she lived in the dark, except for a candle. Her wedding cake stood on the table until it was devoured by rats and mice and covered with cobwebs. Her once lovely white wedding gown hung in yellow decay around her shrunken figure. She surrendered to disappointment and pain, life stopped for her at 20 minutes to 9.

•You can become hard and cynical, and fight the pain until you get to the point that you feel you have overcome the hurt, or you just give up.

•You can pretend that it doesn’t exist, going on through life acting as if everything’s okay. The is the way many of us choose to deal with the problem of pain. The constant hurt make us feel guilty because we believe that it’s a sin to experience emotional, or physical pain, longings, frustrations or feelings of emptiness and anguish, so we try to ignore it in the hope that it will go away.

As a pastor I sometimes feel that I need to tell people that “IT’S OKAY TO HURT!” To give you permission to live with the pain! Because I believe that God gives permission to live with pain, but not forever! God tells us in our text: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Or in the New Living Translation: “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” Or in the Message, “My troubles turned out all for the best—they forced me to learn from Your textbook”.

We need only to remember what God told Paul in his time of suffering, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Remember when Joseph had been sold into slavery by his own brothers. He suffered greatly! He was betrayed, lied about, and wrongly judged, yet we hear him say to them, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Reminds of Romans 8:28 doesn’t it? “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Until we acknowledge the pain and disappointments in our circumstances and relationships, we will not pursue the fullness of God with a deep desire.

You must face your pain honestly. Admit it. “God, I’ve got a problem.”

You must look to God’s promises. “Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles” (Psalm 119:50). “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you” (Psalm 9:9-10, NLT).

I’m tired of the pain! I’m so tired of the struggle! I constantly ask, “Will this pain never go away?” I get so angry, sometimes at God about having to live with heartache and suffering. Like it or not every one of us will go to at least one more funeral…our own…unless His second coming happens first! Jesus, Himself said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). I know that God sees every tear, hears every anguished groan, and watches every feeble attempt we make at trying to ease the pain. I believe that His great heart is so attuned with ours, that our burdens are His burdens. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Several thoughts and I’m finished:

“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

“For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3).

“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

God does not promise that He will provide us with all the comforts of health and wealth (regardless of what the prosperity gospel preachers teach). But He does promise to, “supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God does not promise to make all of our human relationships as warmly satisfying as we would like them to be, but He does promise to be there for us, to grieve with us in our time of need. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15). “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

God does not guarantee pain-free living, quite the contrary… “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:18). “My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:4,5).

Jesus left us with a Comforter, The Holy Spirit, the “Paraclete,” the one called in alongside to help, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16,17).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is with those who uphold my life” (Psalm 54:4).

He will always meet us at our point of greatest need: “If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me” (Psalm 139:8-10, NLT).

There is no valley so low, no mountain so high, no hole so big, no pressure so great, no sorrow so deep, no stress so debilitating, no work so exhausting, no responsibility so overwhelming, no road so rough, that He will not come where we are.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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