Affliction

Shadows

Into every life there come those moments that cut new paths – awkward, ugly paths – across our landscape.  Shadow experiences that block the warmth of the sun’s rays and leave us in a dark spot – or leave dark spots on us.

Most of these shadow moments are fleeting.  Just as the sun stays in motion across the sky and recasts the shadows on the ground, life moves on and the light returns to our lives.

But sometimes the Shadow has a life and mind of its own.  Sometimes it simply refuses to leave, and we’re left with the scars and the questions and the daytime darkness that threaten to block our sun forever.  Sometimes, regardless of the truths we know or the time gone by, it just seems that the Shadow’s always there.

When the Shadow’s always there, if feels as though you have your own personal cloud suspended right over you, while the rest of the world basks in the sunshine.  It’s easy to worry that you’re everybody’s else’s downer… when the Shadow’s always there. [click to continue…]

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Adversity

Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.” -Matthew Henry

You’re thinking you must have done something terrible.  Or maybe that God’s been playing favorites, and you’re not one of them.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re going through adversity, you seem to be surrounded by people whose lives seem so easy?  So effortless?

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to feel offended – actually offended – when you’re plowing through the tough stuff?  As if God or life or the world owed you something and hasn’t paid up?

Let’s face it – nobody gets up in the morning yearning for a hard day.  Nobody prays for more pain.  And yet go to any source of earthly or heavenly wisdom, and you’ll see somebody talking about the pure value of adversity.  Let’s just start at the top:

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes (Psalm 119:71).

Speak for yourself, holy man!  This is twenty-first century America, where God owes us an easy life.  We’re on his winning team and all that.

Right?

Think again.

Some of the most profound wisdom you can ever attain will come at the other end of affliction, which is a general word for whatever crap you’re going through.  If it hurts, it’s affliction.  I know, yours is unique and your situation is different.  I know – believe me, I know – that your pain is real and you’d do just about anything for some relief.

I also know that if you’re right in the middle of the affliction right now, you may probably want to save this for future reference.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the abundant treasure when all you can do is feel the fire of the furnace.  But I want to tell you that there truly is beauty, even in your moments of deep pain.  Learning from the experience of the psalmist, you can find ways that what looks bad today can lead to extraordinary goodness tomorrow.

What’s so good about affliction? [click to continue…]

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