The word affliction has many different connotations, agitated, harassed, deep sadness, great suffering. In totality it refers to grief or distress within the body or mind and can be experienced from either internal or external forces. Many times those that we love are the ones that cause the greatest affliction in us, for we have come to trust them, to rely on them for guidance and acceptance, but there are those times when we think that we are not stepping over the boundaries with these acquaintances, finding out that they were not prepared for the next step in the relationship. These afflictions are those of the emotions and can hurt us deeply, for it is not just trust that is lost, even if it is only temporary, but a loss of a closeness because of either shame or embarrassment brought on by the revelation of a part of us that we felt we could entrust to the person we have perhaps known for a very long time.
Much of this affliction is set within the mind months or even years before being brought into the light, and it can be devastating when openness is expressed, and then rejected. Envision if you will two brothers, raised and loved equally in the same home, now adults, and one who has wronged the other a very long time ago, and never spoke to him that the incident was caused by him, informs his brother that this wrong was because of his actions. All of these years the other brother never knew who was responsible for the actions that changed a large part of the course of his life, now is told the truth by the one who has held it in, kept it secret for many years. Affliction of the soul has the opportunity to be expressed in two ways, rejection of the loved one, or forgiveness, despising of a falsehood held so long within them, or acceptance of this momentary feeling of hatred, letting it flow through us and accepting the brother in love, forgiving them of their trespass against us, no matter the reason for their fear of expressing this sin against us that happened so long ago. We know as Christians the path we are to take in these circumstances, but to so say one thing, even to believe and know the right course of action we are to take, and to actually follow that course is quite another thing altogether.
Affliction, in general, is a change in our normal behavior, whether emotional, physical or spiritual, that causes us to suffer, that changes our perspective on either another person or even ourselves. Many are suffering needlessly, I am afraid, for too many times we allow the words of others, especially when they are not true, to place a burden upon us that we are not to bear. Granted, a good name is to be desired above riches, (Prov. 22:1) but many times we allow rumors and innuendos to afflict us even when they are not even true, when they are made up only for the reason of damaging our reputations, and my friends, our reputation and our names are in the hands of our Lord. Do they affect us, of course, would we desire that those that have spoken lies about us would not have done so, yes, but think on the One who suffered a mock trial, with false witnesses, who spoke not a word when they railed against Him with lies and rumors, and in this you will find that the affliction should have been expected, if you were living a life devoted to the glory of God. Here is the reason why we have memorized Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
If there is one thing that is common to every affliction, no matter where it comes from, it is a heavy heart, a heart that is filled with grief and distress over the current situation the Lord has allowed to enter our lives. If you have ever suffered the loss of a loved one, you understand affliction of the soul. No words, no prayers of praise and remembrance that He will never leave us or forsake us, (Deut. 31:8) nothing can heal the deep wound of sorrow at that moment of incredible grief, it is too deep, it is too near, it hurts too much. “Joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5) but sometimes the night of despair in our souls in the affliction can seem so long. A heavy heart can be more difficult to heal than a broken leg, and for some they never allow this healing to occur, they continue in a life of loss and despair, never understanding that the grieving period must be expressed, the valley must be walked through, not rested in. The affliction becomes by their own free will a way of life, and the joy they could be experiencing for the remainder of their lives they will never know, they can neither find their way out of the valley of darkness, nor will they accept any help from others, no matter how lovingly it is given.
Our afflictions are our Lords afflictions also, as we walk in these lonesome valleys of despair, He is always with us, but for many they fail to recognize His presence. Whether they come from inside of ourselves and they are unable or unwilling to release them to the Lord for the healing that only He can offer, or if they are brought upon us by others, whose words have placed within us a turmoil that continues to flow through our mind like a river of suffering, they are real to the one experiencing them, and our response to them is critical to our continued growth in the Lord. Read 2nd Corinthians 4:17 with me and find the hope that we are speaking of here, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
The man who wrote these words had been whipped, many times, had been beaten with rods and had rocks throw at him, had suffered much more than many of us in this age will ever have to suffer, and yet he called these afflictions ‘light.’ In our last installment on this series of the fellowship of His suffering, we will speak on those who are truly suffering, both in flesh and spirit, those brothers and sisters of ours that we read of and prayer for in the Voice of the Martyrs publication, and many others like them, a subject I have no right to even speak on much less write about, and though I mean absolutely no disrespect for the suffering that you may be experiencing at this moment, we must look at this verse and remember that they are to be considered light, there is an eternal weight of glory for waiting for us.
To those who are truly seeking the face of God, those who desire to be obedient, submissive servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, afflictions should be expected, no matter in what form they come, and beyond that, we should expect all those who surround us, at least in some of these times, to forsake us. If we are going to be “partakers of the afflictions of the Gospel,” (2nd Tim. 1:8) we are going to be very lonely at times, those of this earth will forsake you many times when you stand in the truths of the Scriptures, either for fear of being partakers of the afflictions to come with you, or not desiring to stand in a place where they know suffering is imminent, you will walk alone, save for one. Our Lord Jesus Christ has made a promise to you, and He is faithful, He will never leave you or forsake you. The afflictions of our souls are heavy, heavy burdens, and the weight can press upon us to a point that we feel as if we are going to break under them, that it is too much. The grief will pass, if you rest in His hands, the sorrow will fade away, if your trust in His provisions remains strong, if you remember that it is His love alone for you that matters, then peace will return to your spirit, and the morning of joy will begin to shine upon you again.
Afflictions of the soul are burdens we are asked to carry for His glory, and only by the power of the Holy Spirit can they be carried. If we suffer them well, and for the sole purpose of the Glory of God, we too will be blessed with growth, and be one step closer to being conformed into the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29)
We suffer with Him when all forsake us, and He, as we always knew He was, is our only rock and refuge.