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More thoughts on the Bread of Adversity, Water of Affliction

 May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering, so also you are partners in comfort. Brothers and sisters, we don’t want you to be unaware of the troubles that we went through in Asia. We were weighed down with a load of suffering that was so far beyond our strength that we were afraid we might not survive. It certainly seemed to us as if we had gotten the death penalty. This was so that we would have confidence in God, who raises the dead, instead of ourselves. (2 Corinthians 1: 3-9 CEB)


Last month we came to the end of a sixteen month economic trial.  The solution surprised us because we thought we would not see any change for possibly another four to six months.  Not all questions are answered yet but a favorable, merciful answer was given on THE major problem.


Let me be honest about this year and a half waiting period; it was hell at times and we really struggled with it all as our faith was tested.


Did I just shock you with that admission?  You might say “Where is your trust in God?  Don’t you believe His word?”   To answer the question my faith is centered on Jesus and I believe the word of God but I am also frail, human, sinful, and at times loathing to trust. There is no such thing as cookie-cutter spiritual growth.  God works on and in our lives in His timing and wisdom.


To those of you who read this who are still young I ask for you to be both open to instruction.  In this walk with Christ you WILL suffer, you WILL be afflicted and you WILL cry out to God for relenting mercy at times.


If you, as a young believer are looking to this Christian walk as a shield and barrier against suffering and loss you will be sorely disappointed.  The principle tool used to mature us spiritually, to produce the life and character of Christ in us IS trial, suffering and affliction.  I beat this drum for good reason.


The reason this drum must be beaten is that too much of current evangelism for youth and others is designed to entice people into the kingdom by denial of the truth that we are sinners in need of repentance and Christ demands kingship in our lives.  There is all too often an attitude of what is in it for me.  Jesus does love his children but he will not leave you in a spiritual crib.


Please consider carefully the following quote from A.W. Tozer:  “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”


I have never seen that placed on a banner at an evangelistic meeting.  When I was growing up in church I recall few sermons preached that dealt with suffering which is a travesty.  A strong message of the church should be that Christ is an anchor in the storm; he is a mighty rock to cling to that the waves of affliction cannot break. He is our safe harbor.  We are NEVER alone in the storm.  Psalm 139: 8 tells us, “…If I make my bed in Sheol (hell), you are there!

In the hell that was our situation, He was there.  Yahweh was there, every time I feared uncontrollable circumstances.  He was there when we wondered how we would pay for medicines or put gas in our cars, or keep the lights on or eat.  Our primary families and friends were wonderful and did help tremendously in our need. Without their help the situation would have been far more dire.  Our gratitude and thankfulness is as wide as the ocean for them.  God was with us in their kindness. When we would panic or be afraid He was calm and certain and did not let us go.


It would be nice to say that His calmness and certainty always rubbed off on me; but it didn’t.  Certainly not at first I didn’t feel the peace.  Over time, and over a long time at that, those events pushed me to go beyond fear and worry and actively seek trust and contentment at where God had placed me.  God used these events to confront some of my greatest areas where I lacked trust in Him. Yahweh fed my soul through adversity.  He ultimately brought me to a place of greater trust in chaos.


It would be nice to say that I didn’t question, but I did.  I pleaded for God to bring the trial to a close and grant kind mercy.  I asked Him what He was doing.   I told Him I was at the breaking point and could take no more.   Anna struggled with these issues and her own debilitating pain.  She had her own questions, not bitter, not accusing as were neither my questions.  I was not angry at God but not having the immediate answers is a hard thing.


In these questions, in this pain, God showed Himself.  God showed Himself greater than my fear, greater than my worries and greater than my needs.  God showed me once again that He provides a refuge and is a strong tower.  He showed me that His character is good and that He loves me.  He showed me that He will take care of His children either in this life or in the next.  He wants a deeper relationship and that requires affliction; there is no broad, easy road to maturity.


As hard as they were, God did not waste these many months.  We have been richly blessed and brought closer into His presence.  His love, His strength and His provision, all of these are infinite.  Affliction is meant to lead us to trust when we cannot see.   Having our faith tested is hard; it is not meant to be easy.  The test of faith is in the refiner’s fire.


On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while.  Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire.  And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed.   They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns.  You have never seen Jesus, and you don’t see him now.   But still you love him and have faith in him… (1 Peter 1 :6-8 CEV)


The fire of affliction burns away the dross of sin and self-reliance.  The fire consumes our hunger for self-will.  The fire moves us to say, “Yes, Yahweh my father, I will rest in your will for my life.   My heart more closely longs for you and the joy set before me even if the cost is my own desires.”


As the old hymn tells us, “I need thee every hour”.   I need Him every minute of everyday on this planet. All our sufficiency is found in Yahweh.


Our heavenly Father wants us to trust Him in any and all circumstances, be it one that is altered relatively quickly or in a circumstance like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.  Paul pleaded for a release but was told that his affliction was life-long and that God’s glory would cover and be on display in Paul’s suffering.  Paul learned the lesson that the glory of God shines forth in our lives not because of our physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness but shines His glory through the holes of our imperfections.  The glory is not diffused but rather shines all the more powerfully like a spotlight into the darkness.


To the reader I tell you that God is not overwhelmed by your problems; He is more than equal to meet any need. The wisdom of Yahweh is beyond all measure.  He will provide for needs and grant answers most fitting to His glory and our true best.   Be afraid and know He is not afraid.   Ask your questions for your questions do not threaten Him or His great love for you.


Abraham asked God when told of the judgment on Sodom, “Shall not the King of all the earth do right?” Yes, yes He does right.  Yahweh will do what is right in your life; submit to Him.


God is good.   God is great.



Copyright © 2012 Brian Bailey, Author