The Purpose of Affliction
The Psalmist who wrote Ps 119 said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word”. In v.71 he wrote, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes”. One purpose of affliction is to get you right with God. Because of the affliction, the Psalmist learned the statutes of God and started keeping his word. Therefore, he could say that affliction was good for him.
When the Lord afflicts you by withholding something from you, doing something to you, or allowing something to happen to you, he’s trying to get your attention. He wants you to realize that you have gone astray. And he wants you to turn back to him.
However, when God afflicts people, often they miss the step about getting right with him because they are only interested in ending the affliction. Thus, when the affliction ends they often go right back to what they were doing before. The Lord does not want this. They completely miss the purpose of affliction. They are like Pharaoh who said that he would let Israel go if Moses would end the plague of frogs. So, Moses ended the plague. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them,” Ex 8:15.
During the prayer at the dedication of the temple, one of Solomon’s petitions was for God to send rain when there is no rain. But look carefully at how the petition is worded. In 1 Ki 8:35-36, Solomon prayed about:
The affliction – there is no rain
The reason for the affliction – they sinned against thee
The conditions for ending the affliction – they had to:
- Pray toward this place
- Confess thy name
- Turn from their sin
The result following the affliction – that God would:
- Hear in heaven
- Forgive their sin
- Teach them the good way wherein they should walk
- Give rain upon the land
When there is no rain, for instance, we pray for rain. Frankly, that’s what we want. The Lord, on the other hand, may want us to correct something in our lives. Our trouble, generally, is that we only want the solution to the problem. We see that there’s no rain, so we pray, “Dear Lord, send rain”.
When you go through affliction, you should seek the Lord to see if there is a reason for the affliction. Have you sinned against the Lord? Pray to the Lord. Confess his name; after all, he’s the one who sent the affliction. And then turn from your sin. The Lord will hear you, he’ll forgive your sin, and he’ll teach you the good way wherein you should walk. And then he’ll answer your petition. After he removes the affliction, don’t go astray again; keep his word, instead. You’ll fulfill the purpose of affliction.