Articles

The Eyes of the Afflicted

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All of us will experience it at one point or another. In this world, it is impossible to escape it. Not one person has walked on the face of the earth and not come in contact with it. The facets of it are like a diamond as so many different sides can be seen. What I’m speaking of is suffering.

Every Christian at some point will encounter this in his life. However, much like snowflakes, while each one bears the name of a snowflake, there is not one that is perfectly identical to another. Suffering will come upon us all, but will manifest itself and be received differently by each person.

For some, suffering could be the loss of a loved one or bad health. For others, suffering could be a financial matter or job loss. For some, suffering may be a dryer or dishwasher breaking down. For yet others, it could be that of martyrdom.

Necessary pressures

I would imagine that for most of you, owning chickens is not something that you have ventured into. However, in God’s creation, a number of great stories are told to us by our Father, and in the life of a chicken, we catch a glimpse of an important truth.

So often when we experience struggles or suffering, we want to find a way to get out or be freed from the trial. In one sense this is not bad. Even Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (English Standard Version, Luke 22:42). This mindset also carries over into seeking to help others out of their trials. Once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and it actually is a very loving act to come alongside someone in that way.

Nevertheless within and without Scripture, we can see the necessity of trials. You see, when a hen lays her egg, she labors to make sure the conditions are just right to promote life for that little chick. The hen must tend to her egg properly for life to sprout. She must lay it in a safe spot. She also must apply heat to the egg for it to hatch.

In the life of this baby chick though, there comes a point that is necessary that is often overlooked. This is one of the most important parts in the entire life of this chick and will determine if it will have strength to survive. As the egg begins to crack and slowly break open, what you will not see is the mother hen assisting the chick in getting the shell off. No matter how hard the chick shakes and struggles and pushes and strains itself, the mother hen will not do the work for it.

At this point, someone can unknowingly come along and see the struggle of this chick and think the mother does not care about her young. This person can then seek to help the chick and take the shell off for him. However, if this person does succeed in alleviating the chick by doing the work for it and removing the pieces of the shell, often this person unknowingly does not save the chick’s life but rather causes its death.

This beginning stage is essential for the chick. The struggle is essential. The trial is essential. The strain is essential. The anguish is essential. The suffering is essential. It will produce within the chick a strength that will allow it to live and thrive. Affliction does this for the believer.

So what’s our problem?

I know there are some extreme forms of suffering out there, and I would not dare to claim to know the mind of God in each situation that arises. We can only go so far in our knowledge. Scripture says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). A vast number of circumstances in our lives exist that fall into this secret category.

I would also not say that if we see someone suffering we should just let them be. That is not necessarily a biblical response either. What is vital for our strength and joy in suffering rather than defeat and despair is that we see like God sees.

Possibly our greatest problem in life is that we do not see like God sees. If we could only see like Him, we would truly believe that righteousness is good and sin is bad. Behind every sinful choice lies a belief that in that moment the sin is better, thus we do not see like God. Ignorance to God’s commands is another reason for why we choose sin, but still we do not see like God sees.

The same is true in suffering. Specifically, suffering well. Suffering well is hard. It hits us on a personal level and actually causes pain. Pain can be scary, and so often we result to fear and avoidance of those things that cause pain, or we get angry because of the pain that suffering causes and direct it toward others. Either way, in these moments we do not see like God sees.

How do I see like God?

The question then arises, “How can I begin to see like God sees?” In the case of suffering, it is essential that we do. All around us, we see health and prosperity being sought after and seemingly indicating a good life. As a result, when trouble comes our way, we see something that we need to find an escape from and even quickly. Trial is bad, and ease is good.

But what does Scripture say?

• In Rom. 5:3-4, Paul tells us that suffering produces endurance which ultimately leads to character and hope.
• In James 1:2-4, James tells us that when we experience a trial, we should embrace it with joy because it is producing steadfastness in us. This will lead to a Christ-like maturity.
• In 2 Cor. 1:9, Paul tells us that his affliction deepened his trust and dependence on God.

Let us not forget God’s heart concerning His purposes being for our good (Rom. 8:28). Much like that mother hen, there is a side of God that I believe wants to help us out of the struggle. He does not like to see His children in pain. I know this because He does help us out and is bringing all of creation to a point in which there will be no more pain and no more trial.

While we walk this earth, we need to hold on. Trust in the Lord. Find out what He says in His Word. It is through His Word that we will be able to see like He does. God cares as we go through times and seasons of pain, suffering, trial, and affliction.

Concluding thoughts

At the close of Scripture, we see a great picture of our Savior as the new heaven and new earth are brought into existence and we are with Jesus face-to-face. In Rev. 21:3-4, Jesus is seen as a Savior Who cares. He cares so much that He will actually wipe the tears from our eyes, and at this time there will be no more death. There will be no more pain. There will be no more crying, and there will be no more mourning. Jesus cares, and He will make all things new.

Prayer

Father, I thank You that in the midst of my trial You are with me and have never let me go. Help me to trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.