Human hardship and affliction are generally accepted as unfortunate realities. Whether physical pain, psychological distress or spiritual disillusionment, affliction is an unwelcome visitor to every life at one time or another. But is there some kind of purpose or positive aspect to this down side of life?
Yes. Because affliction typically points to some problem that needs our attention it benefits us by moving us to action. If I feel sick, the affliction is a catalyst for seeking healing from a doctor. If I am poor, the affliction provides an impetus for me to work harder, improve my education or look for a better job. If I am too fearful, depressed or angry I will seek relief from the inner pain and turmoil through psychological or spiritual help.
One aspect of inner health that has been widely overlooked in our modern age is the peace of mind that comes from being obedient to God. The same God who constructed the natural laws of the universe also created spiritual and moral laws that ensure a person's happiness. If a person breaks the natural law of gravity and steps off a cliff, the affliction his body suffers is immediate and unforgiving. Sometimes, however, the effect of breaking natural law happens slowly, over time. For example, living near a toxic waste site may not show any effects for many years but the poisoning of the natural order will afflict slowly, just as certainly as gravity.
In the same way, people who have strayed from God's laws will eventually suffer a wide variety of unfortunate consequences. Psalm 119 goes on to make a surprising statement on this subject, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver." v. 71-72. The pain of the author's affliction caused him to reluctantly bend his will to obedience to God and in doing so, he received a massive treasure chest of true riches. That we might also use the inevitable afflictions of life to seek God and find true wealth!