Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Purpose of Pain

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67
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!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Winter Wonderland

The new birth of springtime, the wholesome beauty of summer and the glory of autumn foliage inevitably submit each year to the bareness of winter. Cold and gray, the trees and mountaintops seem to lose their beauty to desolation until…snow.

The snow brings a beauty all its own, as a pure gentle blanket covers everything with a profound natural elegance. There is nothing like the quiet glory of a new fallen snow. At the time of the year that seems most devoid of life, overnight the world is miraculously transformed into a magnificent sparkling new creation.

We go through similar seasonal cycles in our lives. Springtime comes with new and exciting events, advancements and opportunities. Summer occurs as we become proficient and productive, working hard and long, feeling fulfilled. Autumn is a place of achieving goals, ending chapters and receiving harvest for what has been. Winters are those times and situations where we fail, fall short, lose heart and feel lost. These are lonely times where our weaknesses are uncovered and things get hard and cold.

It is during these ‘soul winters’ when God’s blessing power is most spectacular. Like a silent fresh snowfall transforms the world to beauty, so the Lord transforms troubled human souls from pain and hurt to love and life. Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross to end the season of soul winter for all people. To those who will receive Him, as the scripture promises “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18