The readings for today’s Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer offer several good options for meditation and response. But I’m drawn to these words from Psalm 119:
Before I was afflicted, I went astray,
but now I obey your word. (Psalm 119:67)
Although the psalmist gives us no indication of what his (or her) affliction was; it clearly produced a profound change: the move from “going astray” to “obedience.” Of course, one could read that as nothing more than a change wrought by the “persuasive power” of correction and punishment: “I used to act up, but one good spanking convinced me to do otherwise.” And if we’re honest, I suspect that most of have an area of two in our lives for which a little correction might do us good.
But we could also find in these words something deeper. I happen to be leading a Bible study on the Book of James as this new year begins; and right out of the gate James offers these words:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Let’s face it, none of us desire trials, afflictions and suffering. But even our hardships (and I’m tempted to say, “especially our hardships”) – when met in faith – have the capacity to produce Christ-like character in our lives. They can deepen our trust; they can expand our capacity to endure; and yes, they can also open up new opportunities for obedience – all of which move us toward maturity.
Naturally, I pray that you don’t find yourself “afflicted” today. But if you do, may you find that God meets you in your affliction – and that He uses even your tears to water the harvest of hope.