The Afflictions of the Righteous

Michael Beck

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

The righteous are not immune to trouble. In fact, David testified that righteous people face many afflictions in this life. Similarly, Jesus warned His disciples: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33) The Apostle Paul made a point to assure all he converted “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Why then do believers think it strange when they encounter fiery trials, contrary to the Apostle Peter’s admonition: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12)

Whenever a believer finds out that another believer, even a faithful disciple of Christ is experiencing some deep trial or tragedy there is the opportunity to be amazed. Amazement takes hold of us when we encounter something we can’t comprehend, or seems totally “out of place.” Job was in amazement when he was suddenly thrown into tragedy. Job’s friends felt there was only one of two parties to be blamed for such a horrible turn of events: God or Job. But Job protested that he had done nothing so wicked as to warrant so many evil happenings. Job would not accuse himself but he could not understand what God was up to. He stood amazed until God showed up to quiet his heart.

In the midst of great perplexity of mind we must be willing to wait until God chooses to reveal to us what has been going on behind the scenes. Filling in the blanks is dangerous. It is absolutely fitting to say at times, “I don’t understand, but God knows.” This does not mean that God orchestrates every evil that takes place. He does not. But faith is convinced “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Perplexity wonders why God is often so slow to act and why He didn’t prevent evil things from happening to those He loves, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11:21,32)

The path of our choosing will always be easy, light and trouble-free. But the path of God’s choosing is not always so. “The disciple is not above his master” (Luke 6:40) Any would-be disciple who purposes to follow the Lord only as far as things go well will never go far with the Lord. Paul was the disciple of disciples who followed Christ regardless of the troubles he faced and the perplexity that ensued. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8) Here Paul reveals what he had to be kept from during perplexity – the miry clay of despair.

Despair ends effectual fervent prayer that avails much. Despair allows doubt and unbelief to secure a stronghold in our soul. Despair cannot abide with amazement; it grows weary with an “uncommunicative” and “unresponsive” God. But the Lord says, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” (John 13:7) In spite of our heartsickness He reminds us, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Although in our minds we have been waiting “forever,” He cautions us to wait a “little while” longer: “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Hebrews 10:37) And He cautions us not to give up in unbelief: “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:37, 38)

The crucible of trouble is the Lord’s proving ground for the righteous. May we not assume the righteous have sinned when they fall into trouble. May we not blame God for allowing the righteous to be afflicted. Though we stand amazed may we continue to believe that God will give us the last laugh.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.