Proper Perspective in Affliction (Meditation on Psalm 119:71-72)
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Affliction Is not a word that we normally think on or equate with ‘good.’ This verse is startling because the psalmist says that he was afflicted and it is good for him. The affliction here was in the past, and in this backward look the psalmist sees that it yielded something for his present, and future. ‘It is good for me’ he says. How can affliction be good? 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says it this way, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” These momentary (in light of eternity) afflictions that we will face here on earth are doing something. They may feel like they’re wearing us out, and at times our physical body will even show the effects of being spent and worn, but for the believer on the path of obedience, these afflictions are doing something good! They aren’t wasted or meaningless, though the world is quick to label tragedies in this way. When afflictions come, for the believer, that affliction is preparing something unseen.
We have this hope, as afflictions happen, that not only are they preparing for us an eternal weight of glory, but they are causing us to turn to God in the here and now, and learn His statutes. This is the primary focus of the psalmist in verse 71. These afflictions press us (2 Cor.4:8-9) and sift us (Luke 22:31) in such a way that the pleasures and the joys of this life cannot do. These afflictions always bring to us greater depths of understanding, and love for His Word. They refine us, and cause us to turn towards our Creator God. It is there, when all of our attention is keenly put upon Him through His Word, that we find Who we were created for. And there, as we seek Him, we find all of our needs fully satisfied. Furthermore, beyond just our needs being met, we recognize that as David says in Psalms 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Praise His Holy Name!
The psalmist goes on in the next verse (119:72) to say that he finds the law of God’s mouth “better than thousands of pieces of gold and silver.” There is no comparison between earthy riches and what we, as believers have in Christ (the incarnate Word of God) both now, and what we look forward to having in heaven. The eternal weight of glory will be beyond comparison to anything we could achieve or temporarily possess here on this earth. It will put all affliction in proper perspective, and make sense of every question we ever have. It will be worth it! In ways we cannot see now, these afflictions are preparing an eternal weight of glory, and in ways we can see now, these afflictions drive us to our knees and to His Word where we find comfort, strength, and hope to believe His promises, and trust His Word for all that He is preparing for those who love Him (1Cor. 2:9).
May God grant each of us the discernment to see affliction in this light. Not only as we look back, with the psalmist, but also as we face the unknowns of the future, trusting our God who “works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.” (Rom 8:28)