Psalm 119: 71 says, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." (ESV) This is just after the author writing, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word." (Ps.119:67) We talked about these scriptures in our Men's Group last night, following up from the sermon yesterday, which addressed our need for God's Word to be ingrained in our hearts to prepare us to walk through trials. As the discussion grew, someone in our group asked the question:
WHY do most of us need to walk through trials to finally be pushed toward God?
WHY does it take a trial to lead us there? WHY don't we keep walking, seeking, and pursuing Him even when everything seems to be great?
No one had a patented answer for this. I don't think there is one. Everyone's different. That said, I think there is a pattern. I don't think we just do this with God, with time in the Word, or "spiritual" things. We seem to follow this course often in life. The question is, WHY?
[To give you more context of our conversation, yesterday's sermon and time of corporate worship included our church family intentionally recognizing that a year ago our whole community walked through trial together as our state was ravaged by tornadoes. That will give you more insight into my thoughts on this issue.]
The 5-6 days that followed April 27th, 2011, were strange days. Strange, but good days. At my house - in my neighborhood - we had no power or water for 5 days. There was no TV, no internet, no refrigerator, no ice maker, no shower - nothing. It was a house. We were all forced outside; forced to meet neighbors we hadn't met before. People were bringing their grills into the driveway and neighbors were bringing out all the food that was going to spoil and cooking it up on the fire. We were eating burgers together. We were sitting on our porches. We were actually "neighbors", forced into "community". And then, it happened. The power came back on. The water was restored. And we all went back into our comfortable cocoons. Garage doors closed. Food frozen. TV on. All the while (in some bazaar, twisted way) knowing that what we had for those 5 days was somehow better. And a year later I still sit here wondering, "Why did we do that?" WHY do we need to be "afflicted" to be forced toward the greater things? Here's my thought:
WE LOVE COMFORT.
And as much as we don't want to admit it (or even acknowledge it) this becomes our end-all goal in life. COMFORT. And when that comfort is stripped away from us like a tornado rips the leaves and limbs off a tree, we are always either hurled rapidly toward what our hearts know to be of foundational utmost importance...or...we are lured away in despair, anger, fear, or bitterness. When someone you love finds out they have cancer, you are propelled toward the Sovereign God who holds healing in His hands. When creature comforts are stripped away, you find yourself caring more about food and fellowship - things we were actually created for - to have our stomachs, hearts, souls, and need for relationships nurtured. We turn from subconscious attitudes of greed to gratitude - selfishness to generosity. And we start to love our neighbors. We sleep in peace. Even in the midst of trial. This is TRUE affluence! Leading me to believe that Godly affliction leads to spiritual affluence.
Here's my thought: We have to intentionally pray against apathy, selfishness, materialism, and the trappings of living for our own comfort. And as we PRAY for this, we have to take deliberate steps to guard our hearts and our families from these mirages. They seduce us. They lure and lead us away from pursuing the Lord and pursuing each other. We have to wake up each day and determine WHAT (or WHO) it is we're pursuing. What are we living for?
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.