The Purpose of Affliction

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”  (James 1:2-4).

Whenever we face a sudden and unexpected trial, our common first reply is, “I didn’t need this.” Then we quickly try to fix it all up, make whatever adjustments, and then try to restore our everyday life. But sometimes we do not think everything through as we should. God has a purpose in afflicting us, and truly He sends honey in the pain.

Let's keep in mind, God can only do His children good.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

This verse comes packed with meaning. All good gifts come from God. We could also turn that around: God can only give us good gifts. Listen to similar words from Psalm 84:

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

He does not withhold good from us, but we often fail to recognize the good gifts God sends. For example, if a measure of affliction teaches us to rely on God more, then we needed that time of testing. It had a good result, and God knew that. Sometimes God teaches us through discipline, or chastisement. At first it does not seem joyous at all, but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness on those exercised by it (read Hebrews 12:5-12).

Unfortunately, some people who trouble us mean to do us harm. The Apostle Paul dealt with teachers who sought to trouble him while in Roman incarceration (Philippians 1:17). But Paul concluded:

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

God sends or allows things to come into our life as a means of strengthening our faith and sweetening our fellowship with Him. Our response should be to praise Him for His good gifts, even if we do not at first recognize them as such.

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