I’m taking a break from handling discouragement (see my last two blogs) until I get to Nehemiah. Meantime, today’s Psalm reflects something I’ve been thinking about lately:
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul… Psalm 31: 7
This Psalm has a prophetic piece to it (“Into your hand I commit my spirit” vs. 5a) – which reminds me of the cross. When verse 7 says of God: “you have known the distress of my soul,” it’s true!
Jesus HAS known the distress of every soul because on the cross, he experienced our distress. He suffered in every way that humans suffer. I think the fact that Jesus was tempted like we are in all ways (without sin – Hebrews 4:15), means He likely also experienced our suffering.
I asked in a blog a while back if God wanted my happiness (here) or just my holiness – and I’d have to just suffer along in life to get holy. Yes, yes, I understand that drawing closer to Jesus means ultimate happiness – but sometimes I just want earthly happiness. Often, it’s felt like God is standing way up yonder, executing a plan that – yes – draws me closer to Him, but in the meantime, is not too fun for me!
But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that Jesus is walking with me through that suffering (as I blogged here). He’s even empathizing with my pain. So, he’s out there controlling the circumstances that bring pain, but also right next to me, walking with me through the “valley of the shadow of death.”
He sees my affliction. He knows my distress.
I recently read an article by Joni Erickson Tada who’s been a quadriplegic since she dove into the Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck 50 years ago. Joni is so close to Jesus. She’s one of my heroes.
In that article (read it here), she says, “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” (I’d go so far as to say, “God plans what he hates to accomplish what He loves.”). I love that. God hates the pain that we endure – the discipline that gets us where God wants us. God hates the pain that originated at the fall, the pain of sin or it’s effects in a fallen world. But He loves the result – greater intimacy with Him.
Jesus doesn’t just bring difficult circumstances to bear as sovereign God, He walks with us through the suffering.
He sees our affliction. He knows our distress.
Jesus has experienced affliction for us – and we get to share in His sufferings (Philippians 3: 10).
It reminds me of when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life (I blogged about it here). Jesus heard his friend was sick but deliberately waited to go to Bethany – so that when he arrived, Lazarus was already dead. The sovereign will of God for the good of His people – increased faith – and for His glory – was to wait, to cause MORE suffering. Jesus could have gotten there before Lazarus died, but he deliberately waited!
When Jesus reached Martha, then Mary, he absolutely knew in a short period of time that he was going to raise Lazarus. He knew the story had a happy ending: that Lazarus would come out of the grave and God would get the glory. Jesus knew that he would accomplish what he loved: the increased faith of his friends.
But Jesus wept.
He’d caused extra pain by waiting to leave for Bethany! He knew the end of the story, and in minutes, it would turn out okay! So, why did he weep?
Because he saw Mary and Martha’s affliction. He knew their distress.
And he hated the awful affects of sin and death.
I love that story! It has truly turned me around that Jesus not only brings the pain, but walks me through it!! He brings what he hates to accomplish what He loves in me. And he endures the pain of what He hates as He walks right along side of me!!
There’s one more thing I’ve learned. Jesus isn’t just walking with me through the affliction, He’s praying for me in my distress. He and the Holy Spirit have buddied up to intercede when I have no clue what to pray for, when I am laid flat in my pain.
They do the heavy lifting to get me through. They know what I need to learn from my circumstances and they pray me through to the end. I got that when I blogged here after having recently noticed that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede for us in Romans 8: 27, 34.
Imagine that, the Trinity all talking about us: Jesus has one ear of the Father and the Holy Spirit, the other – all for our good!
The upshot of all of this is that I feel closer to my Lord, knowing He’s with me as I trudge through my discouraging circumstances and knowing that 2/3s of the Trinity prays for me when I don’t understand what’s going on or what to do next.
Dear Lord: I am so grateful for this blogging – for what You have taught me recently. Certainly the difficulties I’m facing have resulting in something You love – a greater sense of Your presence and prayers in my painful circumstances. THANKS!! Amen.