Psalm 107:17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
Continuing from yesterday, the two groups of people in today’s reading are a sharp contrast. Those described here are what we would consider a classic example of people who earned their troubles, but the other group, of sea-going merchants, seems innocent of wrong. They potentially succumbed to greed, but the flip side of that is that commerce benefits many people, and indeed, society as a whole. The problems we experience are often self-inflicted, as in this verse, but sometimes they are just a consequence of living in a fallen world. I am tempted just to repeat what I wrote yesterday, but this is a very important lesson that deserves careful consideration. Just the other day I took part in a Facebook discussion that started from someone who was convinced that God never allows anything in our lives that can’t be for our good, and they were promptly attacked by a deeply wounded person who insisted that either God was not omnipotent or He was not fundamentally good, because of the hurts they had experienced. The problem there is that the second person was, understandably enough, very self-centered on this issue. Like most of us, they were defining “the goodness of God” by their own standards. It’s like a little child, convinced that “Mommy is mean” because she won’t let them have the candy they want. Just yesterday I learned of a woman who buried four husbands before she was 50. None of the circumstances of her various husbands’ deaths were in any way attributable to bad actions on the part of her or her husbands. I can’t imagine that degree of loss! At the same time, she doesn’t blame God, and has a reservoir of experience to draw on in comforting others. Any time we encounter “rough stuff,” we need first to ask God if we had a part in bringing it on, and if so, repent of it immediately. However, if He doesn’t show us a need to repent, we need to submit it to Him and ask Him to use it to better equip us to minister to others in similar circumstances, as His agent of comfort and blessing. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) God won’t waste anything that is given to Him.
I have had some rough spots in life, but the longer I live and the more I experience, the less consequential each one seems. I am totally convinced that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) I’ll confess that in the moment, I can be distracted from that truth! However, it’s all a matter of perspective. In the moment, all sorts of things can seem “unbearable.” However, as God so clearly told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I am never to make light of another person’s difficulties, much less suffering, but I am to speak grace and hope to them, seeking to give them perspective and simply to come alongside them and assure them that I care, and God cares even more.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I think the thing that I dread most is the loss of my wife, but at the same time, I know that’s reciprocal, and she would have more difficulty in navigating the aftermath than I would. As I said, I can’t imagine what it was like for the woman who buried four husbands. Thank You for Your grace, and the assurance that it is indeed sufficient. Help me be an effective instrument of that grace to those around me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!