When Affliction is Stacked

Here are some possible explanations for the multiple afflictions God allows in our lives

You’ve probably been there. Unprecedented affliction enters your life. Along with it, all the new experiences. The anxiousness. The sleeplessness. The darkness, loneliness, anger, sorrow. Things compound. By God’s grace, you seem to make it through. The storm seems to end. There is that huge relief with the breaking sun. Tears of joy come in humble rejoicing at the storm’s passing. But then it happens. Another life-storm moves inland to your life. And another behind it. And another.

Maybe it’s a reoccurrence of a previous trial. Or a compounding of differing trials; a financial on top of a spiritual. Or a physical trial consequent of a previous physical trial. Or all of the above.

The questions: “Ok, Lord, did I not meet my suffering quota for the year? Is there not some sort of trials-tap that can run dry from time to time?”

The frustration: “This just cannot be happening, again.”

The despair: “How in the world will I be able to keep going and be faithful to all the other stuff in my life with these constant storms?”

These are all normal. Perhaps not all excusable, but normal nevertheless. And there are not pixie-dust solutions to these problems, of course. We’re talking about a crux par excellence of life, after all.

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some possible explanations for the multiple afflictions God allows in our lives:

  1. Affliction may reoccur when our hope and refuge are misplaced.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

Having made it through previous affliction, we, perhaps, are too glad that it is over. Our comfort could be too much in exiting the valley of the shadow of death rather than the accompanying Shepherd.

But we have not learned to trust God until we trust him both with the type and duration of the trials. Perhaps nothing in the Christian life is more strenuous than that.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because Satan does not give up easy.

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason’” (Job 2:2-3).

Satan’s response never ceases to strike me: “From going to and fro on the earth, and…walking up and down on it.” He is not saying, “Yep, God, just been strolling around the planet, enjoying the majesty of your creation!” It’s an ominous prowling; an unsolicited, sinister stake-out; an ill-willed invasion on the people of God.

Combine that with the fact that Satan is not weighed down with physical infirmity like we are, and you get stacked affliction in the lives of God’s cherished children.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because we are often slow to learn from God’s loving discipline.

“Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’” (Heb. 12:5-6).

Suffering may repeat if we have not sufficiently embraced God’s discipline. We may have to run another few laps around the track of affliction if we have not learned the first time. We may need to stay longer in the school of suffering. But it’s not an expression of God’s condemnation of us any more than it is when a loving father allows his toddler son to be admitted for an additional, life-saving surgery. God’s discipline is never about condemnation, but sanctification.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because one chisel of the hammer does not complete the sculpture.

“He who began a good work in you will perfect until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phi. 1:6).

Renown sculptor, Michelangelo, spent several painstaking years with tools like hammers, chisels, and mallets to create his famous marble statue of Moses. More than one blow of the hammer and cut of the chisel was needed to carve out that masterpiece. So it is with our good Master Sculptor. He loves us so much, that he will settle for nothing less than the spiritual Christ chiseled out in us all. But that’s going to mean reoccurring affliction.

  1. Affliction may reoccur to prepare us for greater usefulness.

Read More