Patience in Affliction
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No one wants to feel bad.  No one wants to endure lasting physical pain, or to suffer grief or sorrow or heartache.  But when certain events come about in our lives, such as cancer or the death of a loved one, such suffering may be inevitable.

When such an affliction comes about, it can be trying to have to deal with the same issue for weeks, months, or even years on end.  There's a natural tendency to try to ignore, avoid, or escape the pain, whether it be physical or emotional.  Of course, these attempts only provide short-term relief, if they provide any.  As C.S. Lewis rightly concluded, "There is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it."

What it comes back down to, then, again and again, is patience.  The apostle Paul gives us this exhortation in the book of Romans:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
— Romans 12:12

Patience in affliction is not easy, yet it serves a purpose in bringing us to maturity.  Consider this passage from James:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
— James 1:2-4, NKJV

I like to compare this verse side-by-side with the NIV, which puts it this way:

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
— James 1:4, NIV

Trials and affliction give us an opportunity, day by day, to learn and practice patience, which works in us to make us mature, as we fix our hope firmly on the promise we have in Christ Jesus, and remember to be diligent to pray for others who are in need.  And we know that our faithfulness will not go unrewarded, as the apostle Peter writes:

These [trials] have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
— 1 Peter 1:7

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He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered Him stricken by God,
smitten by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:3-5