The way out of affliction
Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible. It focuses predominately on the dependability and beauty of scripture itself. Scripture itself as God's Word is mentioned in at least 171 of the 176 verses. The synonyms this Psalm uses for God's Word include decrees, statues, promises, laws, commands and precepts.
It's so long that when George Wishart, the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 17th century, was condemned to death for his faith, on the scaffold he made use of a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one psalm to be sung. He chose Psalm 119. Before two-thirds of the psalm had been sung, his pardon arrived and his life was spared. (Enduring Word Commentary, David Guzik)
I read through Psalm 119 again recently and one verse stuck out to me regarding affliction:
"If your instruction had not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction." (v92)
The idea of turning to scripture when I am afflicted seems counterintuitive. I'll admit. I'm a fixer. When I'm afflicted or encounter trouble or opposition, I tend to survey the situation and attempt to solve my way out of relational conflict or trying circumstances. This verse (and others) promises a better way. I should relearn the wonder of diving deep into God's Word and trusting and believing His promises there.
I want "out" or "delivered." I prefer active help, but this approach of dwelling and believing and claiming the truths of God's Word offer life and perspective. And according to v75, it may even be God's Word at times that does the afflicting. It's ultimately good to be afflicted by the truth of God's Word. I've found true joy when I choose to turn to God's Word instead of my own resources.
Poring over God's Word in hardship can produce supernatural help. Poring over God's Word in peaceful times has prepared me for times of affliction so that I was not caught off guard. Peter (who failed one of his most significant tests) reminds us that we shouldn't be surprised when tested or tried:
"Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12)
It's a reminder that afflictions, temptations and trials are normal. So what will do to prepare? In v95 of this Psalm there's a sober observation and a spiritual commitment:
"The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes." (v95)
Pondering protects. This means that devoting myself to God's Word in times of opposition and affliction can deliver me.
I have experienced personally the very real way of escape that comes from temptation when I redirect my mind to the promises and hope found in particular scriptures. Remembering choice verses and savoring them in times of sinful desire are a lever that moves you from danger to deliverance.
Try looking up "affliction" or "afflicted" in scripture and discover the rich treasure hunt it leads you on.
Here's a freebie:
"For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)
The next time you experience affliction or hardship, at the very least, remember Psalm 119. Let its words remind you of the goodness of God's trustworthy, delivering, dependable Word. And if you're hard-pressed, have someone read Psalm 119 over you. By the time they're finished, you may discover that your deliverance has come.