O afflicted one, storm-tossed one, and not comforted, behold; I will . . . Isaiah 54:11
Afflicted One – The life of a believer is not peaches and cream. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?) In fact, believers have a deeper, more disturbing experience of affliction than those who do not follow the way of the Lord. Why? Because we know that things are not supposed to be like this. God is a God of justice, peace and joy – and when life turns into abuse, suffering and grief – we know that something is terribly wrong. Waiting for God is bittersweet. He will come, with justice and redemption on His wings, but not yet.
In these times, we must listen to Isaiah. If you stand in the “not yet” crowd, then you qualify as an afflicted one. The Hebrew word is aniy, a word that carefully delineates suffering that results from unanticipated circumstances, creating an immediate difficulty. This is undeserved sorrow and oppression (there are other Hebrews words for different kinds of affliction). The noun describes those who were without land and citizenship, consigned to live one day at a time through the benevolence of others. These people knew one thing above all others. They knew dependency. Unless someone came to their rescue, they were finished.
Let’s face the brutal facts. The world has fallen under the influence of the enemy. Life is not easy. In fact, even as a believer you are not going to be spared the misfortunes, trauma and pain of a twisted world. To think otherwise is to ignore the clear message of Scripture. We are called to be in this evil world, resident aliens living for an absent King, redeeming the time spent here. You can expect to get hurt.
“Bad things happen to good people,” is theologically correct. It is just short-sighted. On the other side of those bad things is a God Who proclaims that He will rescue. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But He will come. The confidence that God will resolve all the pain of living changes everything. Suddenly affliction carries a host of benefits. I do not suffer for nothing. I suffer because this world is truly not my home. If you lack the eschatological perspective of God’s approaching arrival, you will find life quite discouraging. Every believer is called to look over the horizon. Don’t anchor your hope in the sand of terra firma. Cast those anchors on heavenly shores and wait for the tide to turn.
We’ll have a chance to look at “storm-tossed” and “not comforted.” But all of these descriptions of life as it is are resolved in the God Who is. The end of this series of misfortunate circumstances is still “I will.” God promises to act. God will come. He will take responsibility for reconciliation, justice and recompense. My suffering today pushes me toward a deeper dependency – and a greater hope. I need Him. That is sometimes all that I know.
But it is enough.