The psalmist writes, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71). You may wonder, as I have, “What kind of theology is this? Is it actually good to be afflicted?”
The Hebrew word for affliction here means "abased, chastened, defiled, hurt, humbled, weakened, depressed." When you put this meaning into the verse, suddenly it reads: "It is good for me to have been chastened, humbled, weakened, depressed—so that I could learn the Lord’s statutes." The word statute means "engraved law." The psalmist is saying, "It is good that I went through these troubles because in the process, God was engraving His laws and ways in my heart."
The Lord allows trials to come our way to test us, but that is not His primary purpose. Rather, our afflictions are to teach us to walk rightly before Him. The Bible says: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous . . ." (Psalm 34:19). According to the psalmist, the point of all our afflictions is for us to learn from them.
One of our missionary couples wrote about the situation in the African nation where they are working. One of the poorest on earth, its situation has been worsened by the long, bloody civil war there. The missionaries recently drove to this desperate country in a truck with a group of Christians from a neighboring country. They were delivering a load of supplies and were scheduled to attend a meeting that night across the border. About five miles from the border, their truck started slowing down. The driver floored the pedal, but the truck’s speed kept dropping. The team was dejected as they watched the car in front of them pull away into the distance.
Finally, the team arrived at the border and instantly the truck’s engine died and simply would not move. Everyone on the team wondered, "Lord, what is going on?" Suddenly, the border guards started racing about, shouting excitedly, "There was an explosion across the border not far from here! One of the warring factions blew up a car that had just driven in." The missions team realized the car that had been attacked was the one directly in front of them. If the missions truck had been running properly, they also would have been attacked.
The next morning, the driver from the missions team turned the key in the ignition—and the truck started right up. In fact, it ran fine all the rest of the trip. They recognized that God’s purposes had been accomplished through this seemingly troublesome circumstance.