January 27 – Affliction As a Means of Grace


I look to the morning readings from the Psalter to help guide my prayers for the day.  As LPC people know, we have been praying for two faithful women in our congregation, both of whom are in the midst of chemotherapy treatments for the cancer that afflicts them. This past Wednesday morning’s reading included the “Teth” section of Psalm 119 (Psalm 119:65-72). Verse 71 found its way into my thoughts and would not leave even after repeated attempts to send it away.

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

I typically form prayers, prompted by the Psalm, for each of these courageous women and send them along as a morning email. Scripture calls us to pray for one another, and I hope the prayers I send day by day might be an encouragement for the long journey through chemo.

As I began Wednesday’s reading, an earlier verse in the Psalm, verse 49, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope,” struck me as one that might serve as the heart of the prayers I would send that day. God’s faithfulness and the hope we have in him are anchors for our souls in times of trouble. Yes, verse 49 would be the center of the prayer.

I read to the end of the portion of the Psalm appointed to be read on Wednesday morning, and that’s when verse 71, It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes,” took hold of my thoughts, refusing to let them go.

Scripture was telling me to form a prayer around the word “it is good for me that I was afflicted…” I remember the days late last summer, and not far apart, when each of these women told me of their cancer diagnosis. The news was devastating. I remember my own cancer diagnosis fourteen years ago. I was numb and could not find my own feelings.

“It is good for me that I was afflicted…”

I have no need and not much ability to explain or defend God’s justice. But God’s word is true and I have seen and experienced its truth, including the truth of these words, “It is good for me that I was afflicted…”

I sent prayers that morning using the words of the Psalm, prayers of thanksgiving to our wise and sovereign God. By his decree it is good for us that we are afflicted. The Psalm was not asking me to make a universal application of its truth. It was asking me to pray for two strong women in the midst of hard journeys through chemotherapy.

With fear and trembling, then, I sent the prayers.

I don’t expect responses to my daily prayers, but the first response came quickly Wednesday morning. She wrote:

One of my prayers the last few days has been a prayer of thanks for His purpose in all of this.  I have been thanking Him for how he has grown me and brought me closer to Him.  I have a new understanding of His faithfulness, His love, His kindness and compassion.  I also am seeing how He goes before us in all of this, preparing the way, not only for me and my growing, but for others that we may meet.  

So, as oppressive as affliction can be, my prayers continue to revolve around His purposes.  His purposes in me and His purposes in all. His purposes today and for the rest of my life.

Wednesday is the day the second friend receives her chemotherapy, so she was not able to write until the evening:

Thank you for your message today.  Each day I gain new insight and understanding… Today’s prayers were filled with thanksgiving and praise!  I…saw that God was working in a mighty way this week.  …It was all in God’s good plan for me.  …I am so thankful for our LPC congregation and their faithful prayers and support. 

Wednesday was a good day. It was a reminder of the importance of prayer. It was a reminder of the courage and faithfulness of these two women God has called to our church family – and as they would say, they and many others. But mostly it was a reminder of the amazing God we have met in Jesus Christ. His love is unlimited, his ways are unbounded, his faithfulness is unending. His word is always true.

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

We don’t invite affliction into our lives. We are called to comfort the afflicted in word and in deed, risking our own comfort as we do.

But affliction comes. Our affliction-averse world will never understand the truth of the words, but this week in the lives of two people we love they were shown again to be true. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

See you Sunday