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Discover the best of shopping and entertainment with Amazon Prime. There's no escaping it. Everywhere you go that reality is there, and there is no relenting in its pursuit of you. Or maybe it's in a family estrangement; one to whom you would give great joy, and from whom you would receive great joy, has plunged a knife into your own soul and there is no relief.
It may be your husband or your wife or a child, or your own mother and father, or some close relative. And in the very place where we're meant to have security and joy there is in fact the deepest of affliction, because there is no one who can hurt us like those who are closest to us.
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Or maybe it's just that you are living in a yawning loneliness…surrounded by frenetic activity in work, surrounded by numerous acquaintances, but no one who really knows you and loves you or would care about you if you were gone; no one to stick with you to the end. Or maybe it is that you carry within your own body a disease that is killing you. Or maybe there is an unbelieving child who has broken your heart.
And I could go on and on and on, and not end the list of the afflictions that are here today. In fact, I am going to give you words in My word so that you can pray back to Me your broken heart in the midst of your affliction, and so that you can bring to Me your complaint. This Psalm and so many other places in Scripture remind us from Genesis to Revelation just what the old Puritan said, that though God hath one Son without sin, He has no sons without affliction.
But how do we cope with them? How do we bear up under these afflictions? Well, certainly we begin by acknowledging that affliction is a real part of the Christian life, and we acknowledge that this is one of the testimonies that Christianity is true. So how then do we do it? Well, let me point you in this Psalm to five things that the psalmist teaches us, and the first thing is simply this. In our affliction we must go to God in prayer.
The first thing that the psalmist says to us in affliction is to run to God in prayer. And why is that so important?
Because in affliction that is very often the last thing that we want to do, and it is so for a couple of reasons. For those of us that are too prayerless as it is in the normal motions of life, it may feel false to us to run to God in the time of our affliction. That is why it is so important for us to practice communion with God and daily converse with Him, so that in the hour of need it is the most natural thing in the world to run to Him in prayer. And I suspect that for many more of us the reason that we do not naturally run to Him in prayer and affliction is that the affliction is so overwhelming that we are completely shut down from the inside out.
We cease to feel; we can't think straight; we can't even articulate our thoughts; we don't even know what to say; we fumble; we're almost embarrassed to begin to speak to God in the midst of our confusion and consternation, and the depth of our heartbreak. And here is why what God says here is so kind and helpful. I want to say two things about that. The first thing is this: When we begin to pray in affliction, we will almost certainly feel as if we are not being heard, because after all the experience of affliction itself as verse 10 will show you often brings to us the sense that God has turned away from us, and is not for us, and does not care about us.
But you keep praying until you pray. And second, I would say in addition to this that it is a good practice in affliction, when you are seeking to pray until you pray, to pray out loud. It is one of the interesting things, my friends, that we have perhaps forgotten in the last two hundred years — that until about the 's almost all Christian prayer whether in public or private was out loud.
It is only since about the 's when Christians began to have their own copies of the Bible as a commonplace in every home, and that devotions would have been practiced reading that Bible and praying to God morning and evening privately by Christians that predominantly Christians began to pray silently.
But sometimes it is helpful to take God's word and pray it out loud so that your own ears hear the words that you are saying to God, and so that the Spirit may take those words from God's word that you are hearing in your ears and work them deep down in your heart until you believe them.
Prayer is the first step in dealing with affliction. Pray until you pray.
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Prayer is the first step in responding to affliction. Go to God with your problem. Here this psalmist in excruciating detail describes the effect of his affliction on him. Wasn't it gripping?
Wasn't it graphic in its particularity? He's fainting. His bones burn. His flesh cleaves to him. He can't eat, he can't sleep. He can't think straight. He can't get relief. You take that and you bring it right to Me. You know, in the wilderness the children of Israel complained to Moses rather than complaining to God, and God judged them for it. Do you know why?
Because Moses couldn't do anything about their complaints. And so they complained to Moses against God, instead of complaining to the only one who could do anything about their affliction and need and circumstances. And God in verses provides for you through the words of this afflicted psalmist words that you can bring to Him.
Fully disclose your heart to Me. Specify it.
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Spell it out. I can take it.
In fact, I already know it better than you know it, but you spell it out and you bring it to Me, because I'm the only one who can do anything about it. My friends, that's especially hard to do because of the truth of verse 9. Not to come to God with our complaints.
Now my friends, we need to think about this for a little bit, because sometimes in our affliction we have indeed brought it upon ourselves. But my friends, even when we have brought it upon ourselves, if we are in Christ, if we are trusting Him, our heavenly Father loves us in the beloved; and, even if we are feeling the blows of His discipline it is the expression of His love for a child whom He will not let go.
Now Satan will attempt to keep you from coming to God because of that fear of His anger and of His indignation, and the psalmist acknowledges it here. But nothing must keep a child of God from God.
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No, the urge to pray must never be resisted, and the need to pray is never greater than when we are in affliction, and so even if we fear that we are under the disciplining hand of God and that His indignation is upon us, we run straight to Him. I can give testimony to the consistent Christian love of my parents that they have taught me two things: that they would punish me when I was wrong; and, that they would never stop loving me. So that when I had done wrong, though I knew that when I went to them it would mean punishment, I so wanted fellowship with them that I would go to them anyway.
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And God teaches us in His word that though He disciplines His children, He never ceases to love them, so that even when going to Him means discipline, we go to Him trusting in His love. So, my friends, the Lord bids that we disclose our affliction, that we name our troubles before Him specifically, and that we run to Him with our complaints because in the end He's the only one who can do anything about them. My friends, have you known friends — dear friends — who are under such burdens that all they can do when they are with you is complain about those burdens?
I've had friends like that. Different altitude layers can be selected in the top-right menu. Click on the full-screen button to get a bigger view with more options.
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