Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul.”
“What the particular thoughts or temptations are that disquiet you, I know not; but, whatsoever they are, look above them, and labor to fix your eye on that infinite goodness, which never faileth them that, by faith, do absolutely rely and rest upon it; and patiently wait upon Him, who hath pronounced them all, without exception, blessed that do so.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters and oppressors; for I know their sorrows and sufferings and trials. And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand and power of the Egyptians.”
“The Furnace of Affliction: - Part 1
“I Have Seen Your Affliction”
Hebrew Definition of Affliction: ônîy:Misery, depression and trouble.
English Definition of Affliction: To cast down. To inflict physical and mental suffering. To cause distress.
“God does not lead His children around hardship, but leads them straight through hardship. But He leads! And amidst the hardship, He is nearer to them than ever before.”
Do I feel as though I am afflicted by some tremendous challenge in my life right now?
Is it difficult to see God’s guiding hand?
“We all come up against our own version of the Red Sea – Seas of Divorce, Debt, Death, Depression, Guilt, Fear, Loneliness or Hopelessness. And hey, if you’re anything like me, you might look around for a boat when God wants to display His glory by parting the Sea instead.“
Devotions For Difficult Days
In what ways have I seen God’s hand at work in my life when things seem at there worst?
“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
C. H. Spurgeon
At this very moment
When I feel utterly abandoned
When I feel You are an enemy
And not my friend
When I feel You have turned Your face
And withdrawn Your love
At this very moment
I throw myself into Your arms
And stubbornly refuse to move.
What will You do with me now?”
Ruth Harms Calkin
I absolutely love the prayers written by Ruth Harms Calkin. She reminds me of the Psalmist David who was also blunt and honest with God – sometimes even painfully honest. I’ll admit that at first it was a little difficult for me to read the phrase, “When I feel You are the enemy.” That’s strong language to speak to God. But when God doesn’t seem to hear what you are saying, this may be how you and I really feel. And we are just hesitant to be honest with our Father. I had the kind of earthly father who would have listened if I had told him he was acting like my enemy. In fact, I know he would have been deeply moved if I had openly shared with him my true feelings.
So I ask you, “If we feel there are earthly family members and friends who can accept our true feelings, then shouldn’t we believe in the total expression of our inner most thoughts to our heavenly Father when in agony we pour out the way we truly feel.
This is why prayer becomes such a vital element – a perfect connection – between heaven and earth. For it links us with the Almighty’s throne of grace. As I’ve shared in the past, one of the tremendous blessings in my life is being a part of the Transformation Garden prayer team. As I’ve told you, I read each email and each prayer request and it is often from these fertile fields where God gives His thoughts regarding our study of His Word.
Over the last 6 months, there has been such an increase in painful and heart-wrenching requests. Many of these requests contain soulful pleas, “Where is God? Why doesn’t He hear me? I feel so alone trying to handle these problems. Has God completely forgotten me?” If ever you have felt a tinge of guilt expressing your true feelings to your Father in heaven, then our new series this month will hopefully be just the balm you need for a broken heart as together we take our Father’s hankie and dry the tears that are coursing down our cheeks in a time of affliction.
As I was preparing this series of devotionals entitled, “The Furnace of Affliction,” I looked up every time the word “affliction” or the phrase “furnace of affliction” appeared in the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. And for the next 30 days we’re going to look at what the word “affliction” means in your life and mine. For although we may recoil at the thought of being “afflicted,” in one way or another, repeatedly, men and women from past time to current history often refer to times of immense trial as some of the most precious times in their life. Again and again I found times of affliction to be referred to as “treasured time.”
Maybe unknowingly, I can honestly write about this topic because the consequences of Jim’s and my car accident were not something we could walk away from and say, “Wow! I’m glad that’s in the past.” Honestly, if I had realized at the time I was lying in bed unable to take a step on my own that some of the most challenging days of our lives lay ahead, I might have acted like a little child and pulled the covers over my face – hoping that the future could be blocked out by my favorite blanket.
But this isn’t the real world. We all grow up. We find out that a word like “Affliction” is “for real!” And so, I invite you to come along with me as we look closely at this old-time word affliction which is found a great deal in the Bible. And if you know of someone who is going through their own “Season of Affliction,” please invite them to join you in the Garden in the coming days for what I can promise you after studying for this series is that not one of God’s precious children avoids the pain and heartache of affliction. As one of my favorites, Pastor Charles Spurgeon states, “The jewels of a Christian are their afflictions…The furnace of affliction is a good place for you, Christian; it benefits you; it helps you to become more like Christ, and it is fitting you for heaven.” Those last words, “fitting you (and me) for heaven” are enough to bring rejoicing to my heart and I pray it does the same for you. But there’s something else that I want to share with you. The person who penned those words, Pastor Spurgeon, did not have an affliction-free life. He suffered many health problems including gout, which little was known about at that time in history and it is a severely painful disease. What’s more, Pastor Spurgeon writes about “My Black Dog” which was his reference to bouts of deep depression that came upon him. His dear wife Susannah also had poor health and they faced a number of times of financial hardship. Indeed, this “couple of God” were repeatedly afflicted and yet, it is the words of Pastor Spurgeon’s sermons that the two of them, working together, preserved amidst all the hardship that this “Prince of Preachers,” as he is referred to, also became one of the most published pastors in history.
The Spurgeon’s weren’t the only children of God to experience the hardships caused by affliction. Puritan preacher and author Thomas Watson, who also left behind a treasury of uplifting encouragement for those who face afflicting times shares this thought: “Afflictions add to the saint’s glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saints’ cross is, the heavier will be their crown…afflictions carry away nothing but the dross of sin.” Thomas Watson knew the pain of affliction as well for he was imprisoned for his work for Jesus and often suffered personal persecution in his ministry.
I don’t know about you but it does my heart good to find that God’s dearest and best have walked the same pathway filled with trials and heartaches, that you and I might be going through this very day. And yet, the faith of these pioneers held strong no matter how ferocious the storm. I don’t know why it surprised me but at the very sudden end of Thomas Watson’s life, he was found on his knees in prayer. This fact really touched my heart for down through time, God’s faithful have been those who knew that no matter how tough the challenge, their God was stronger and would not leave His own. Pastor Spurgeon left behind this quote which I’ve penned on the back page of a Bible my parents gave to me almost 45 years ago: “There is no pang that rends the heart or disturbs the body that Jesus has not been with us in it all…There is no glen of adversity so dark, so deep, apparently so pathless, but that in stooping down you may discover the footprints of the Crucified One.”
It was after reading these words that I began my exploration through Scripture, uncovering what God’s Word tells us about the affliction we all endure here on earth. My search was guided by my very used Strong’s Concordance. And in words that nearly popped of the page, I found our study text for today. I’ve chosen to share the paraphrase from The Message Bible because the words take an event from long ago and make it so relevant to your life and mine today:
“God said, ‘I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt.”
The Message Bible
Just to put the words of God into context, we need to remind ourselves that for at least 400 years, God’s children had been enslaved in a foreign land by a foreign ruler. The rulership over God’s people was wicked and evil. Mean and harsh. The whip of the slave masters tore at the skin of the Israelite laborers. And this tyranny went on and on. Believe me, 400 years is a long time to wait. It makes me think I’m rather impatient if I have to pray for some longing even for 50 years! What amazes me is that there were any individual Israelites left in Egypt who thought God heard their prayers or saw their misery.
But thankfully, we find the assurance from God’s own mouth that He knew exactly what was going on. For He said:
1. I have taken a long look.
2. I have heard your cries.
3. I know about your pain.
4. And I am coming to deliver you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gained encouragement from just one of the lines above: I know about your pain. In fact, I’d like to do something familiar here in Transformation Garden and rewrite God’s promise as it is in the Hebrew as well as English:
“And God said: I surely have drawn near to behold your misery and depression and I’ve attentively heard your shrieking and I care and recognize your anguish and pain: I’m coming into enemy territory to take them down and I will pluck you out and rescue you.” Exodus: 3: 7,8
This sounds to me like a generous and loving Father who is coming down right into the midst of what is afflicting you today and His rescue plan is set to pluck you out of the terrible situation that is upending your life. In the beautiful prayer penned by author Angela Ashwin:
through weariness and hurt,
through disaster on the news,
through headaches and depression,
I am still yours,
I do not understand,
but I believe that You are here
in the dark places of human life,
and that nothing
can take us out of Your hands.”
Whatever you are going through today, God sees you. Not in some impersonal way but close up – right in the middle of the situation. And if you are shrieking in pain or heartbreak or agony, your cry rings again and again in God’s ears. He knows personally what your pain feels like. He feels it, too. And at the perfect moment He will arrive to rescue you. He’s promised! And He’s never gone back on His Word. Never! In the words of Margaret Cundiff:
“Suffering and death are real. I only have to pick up the papers to know that. It is there, recorded in stark words and pictures.
Suffering and death are real. I know it from my own experience, and I am afraid.
In Your love and power, reach out to those who suffer today, to those who mourn, to those who have lost hope.
Reach out to me too, Lord, and grant me Your peace.”
Lament Psalm Fifteen
“O God, why have you abandoned me?
I sit and wait for You and
You do not come.
I watch everyone who passes,
but it is not You.
I sit by myself.
on the side of life
and cry to You,
but You do not come.
I stand and look
from the window,
but You are nowhere in sight.
I need You, O God,
but You have left me all alone,
I try to talk myself
that You’re on the way,
or the next day,…
but You do not appear.
How can I walk in this pain
How can I stand knee-deep
in suffering without You?
Where are You,
O God of my life?
Where are You
when I’m in such danger?
Will You let me slip away simply
because You didn’t get here on time?
O God of mercy, do not
Show Your face
at my window
and wipe the tears
from my life.
Please come to me.
take care of me.
I will shout Your name
from the rooftops!
I will dance Your praise
among the stars.
I will tell the world
that You would never
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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