Reflections on Psalm 119 (ט Teth)

sufferingPsalm 119:65-72

65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” Comfort and material success tend to dull our awareness of God and our need for Him. Conversely, suffering―whether a consequence of disobedience or just garden-variety adversity and hardship―helps us adjust our priorities and acquire humility, but only if we respond correctly.

In the lopsided economy of this fallen age, suffering not only gets our attention, it can be turned to great spiritual benefit. (Rom. 8:28) The Scriptures tell us Jesus “learned obedience through the things he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) This Scripture used to puzzle me. How could Jesus―the second person of the Trinity, all-knowing and possessing all wisdom―ever learn anything? He already knows all there is to know. Except that God had never before experienced being human, clothed in the frail garb of humanity, asked by His Father to walk intentionally into the most cataclysmic pain anyone has ever gone through.

Obedience is of little consequence when it isn’t costly. When it is, think of what is produced through it: discipline, identification with Christ (1 Peter 4:13), and the display of God’s glory―not to mention the eternal reward. Leave it to Paul to capture this concept in a soaring pronouncement: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Co. 4:17)

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About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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