“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:67-68 (NIV)
Any kind of pain and suffering should draw us closer to God and to His Word. Because He is good anything He allows into our lives can be used for good. In fact, we can learn more in a short time of difficulty than in years of peace and prosperity. The key to learning from pain is how we approach it. This stanza of Psalm 119 shows us how to keep our suffering from going to waste.
First, we need to align our definition of what’s good with God’s definition. The psalmist said, “Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord” (v65 NIV). What we think is good for us tends to be tainted by the world’s idea of success as well as by what God has done for others. But when we believe that God’s Word is absolutely true we develop a teachable spirit (vv66, 68).
As a result, we begin to recognize how distress acts as a purifying force in our lives (v67). Painful circumstances cause us to either pull away from God or draw closer to Him. By drawing closer the Spirit reveals areas of weakness or disobedience. We see sinful thoughts and attitudes more clearly and are spiritually renewed by obeying the guiding conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Drawing closer to God also strengthens us to deal with arrogant and callous people (vv69-70). Like the psalmist, the cause of our pain and suffering is often other people. Their actions, however, cannot stop us from seeking God and delighting in His Word. Our highest personal desire should be to know and please the Lord, regardless of what anyone else says or does.
Pain is wasted if we don’t learn from it. Looking back, we can see how God used that particular painful situation to grow us; to teach us something about Him or about ourselves. Then we can actually say, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your decrees” (v71 NIV). And as God’s Word becomes our most treasured possession (v72), we protect time in our day to be alone with Him.
What painful situation are you facing? Whatever its source, you can find help in the pages of Scripture and in prayer. As you read this stanza of Psalm 119, ask God, “What do you want me to learn through this?” Remember, we can be genuinely grateful for anything that causes us to draw closer to the Lord and to learn more about Him.