Psalm 119 is generally known for being (very!) long and for (almost) every verse referring to God’s Word in some way. What may not be as readily apparent, though, is that this psalm speaks a lot about affliction and suffering. Here are the verses from Psalm 119 which mention affliction, followed by some thoughts about how these truths re-shape my perspective (and hopefully yours too!) on suffering.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
Affliction is sometimes God’s tool to correct me, to corral me back onto the path of truth, to get me “in line with the truths of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Though I may experience consequences for my sin, which also serve as corrective measures, affliction is not merely punishment but is actually an indication of my status as a child of God–God disciplines those who are His own children (Hebrews 12:6-8).
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
Affliction can be a good thing for me, when it results in learning and growth. My natural human response is to avoid difficulty and to want to immediately get out of affliction when it happens; but when I allow affliction to push me toward God, it can be a very good thing.
75 I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Though some affliction is the result of my own sin or the reality of living in a broken and fallen world, some of it comes directly from the hand of God. He is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness, therefore it is an act of faithful love and grace that moves Him to bring affliction into my life in order to shape me further into His likeness.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
God’s Word is what gives me perspective in the midst of affliction. When I delight in God’s Word, I constantly take it in and let it rule my thoughts and emotions—even in times of affliction. If God’s Word is not ruling my thoughts and emotions in the midst of affliction, that affliction will get the best of me.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
My hope and life is rooted in God and in His Word. Affliction can drive me to seek hope and life in God, or it can drive me to seek hope and life elsewhere. I must be convinced that Life is ONLY found in God; otherwise affliction will push me away from Him toward idols.