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The Benefits of Affliction in the Psalms

Allow affliction to accomplish good things in your life. God intends it for your good and His glory.

Feb 4, 2021

As I was making bread recently, I was wondering, “Why is it necessary to knead the dough? What if I omit this step? How will the bread turn out?” So, I googled my question, and discovered that kneading the dough makes it more elastic and causes the bread to be light and tender. The kneading is a necessary step for good bread. 

Affliction Can Turn Us Godward 

Sometimes I identify with the lump of dough—feeling a bit pushed and pulled by life. Just as kneading is good for the dough, the Psalms show how affliction can be beneficial for us. In Psalm 119, David observed that his affliction pushed him to the Scriptures to seek help from God. He received the Lord’s help, and he expressed the “delight” of being comforted and revived by the truths of the Scriptures:  

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (Psalm 119:50).  

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). 

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).  

“If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). 

“Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight” (Psalm 119:143).  

I must admit that it’s true, affliction has been good for me. It has pushed me to seek the Lord’s help and strength. Daily time in God’s Word has become a non-negotiable for me. Troubles have made me more aware of own my limits and forced me to realize that I am weak. I need the Lord and His sustaining presence, grace, and comfort.  

Affliction Can Purify Us 

The Psalms reveal that affliction also serves to purify us. “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined” (Psalm 66:10). The psalmist acknowledged God’s purpose in allowing affliction for the people of Israel: it was a crucible to burn up the impurities in their lives. Trials—crucibles—refine and purify us by giving us opportunities for self-examination and contrition: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). Affliction puts us in the right posture to humbly consider if God might be working to refine us: “Is there unconfessed sin in my life? Am I walking with Christ in obedience to His Word? Am I daily dying to self and repenting of sin? Are there any idols in my heart—anything that I love more than Jesus?” Affliction can be used to burn away these idols and purify us.  

Affliction Can Wean Us from the World 

We can see in the Psalms that affliction also benefits us by weaning us from a love for the world. We come to realize the vanity and futility of life and our own hopelessness apart from God. Asaph expressed this in Psalm 73:25-28:  

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”  

When Asaph turned to God about his disillusionment regarding the world, he was able to see with spiritual eyes and comprehend that the world had nothing to offer of any value to his soul. He found true satisfaction in God alone.  

Affliction Can Teach Us Perseverance 

The Psalms show us that affliction can teach us perseverance. Some of the Psalms are songs of lamentation in which the writers cry out to God about their dire circumstances, and the Lord grants them relief, comfort, and renewed hope. Their lamentation turns to joy. But Psalm 88 is different: there is no happy ending. It is distress and despair from start to finish. The psalmist is hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He cries out to God, but he receives no answers or explanations. Despite God’s silence, he continues to do the right thing: “But I, O Lord, have cried out to You for help, and in the morning my prayer comes before You” (Psalm 88:13). He does not abandon his practice of prayer. He perseveres in seeking the Lord. 

Affliction is an opportunity for us to learn perseverance. We must continue to do the right thing. We must keep on seeking the Lord daily through prayer. We must not allow ourselves to neglect reading and meditating on the Scriptures. We must, with David, decide to worship the Lord: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). David had come through times of affliction and as a result was able to affirm the faithfulness of God in the face of the reality of suffering: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). God will be faithful to give grace to persevere.  

Learn from the Psalmists 

So, when affliction hits, and it will, follow the psalmists’ examples. Allow affliction to accomplish good things in your life. God intends it for your good and His glory. Just like the dough that is made tender through kneading.