The humble soul endeavors more how to glorify God in afflictions than how to get out of them.
To seek how I may glorify God in afflictions kills pride. It kills every anti-God, every anti-trust idea I may conceive and nurture and contemplate. When I look back from now to the times when I have experienced affliction, I see how God led me through those difficult days. At first, I tried to escape. I tried to get out of them. I could not. He would not permit it. I had to pass through the furnace; had to feel its heat, be burned by its intensity.
Pride had to die. Anxiety too had to perish. All of it had to be removed – gold to refine, dross to consume. This is God’s design for affliction. Grief came upon me and with it more fear. Still God upheld he. He sent me back out to the battle line daily. He walked with me through many painful conversations. He helped me endure comments both critical and pejorative. Even so, He would not let me run. He used each negative comment like a chisel strike chipping away the unnecessary bits. The furnace heat consumed more dross. None of this was painless. My heart broke. My spirit grew more contrite. The more I tried to run, the more often did God close, no – shut the door.
The storm had come. The sea rose in anger. The waves threatened to drown my soul. I looked for safe harbor. I found none. Each failed escape, each shut door made the voice of the Spirit more audible, more resoundingly clear. The path to safe harbor lay direct and through the violent storm. As in Thompson’s hound of heaven, the Spirit spoke to my spirit: “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
So through the storm I ventured forth. And the further out to sea the Spirit led me, the more emphatic His exhortation: “Trust in the Lord. The way of escape is found through the storm.”
Through. Not over. Not under. Not around. No escape except through. God before me. God beside me. God behind me. He leads through the valley of the shadow of death. Grace there is for such a passage; mercy and provision. Through and forward is the way home.
Today, I stand on the other side. The storm is passed. Safe harbor found. The valley is passed through; its narrowness now replaced by a broad plain through which quiet waters flow and pleasant pasture enjoyed. The sun shines anew revealing hills and mountains – and more valleys – to cross. But they are still some distance away. I will meet them soon enough. Today the ground is level and lush. There is water here in abundance.
Even so, I will not rest here long. The journey is long and –as the poet has said, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” So I will rest for the moment, but only a moment. The ground is soft here. The pastures serene.
I will pass through this pleasant place with gratitude. And while I will not linger here neither will I walk quickly through it. I will journey on with steady pace through this pleasant land. And I will be grateful for the company goodness and mercy will provide. They are silent companions, whom I welcome as constant friends for they remind me daily that through and forward is the way home.