By Erika Daly Wedemeyer
Affliction. Not something we ask for, earn, nor desire. Many things come to mind when you hear the word "affliction." For some of us it recalls moments when we endured the definition of this word, "a cause of persistent pain and great suffering."
There are many ways for affliction to occur in our lives, but I want to talk about enduring the affliction that comes from other people. How do you stop it? Can you stop it? Will the effects of the other person's choice to bring pain into your life remain? What kinds of decisions should you make or not make while enduring pain from someone else?
I read an article of a pastor visiting a group of believers in another country who started a new church next to a mosque. The faith-believing Christians were not intimidated by the group attacking their tents with graffiti and death threats. They saw the aftermath of a miracle when the opposing group thought they'd burn down the new church. Instead, they left their torches and gas cans outside the church perimeter and the church was safe and untouched.
The pastor made a comment that stung, as I know it to be true, and yet it hurts my mental process of accepting pain from someone else. The affliction of the mob created an atmosphere for the believers to move up and away from the threat and ill treatment. They gained strength in Christ, increased faith, and the ability to see God move in these situations in ways that produced more faith. Why does this sting? I'd like all those blessings without affliction. But I'm willing to admit from my own experience that this in fact is true. Hard, but true. Pressure from affliction can allow growth and bless others in compassion in Christ.
The pastor also mentioned the doors that opened for caring and loving people to help in the healing process. He endured his own painful trials throughout life and recalled many times God brought him through by others and then also gave him the strength to overcome. He then helped other people whom were afflicted and carrying pain in their hearts.
Psalm 46:1 "But when we have Christ in our heart, our hope gets renewed. He is our strength and a very present help in times of trouble."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 "All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ's own sufferings, even more of God's comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ."
This brings both encouragement and a different perspective. Some of us want to flee and avoid pain at any cost. Some of us like the feeling of pain and try to control the doses of pain in life. For some of us, it's simply a way of life. What we are perceiving then is that we can give pain a purpose. We can choose not to fear affliction from others and allow healing and strength in Christ to come through the help of others. The affliction doesn't control us, we allow purpose to come out of the affliction we endure.
A dear friend of mine shared a story. It was small, simple, and yet impacting. A member in her family had a small injury to their foot and was not thrilled about the irritation that happened to their foot. Her reply to this family member is loving and profound! "Aren't you thankful you have a foot that can be injured?" What a way to turn around an affliction. Even a "small" injury like a scrape or a little cut! I decided I wanted to use this mindset for other afflictions in my life... little did I know it would be put to the test immediately.
Someone I love dearly made choices against me in such a way I did not anticipate. (But then we don't always expect how affliction will come). I had choices to make. Will I retaliate? Will I forgive and "let it go"? Will I trust God that He protects even when it might seem like a small matter and yet can cut so deeply? I recalled my friend's response and decided I will approach this hard circumstance with a new perspective. I choose to look at it like a paper cut. (Even small scrapes hurt, but the wound of a paper cut is much smaller than a broken limb or worse. We all know a paper cut stings, but heals quickly and soon is forgotten.)
I'm not gonna lie. At first, using this new perspective felt like I was wobbling like the first time you try to ride your bike without training wheels. I had so many challenges to my emotions and mental process. Honestly, I didn't want to push through with this. So I went to God. If you don't help me, I'm done! If I don't let you help me, I'm done! So now what?
Yes, He answers. Several people who He's placed in my life and understand pain and affliction prayed. Offered encouragement and insight. Soon I felt the strength of Christ and love of community for a common goal of health and strength. I could release the affliction, accept the pain and then allow it to heal. This time, it was like a paper cut. Unwanted, stung, but healed quickly!
I am thankful affliction does not get to rule over us! We can overcome in Christ no matter how small or severe an affliction from someone else. And then that compassion to help others comes and enduring that pain has a purpose. We cannot stop affliction completely and it can surprise us, but it doesn't have to stop us or take us out! Take heart!! Build your community around you. And go to God just as you are, He's kind! Compassionate! Trustworthy! Helpful! And He IS for you!