Word Study: Affliction

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WORD STUDY – AFFLICTION – אנה

Psalms 119:67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”

I run into lot of teaching that God wants everyone healthy and that He never brings affliction on anyone. I mean people got pretty emotional if you were to even suggest that God would bring affliction on us.

Yet, parents bring affliction on their children all the time. “Go to bed and no TV tonight.” “You are grounded.” Etc. The word punishment tends to carry a bad connotation. We would rather use the word correction, intervention or consequences. For those who do not like the idea of God bringing affliction on us, I would suggest you say God must, at times, bring about an intervention, a correction or allow us to suffer the consequences of our actions.

Actually, the word for affliction in Hebrew is ‘anah which means being humbled by life events. This would be correction by God, or intervention or even the consequences of sin. In this Psalm it appears David is grateful for his ‘anah because it brought him back to the Lord. We learn that he did suffer the consequences for his sins and he accepted these consequences for he saw it as God intervening in his life to bring him back to a right relationship.

I recall hearing a story about Mel Trotter. Mel Trotter founded the Grand Rapids and Michigan City Rescue missions and became a well known evangelist in the first half of the 20th Century. Sometimes he even concluded many of Billy Sunday’s crusades preaching in the tabernacles that he erected. Prior to this however, he was an alcoholic. One of the most famous stories is that he sold his baby’s shoes to purchase a drink. One day when he returned home after a binge he found his two year old son had died. At the funeral he swore he would never take another drink. By that evening he was drunk again. He wandered the streets of Chicago, homeless, broke and hopelessly drunk. Then he entered the Pacific Garden Mission where the Lord not only saved him but cleaned up his life and he went on to direct missions and become a famous evangelist. Many years later some business men took him to an expensive restaurant and told him to order whatever he wanted and not to worry about the cost. He ordered some soup broth and water. When the businessmen asked why he ordered such a simple meal he explained that his years as an alcoholic had so torn up his system that he could no longer eat solid food. We also learn that his wife tried very hard to forgive his past and work toward a fresh start but before long his years of abuse and alcoholism was to much to overcome and led to the end of his marriage.

Christian libraries are filled with the testimonies of people whose lives were changed through the blood of Jesus, yet they still had to suffer the consequences of their former lives. They still had wrecked marriages, children who were in prison or on drugs because they were not a good parent, difficulty in finding a job because of their past record. God never promises to deliver us from the consequences of our sins only to forgive us.

I grew up in a strong, God fearing, loving home. My brothers and I always got along, my parents rarely had to discipline us. We went to church almost every day of the week and all my best friends and my social existence was in the church. Drugs, alcohol, gangs, illicit sex were things that were very far removed from me. When I went to Bible College I would hear these testimonies of students who were former drug addicts, gang members, and/or alcoholics and oh, they had such glowing testimonies. I really felt bad that I had no such testimony. I was just a good kid all my life and never got into or caused any trouble. I remember I had a Jewish roommate who was studying to be a rabbi before he met Jesus and left rabbinical school to study at Moody for the ministry. He once shared with me a big regret. “Oh, I wish I had finished rabbinical school and spent a couple years as a rabbi and then got saved, boy would I have had the testimony then.”

I soon learned, however, that many of those who had a dark past really struggled with their former lives and the temptation to return to that life. Some even did return to that life. I never had a dark past to be tempted with nor to return to. The only past I have to return to if I need to return is one filled with love and acceptance by the people of God.

I really struggled with Luke 7:47: “ Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little.” Again, I felt it was so unfair that I did not have a dark past that God could have forgiven and therefore I will not love God as much as a former drug, alcoholic, prison serving individual who finds Jesus. This bothered me so much because I wanted to love God as much as possible, with all my heart and I felt that unless I really sin bad I can’t know that so called special love. Then I read this passage in the Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke and I discovered something. Jesus used the Aramaic word chav which is a word for love but a love that has been kindled, a love that happens because someone does something for you. It is a love that says: “I love you because…”

Jesus, however, taught a greater love. In John 13:23 we learn of the disciple whom Jesus loved. This word for love is racham not chav, it is not I love you because, but it is a higher love, a love that does not need kindling but is a natural love that does not say I love you because but simply says: “I love you.” This is racham love. This is the love a mother feels for her baby while still in the womb. That is the baby that makes her wake up with morning sickness and sometimes causes her to throw up. It is that baby that makes her back ache, that baby that will cause great pain when she gives birth, yet despite all that she loves that little child in her, that is racham. She cannot say I love you because. That baby has no opportunity for a because. The only because she has to love that baby is because it is her baby.

So too with God. There are those who love God because he brought them out of sin and destruction. But God desires an even greater love, a deeper love, a racham love where the only because is that I belong to Him. Jesus even said, if you are forgiven little you will chav little. It is love and a good love, but there is a love, a racham love that does not depend upon how much or how little we are forgiven, it is a natural love that comes from just belonging to Him. That love runs much deeper than chav.