I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
The above passage from Psalm 34:1-3 is the passage that Tim and Kathy Keller read together on their wedding day. At the time, they found themselves glazing over that middle section “let the afflicted hear and be glad”, not knowing how much those words would come to mean to them as they served their church year after year.
I’m reading Tim Keller’s new book “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”. So far, the hurt places in my soul are soaking up Keller’s words. Particularly the scripture above.
It’s interesting that Keller titled his book “Walking with God THROUGH Pain and Suffering”. Because it is a journey, and I’ve come to believe that the only way to truly walk through it to the other side is to walk with God through that pain, that hurt, that suffering. Only He can bear the deepest needs of our soul when we find ourselves in crises. And we all do….we all find ourselves in personal crises at some point or another. I’m talking about real suffering, not supposed suffering. I’m talking about the kind that threatens to pull your entire world down around you. Whew.
The journey with God is a deep one, one that is hard to explain. It’s knowing that He is the only answer to a question that you can’t even ask. It’s knowing that walking through with Him means keeping moving forward, even in the midst of halting pain. Walking through with God means that He has promises He will fulfill in our lives when we are through the suffering and look back to see where the journey has taken us, even if that journey ultimately ends at home in heaven.
“Let the afflicted hear and be glad”—Let them hear what? The praising and the boasting of the Lord. This is hard to hear at times in the midst of suffering. But to hear it is like cauterizing a wound—painful yet necessary; leading to healing. Let the afflicted hear scripture and cling to the words therein, for within them is comfort and promises and stories that are not unlike the journey the afflicted is on.
And let the afflicted be glad…..maybe another word to use would be “be joyful”. Joy is not superficial happiness. It’s deep. It’s not even a feeling really. It’s a gift from a good and sovereign God. Pain may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
My friends, I know many of you are hurting and suffering. I know this journey very well….I’m still on it’s path. But I also know that God does grant joy. He does not abandon you. He walks through the Pain and Suffering with you. How tragic for those who are suffering and do not know our God. They must be told.