I’d have to say, “sometimes” to both, and for two reasons. The obvious reason is that only Jesus knows the Word of God well enough to say, “It is written . . .” for any situation or confrontation. He wrote it. I may have read the Bible through every year for many years, but am often tripped up. I either don’t know what God says on a matter or cannot find or remember it.
The other reason is that problems are not predictable. An old song says, “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake. . . .” If I knew what was coming next, I could be prepared for it. Maybe, but more likely not.
Preparing for trouble is something like rehearsing a conversation before you have it. I’ve done that enough times to realize it doesn’t ever turn out the way I rehearsed. Life’s problems are the same. No matter how prepared I think I am, some things catch me off guard and I’m just not ready.
The verse for today fits this line of thinking. Whatever else anyone calls those unexpected events of life, the psalmist called them afflictions.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:71–72)Being upset and uncertain, but knowing God has guidance and some answers helps me ‘retreat and look it up’ — if not immediately, then eventually. It seems to me that God made life like that and human beings like that. We learn by struggle, get stronger by struggle. In the difficulties, we find, remember, and more deeply take to heart, the solutions.
In 1989, I went back to school, this time Bible college. I quickly noticed that most of the younger students were there to have fun, attend as few classes as they could, learn the material, pass the exams, and find a spouse. For most of them, their afflictions were yet to come. Some of what they “learned” would need to be relearned.
For me, some of that learning had already happened. I’d been in ministry, been hounded by Satan, been swatted about by life’s events. I knew why I needed to study and know those lessons. The exams handed out by the professors were one thing, but the exams handed out by life are far more challenging.
Besides, during those few years in Bible school, more trials happened. These were far worse than anything prior. What better place could I be than immersed in Scripture and surrounded by people who cared? In all of it, the affliction and the learning, God taught me the incredible worth of His ways. I didn’t like them at the time, but what riches I have gained!
The prayer at the end of today’s reading says, “Thanks Lord, for caring enough to turn my worst into Your best.” This is what God does because He knows what best works for His children.
All I can add to that is, Amen!