Afflictions: pain, illness, distresses, anything that causes physical or mental upset.

Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

God has a purpose in afflictions. Afflictions are temporary but some last a long time. God afflicted the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness to see what was in their hearts. He sends afflictions to us to test what we have in our hearts too.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 And…remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word…of the Lord…

Our afflictions are to humble us and prove what’s in our hearts. We have to determine we’re going to prove true to God, no matter what happens to us. God humbled the Israelites so they would rely on him.

Deuteronomy 8:16-18 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna…that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord…it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…

Paul had an affliction (thorn in his flesh) to keep him humble. God didn’t take away the affliction but said his grace would be sufficient. Paul changed his attitude and said he took pleasure in infirmities. He was weak in his strength, but strong in God.

II Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me…For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart…he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Paul and Silas sang and praised God when they were in jail (Acts 16:23-25). They had grace in the affliction. If we don’t call on God for grace in our afflictions, we’ll be grumbling and complaining with bad attitudes – not glorifying God. It’s our choice how we respond to our afflictions.

There’s a story about the Egg, Potato and Coffee Beans. A daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed that just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each over a higher fire. When the water began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second, and ground coffee beans in the third. He then let them boiling for a while without saying a word to his daughter.

The daughter moaned and waited impatiently, wondering what her father was doing. After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes and eggs out of the pots, and placed them in different bowls, and poured the coffee into a cup. Turning to her he asked “What do you see?” “Potatoes, eggs and coffee,” she quickly replied. “Look closer,” he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After removing the shell she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face. “Father, what does this mean?” she asked. He then explained that the potatoes, eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity – boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. (source unknown)

The hard potato became soft after being in boiling water. The fragile egg was made hard or strong when put into boiling water. The ground coffee beans were unique. After being in boiling water, they changed into something entirely different. When we get saved, some are hard, self-sufficient, and uncaring like a hard potato. Hard trials soften them like boiling water so they’re compassionate and care for others. Trials help the fragile ones to get strong and have a back bone. The coffee beans were changed to something new so they had something to share and to offer comfort. Where are you looking for comfort? Our own body or strength will fail us. God wants to comfort us when we’re afflicted so we can help others.

II Corinthians 1:3-6 Blessed be God…the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation…which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

God has promised to deliver us out of all our afflictions (Psalm 34:19). He tempted (Greek: tested) Abraham and delivered him. Isaac was under 20 years old, old enough to carry the wood for the offering. Abraham was between 115 and 118 years old. He had confidence and faith in God that all the promises would be through his son. There was no backtalk and Abraham rose early the next day to obey. God will test us to see if we have everything on the altar, trusting he knows best.

Genesis 22:1-8 And it came to pass…God did tempt Abraham, and said…Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac…get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men…and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering…and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day…Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac…said, My father…Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…

Isaac was completely submissive to his dad. God wants us to have a right attitude in trials so we our testimony is: God gets glory. God delivered Isaac and provided a lamb at the last minute. He named the place Jehovahjireh, the Lord will provide.

Genesis 22:9-14 And they came to the place…and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham…Lay not thine hand upon the lad…now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes…behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh…

Abraham was willing to do whatever God said and knew God could raise Isaac from the dead if he died.

Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham…was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said…in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise…from the dead…

Trials are hard because we don’t know what is going to happen and because we lack patience. God wants us to have patience so the world sees we have grace in our trials. You won’t get glory for God if you murmur, complain, and bicker like the world. We’re told “Do all things without murmurings and disputings…”(Philippians 2:14). Our troubles and afflictions are not punishment like the plagues at Sodom and Gomorrah. God tested Job and proved the devil was wrong. Job said “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…”(Job 13:15). If you keep your eyes on the trial, you’ll be like the spies who only saw the giants and had an evil report. They weren’t looking to God or his promises. You won’t be a help to anyone if you keep your eyes on your trials. The world around us is hurting. If we don’t hurt, we’ll never be able to help others. You’ll be crying and feeling sorry for yourself like the Israelites. They cried all night because they had no faith in God.

Numbers 14:1-3 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night…murmured against Moses and against Aaron…said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!…And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword…be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

God uses our afflictions to make us soft like the potato. We can change our attitude like Paul, to gladly submit. We’ll be like the Israelites if we don’t look to God in our trials. We’ll rebel at the affliction God sends if we don’t submit to his will.

Numbers 14:6-10 And Joshua…and Caleb…rent their clothes…saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear…But all the congregation bade stone them with stones…

(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)