“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” –Ps. 107:22
In this third segment of Psalms 107 (click here for part 1 and here for part 2), we move into how to pray through afflictions and troubles caused by our own decisions. It seems that this passage has none of God’s grace in it, because this passage clearly says “Fools, because of their transgression, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted” (vs 17). When we consider afflictions, we tend to think of disease or pain, but in this passage the meaning extends to people who made choices that caused them to be looked at as fools; in other words, they knew what they were doing and then started whining about it later.
What are “afflicted times”?
This season of life is not the same as the lean times described in the first section of the book. This time is caused by our decisions. For instance, I know that if I do not go to bed on time, I am likely to oversleep the next morning. On the way to work, I am asking for “a miracle” to get me to work on time and complaining to God if I don’t make it on time. Is this God’s fault? No! It is mine. I wasn’t a responsible adult, and this is the result of my choice to stay up late.
Sometimes the afflicted times are more than just sleeping through the alarm. There are times when consequences are real and affect us for a really long time. This time is not even about guilt over sinning; it is about the choices you have made, because sinning is just a choice you made to walk against what God has said is best for you. However, even during times when we have chosen to step away from the standard of holiness that God has called us to, God still wants to have us come to Him in prayer.
How do we pray through afflicted times?
First, God wants us to ask. Verses 19-20 say, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses…and delivered them out of their destruction.” God desires to hear from us, to be involved in our lives, and He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both say that God will answer as soon as we ask; the problem is that we want to push God away because we are afraid we have disappointed Him. God knows we are mere humans. That’s why Jesus came in the first place.
When you find yourself afflicted and troubled because of your choices, remember to still ask God to be present with you and even ask Him to rescue you. You may be surprised at how quickly He begins to change your circumstances.
Second, God doesn’t say, “I told you so.” Over and over we fail God; we do our own thing and then come back to ask God to take us back. There is NOTHING in this passage or anywhere in the Bible where God says, “I told you so.” Do you know what God has said? “Though your sins were like scarlet, they will be as white as lambs wool.” Forget the past; do not dwell in the past (Isa. 1 and 48).
Another passage says, “Return, and I will heal you” (Jer. 3:12), while another one says, “…anyone who is in Christ is a new creature, the old things are gone. All things are new.”
We need to accept God’s forgiveness and move into the future instead of staying in guilt and fear of failure. These feelings are from the enemy, because the enemy does not want to see us walking side by side with God. Remember during times of affliction, the only thing standing between you and God is you. Pray that you always come back to God no matter the situation.
Third, God will always do more than we ask. Yes, they did deserve to be exactly where they were, but as soon as they called out, God answered. But more than that “He sent His word and healed them” (vs. 20). They only asked to be delivered, not to be healed. God doesn’t do a halfway job, so He went ahead and healed them too. Psalms says, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” The Bible is full of promises from God that He will do more than we can expect, or even think to hope for. Remember, when you are in afflicted times to pray God’s promises of blessings and forgiveness into your situation, and be prepared for God to work on your behalf.
Fourth, God wants us to be grateful. This section of Psalm 107 ends with telling us to be grateful for God’s goodness, for His works on our behalf, and that we should declare His working with rejoicing. There is nothing like seeing a miracle happen, and then going on your merry way as if the Living God did not just intervene in your life. Stop to say thanks; talk about God’s kindness. If I am running late to work, and whining about it to God, then I “somehow” catch every green light, shouldn’t I acknowledge that God worked it for me?
There are Psalms that only talk about being grateful, and both Isaiah and Jeremiah state that thankfulness will increase God’s activity in our lives. Remember when you pray—no matter the circumstance—that your attitude and life is following the command that says “…in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
As you travel through seasons of afflicted times, I pray that you find God close by your side and that your faith grows through this time.
Read other posts in this series