Recently, a friend and I were interviewed on a radio show about the book we’d written on suffering. One of the host’s questions struck me: In the midst of the refiner’s fire, how do we keep from going through the motions? How do we have a sense of the abundance God promises us?
I immediately thought of Psalm 119:50: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” And so I responded, “I have to be in God’s Word every day.”
Eight Reasons to Cling to Scripture in Suffering
Are you suffering right now? Would you say along with the psalmist that you’re afflicted? If your answer is no, this life guarantees that all of us will hurt to some degree before we meet the Lord. If your answer is yes, take heart; you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who’ve known suffering in all its depths...and have endured.
Whether affliction has touched or devastated you, God promises in his Word to be your help, just as he did the psalmist. See in Psalm 119:49-56 eight reasons to cling to Scripture in your suffering:
1. Scripture will give you hope when you feel hopeless.
Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope. (v. 49)
When circumstances seem hopeless, how do we not despair? We open our Bibles and behold God’s salvation plan from Genesis to Revelation. God speaks to us through Scripture so we may know the hope to which he has called us (Ephesians 1:18). And what is this hope?
...the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. (vv. 19-20)
Our circumstances may feel hopeless, but Scripture reminds us we are not. God raised Jesus from the dead, and with that same power, someday he will raise us to glory in his presence!
2. Scripture will right your perspective when trials come.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life. (v. 50)
Suffering shakes us from the delusion that this world is our home. It proves to us that our ultimate comfort can’t be in possessions, plans, or people—because any and all of these can be stripped from us. So when affliction comes, where do we turn for true comfort?
The psalmist prays in his affliction, “I know now that true comfort is found in the eternal reality that my soul is safe because of your salvation. And no affliction can strip that comfort from me.” God’s promise of eternal life gives us right perspective when trials come.
3. Scripture will guard you from the evil that suffering exposes.
The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law. (v. 51)
How do we react to suffering? We resist, grumble, grow bitter, rage in anger, ignore problems, numb the pain. And at the worst, we reject God. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t react to suffering, or that every angle of these responses is sinful; grief, confusion, and lament are biblical, and we should bring even our messiest emotions to God.
But more often than not, suffering exposes sin. Like a hammer chipping away at the rough edges of our hearts, our God uses suffering to rid us of sin and restore in us a softened, submitted spirit to his refining work. Though our flesh, the world, and the enemy “utterly deride” us, to turn us away from God, Scripture guards and shields us with the truth. God leads us to his Son, the only One who kept his law perfectly and covers us in this perfection when we trust him.
4. Scripture will anchor you in eternal realities.
When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord. (v. 52)
From beginning to end, God and His Word stay the same. He doesn’t change, even though our circumstances do. When trials come and people disappoint us and the future looks unclear, we can take comfort in God’s “rules from of old.” What a balm for our souls!
We can choose to open our Bibles every day, to “think of,” or meditate on, God’s Word to us. A sure and steadfast anchor, Scripture grounds us in eternal realities when temporal ones threaten to overwhelm our gaze and shake our confidence. Our comfort in our affliction is that we serve an immovable God, even in impossible circumstances.
5. Scripture will change your affections.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law. (v. 53)
In the thick of affliction, it can feel like suffering is our biggest problem—but in actuality, sin is. Suffering may destroy our bodies, but sin destroys the soul.
One great blessing of suffering, then, is that it points us to the deeper soul-disease we’ve been rescued from by Christ. The more we see the gravity of sin in God’s Word, the more we’ll begin to hate it as God does. He will use Scripture as an instrument to conform and change our affections as we see and love his goodness more and more.
6. Scripture will lead you to praise even in your wandering.
Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning. (v. 54)
To “sojourn” is to be a stranger on the earth, to wander in a place that isn’t truly home. All of us are sojourners, then, because we wait for a better country. At home with Jesus, we will be settled, secure, and satisfied—finally and forever.
Until that day, we sojourn in our earthly tents, facing the elements of this life. But here the psalmist proclaims how he’s able to praise God in such uncertainty: Scripture! God’s Word has been a springboard for worship, his song in suffering. We also need God to tune our hearts to his truth and plans through Scripture, so we too can sing in times of suffering.
7. Scripture will help you endure the darkness.
I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law. (v. 55)
In the dark night of the soul, suffering shakes our faith and causes us to doubt God’s goodness. But Scripture will help us remember what’s true so we can endure.
God’s Word is our lifeline, leading us to truth when trials tempt us to believe lies. And it’s our food and water, when affliction saps us of spiritual strength. “In the night,” run to the Word, remember all God has spoken to you and promised in Jesus, and you will endure the darkness.
8. Scripture will sustain your obedience.
This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts. (v. 56)
Suffering makes obedience hard. When all we want to do is control our circumstances, grow bitter, ignore the pain, turn inward, or despair, God’s Word will help us resist these things to walk in his Spirit. As we fix our eyes on Christ, we will be transformed into his likeness and filled with spiritual strength for obedience and faith—and this is a blessing from God’s hand.
Suffering and Scripture go hand-in-hand. So cling to God’s Word today—seek him in the pages of your Bible—and you will be comforted, even in your affliction, by God’s promise of life in Jesus Christ.