Q: I wanted to ask if you have any notes on affliction please let me know. Been doing a study and a friend told me that affliction was because of sin and she referred me to read Genesis 1-3 and I wanted to check the word first. I like Paul’s letters, they tell a lot as well as Job.
A: The definition of the word “affliction” will give you a lot of insight as to how it affects our lives and how it is to be used by us and serves as a tool of God. According to the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, in relationship to its generic meaning, affliction means to depress, to browbeat or defile a force. When it comes to a Christian, it means to humble and chasten self. When it comes to God dealing with believers this word is associated with bringing gentleness and humility. However, when it comes to the rebellious, words such as hurt and ravish are linked to the word “affliction.”
It is clear that sin can cause affliction because it creates a depressing atmosphere of defeat, despair, and ultimately separation from God in this life, and if not repented of, the next as well. However, if you look at the curse that came because of sin in Genesis 3:17-19, it is associated with suffering and torment due to the constant toil and struggles that will lead to ruin, destruction, and death. We have the promise of Galatians 3:13 that Christ became a curse for us to bring hope, promise, and life to us in this present age.
With this in mind, let us consider how affliction works in practical ways. Exodus 22:22-24 commands his people to not afflict the widows or fatherless. If a person does and the afflicted cry out, the Lord will kill the offender. It is clear that as believers we must not cause distress or oppress those who need compassion and burdens lifted.
God’s people have a responsibility to afflict their own souls as a means of preparing to provide the Lord with what is acceptable. For example, it was commanded in Leviticus 16:30-31 that on the Day of Atonement the people needed to afflict their soul to ensure a disposition of humility. It tells us in Leviticus 23:29 that if a person failed to afflict his or her soul on the Day of Atonement that the person would be cut off from among the people.
In Ezra 8:21, the priest commanded the people to afflict their soul before seeking God for provision and protection on behalf of their children. In James 4:9-10, believers are given this instruction about affliction in reference to repentance, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 5:10 also instructs believers to consider the examples of suffering affliction and patience of the prophets and to consider yourself happy if you endure like Job.
Psalm 22:23-24 tells us that the Lord does not despise those who fear Him and are afflicted. It tells us if they cry out to Him He will hear them.
The Psalmist in Psalm 25 cries out for mercy in his desolation and affliction. He asks the Lord to bring him out of his affliction and pain, and if there is any sin, to forgive him. He ends with this plea, “O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles” (Psalm 25:20-22).
Psalm 34:19 gives us this insight, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” Hebrews 11:25 tells us that Moses would rather suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to partake of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God (2 Timothy 1:8)
Finally, we are reminded how God afflicts those who are contrary to Him. In Psalm 55:19 we are told God will not hear their prayers and will afflict them even when they are old because they have not changed their ways nor do they fear Him.
It is clear that afflictions are not always related to sin. For Christians it is a type of personal discipline of the soul, and God uses it as a type of enlargement of our character and preparation of the spirit. Afflictions for those who are contrary are usually consequences of a life void of God’s presence and life.
I hope this answers your questions about this subject.