Have you ever felt the extreme barrenness of affliction?  The afflictions of life come in many different forms and circumstances – some of our own making, some permitted to come to us through the “grid of God”.  Whatever befalls us, when we draw close to God in it, He will use the affliction in the trial of our faith (1 Peter 1:7), to teach us something from the experience and use it as preparation in us, to bear to His glory.  No trial is joyous in suffering, but when we arrive at the end of our human strength and resources, Christ in us, can appear.  When we come to the end of ourselves, the living Christ can shine forth and we discover the reality of Christ in you, the hope of glory.  The following account bears testimony to this truth:

Avril’s daughter was in the intensive care unit in hospital with acute meningitus.  The consultant took Avril to one side and warned her that the infection could go either way in the next few hours, and her daughter may die.  Avril was devastated by the information and suffered a physical and spiritual trauma with the turn of events.  She recalls that she experienced a total barrenness spiritually that she had never felt before.  The Lord had hidden from Avril’s husband the seriousness of the dire situation.  He was not there to support or comfort her.  She felt completely alone, unable to even “feel”, or be aware, of God’s presence.   She could not pray, she could not read her Bible, in her weakness she was unable even to intercede in faith for her daughter.  All her own strength had failed, she had nothing to offer, but in that place of profound barrenness she cried, “But Lord, will you spare her?”  In that moment Avril experienced something she had never known before:  Christ in her came forth and interceded for her daughter.  She opened her Bible and read an obscure Psalm over her daughter.  Although her faith had failed, the faith OF the Son of God was in operation, through Avril, and was praying for her daughter.  A creative miracle came forth from God and Avril’s daughter’s life was spared.

On reflection, Avril learnt the reality of Christ in you, the hope of glory!  She had previously reckoned that in such circumstances, she would have fervently interceded for her beloved daughter.  The Lord taught her that it is truly only the resurrected life of Christ that can do that through us.  Of ourselves, we are profoundly barren, but here we learn that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”,  (Philippians 4:13).  Here we learn the source of the strength is in Christ alone and the truth of the words of the song:

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure, His power no boundaries known unto men,

When we come to the end of our hoarded resources, He giveth, and giveth and giveth again”.

(He giveth more grace    Annie J. Flint)

Isaiah 40:3 exhorts us to prepare the way of the Lord.  If we can meet God in the depths of our suffering and afflictions without blaming Him for the trial, there is less danger of falling when God exalts us in the hour of blessing.  When God permits me to go down into the valley of adverse circumstances and affliction, if I judge Him of leaving me, then in the exact same measure in the hour of blessing up the mountain,  I will leave God!  The divine law of sowing and reaping!

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.  Every day of our lives we experience the preparation of God working with us to bear all things, all circumstances, for His glory.  The Psalmist declared, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray…” Psalm 119:67.  Verse 71 continues, “It  is good that I have bee afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes”…….God can use affliction to teach us His ways.   Verse 75 “I know, O Lord, that your judgements are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me”.

Our heavenly Father can replace the numbness we experience in the fire of affliction, with a deep assurance and confidence in His faithfulness that He will bring us through.  He never changes, our circumstances do, but He is ever present with us, even when we cannot feel Him.  In Job’s fiery trial he declared, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord”,  Job 1:21.  The apostle Paul was brought by God to the place where he could declare: “…..for I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know how to be abased and I know how to abound….  (Philippians 4: 11-12).

These men did not suddenly arrive at these positions.  God had to work it in them through their daily circumstances.  This is the School of the Spirit,  where all our revelations become a reality to us.  It is heart preparation, where our hearts are purified as we see God in all things.  “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”, Matthew 5:8.

How many people are walking around as prisoners to their heart’s wrong attitude?  Selah.

Our experiences are where we learn the profound depth of God’s ways, and greater still, the profound depths of His love.  Here we learn to let go, abandon ourselves to Him, bow and trust until it becomes our lifestyle in all circumstances.