Day 24: The Sign of the Afflicted
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Psalm 22:2
Do Not Answer – If you had to boil all of life’s heartaches down to a single characteristic, what would you choose? David provides the Biblical perspective in this Hebrew phrase, lo (not) ‘anah (answer). ‘anah (answer) is the perfect description of the afflicted, because, in Hebrew, the word for “afflicted” is also ‘anah. Yes, that’s right. The phonetics of the two words are the same, although they obviously have quite different meanings. But more than phonetics is involved here, as we shall see.
The Biblical view of life is saturated with God. The Bible is not a book about Man’s relationship with God. It is a book about God’s self-revelation to men. It comes with God’s perspective on every aspect of living. One of the dominant themes of Scripture is God’s total dominion over life. Let that sink in for a moment. According to the Bible, God is fully in charge of everything. Therefore, it follows that if I am afflicted in life, God is somehow, somewhere behind this. God is never dealt out of the hand. When I experience affliction, I am experiencing life without God’s response. The absolute essence of heartache is to live without a word from the Lord. All sorrow, all pain, all tragedy – all of the major and minor heartaches of life – all of them could be resolved with a word from God. And all of them are that much more deeply felt when God is silent.
The central, critical issue of life is really simple – will God speak? Will He speak to me? Life without His word, His personal word to me, is ultimately empty and fruitless. How can I know what I am to do in life’s circumstances if I do not have the insight of the Master? How am I to understand my role in the grand scheme of things if I do not hear His answer? There are many, many trials and tribulations in this world, but none of them cuts as deeply nor wounds as fatally as the silence of God. Affliction is, finally, life without His answer. Do you really want to know affliction? Live with silence.
Human beings have learned to cope with a lot. We are constantly surrounded by our mortality (in spite of the contemporary socially correct effort to hide it). We face crisis after crisis. But without an answer from God, we are like fish with lungs, purposeless and meaningless creatures in a universe of blind chance. The Bible responds to this charge. The universe has meaning because God has purposes and none of His plans can be thwarted. Now the critical question belongs to me – will God speak to me? Can I know what He has in mind for me?
A life without God is a life without purpose.