Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sister Wisdom and the Value of Affliction

            One observation I have consistently come back to, whether regarding myself or other people, is that human beings tend to withdraw from affliction or hardship. Addictions to all kinds of substances or to physical stimuli or aspects of human relations can be explained (at least partially) by this fact of human behavior. We have a fundamental choice to make in life: Grow up by facing afflictions or remain immature and avoid being honest, open and willing to face the truth about ourselves our actual life circumstances.  
In 12-Step recovery groups it is taught that one must come out of denial about one’s behavior, attitudes and actual life circumstance. “We admitted we were powerless over [fill in the blank], that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Step 1) And further, anyone in recovery (who has worked through the 12-step model), will affirm that to find healing from the damage one has done to oneself requires the embrace of affliction and difficulty as one’s friend.
                I recently came across this quote: “Experience is a hard teacher. It gives you the test first and you learn the lesson later.” (source unknown) This rings true for me and many others I know. But how long it takes us to begin to be open to learning the lessons which our experiences in life can teach us? What does it take for us to awaken to the necessity of turning to the Living God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, for knowledge? What keeps us from learning God’s wisdom and thus benefiting from our experience in this life? Is it not our own stubbornness? Is it not the love of folly?
                Sister Wisdom, that most beautiful and noble creation of God, says to human beings: “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered.” (Proverbs 1:24-25, NLT)
And again, “You simple people, use good judgment. You foolish people, show some understanding. Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and detest every kind of deception. My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge.” (Proverbs 8:5-10)
When that terrible Day comes and all people will have to give an account for what they did with the lives God gave them to live on earth, I am convinced that Sister Wisdom will be there testifying both for and against each one. For she has always been present from the beginnings of the created order (Proverbs 8:22-31) and has persistently testified to human beings regarding God’s truth (Proverbs 1:20-21; 8:1-4).
Our experiences in life, whatever they are, can be of use to us if we are willing to turn to God in true repentance and faith. To the person who is willing to do this the ability to learn from Sister Wisdom is granted. Then our experiences, even the most traumatic and painful affliction, can become invaluable sources of instruction for our souls.
The truth of that is the basis for Paul’s confidently assertion: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Read that statement carefully! Is not this the path which Sister Wisdom instructs us to take? For to engage one’s will, to apply the powers of the mind to listen to the truth and to seek to obey God according to the knowledge one is granted is the path of wisdom. And the mark of the person ardently seeking to learn to be wise is that he or she does not run from difficulties in life. Rather, he or she perceives them as means to be spiritually enlightened, for God the Spirit to reform the inner character and to receive assurance of God’s absolute faithfulness to his promises in the Lord Jesus Christ.
May God grant us repentance so we can be instructed in his ways. May he raise up in this time those who are willing to endure hardship as the Lord’s discipline (see Hebrews 12:1-12) and thus be fully equipped to engage in spiritual warfare in the Kingdom (Ephesians 6:10-20).  

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