Your hands have made me
and fashioned me;
Give me understanding,
that I may learn Your commandments.
Those who fear You will be glad
when they see me,
Because I have hoped in Your word.
I know, O LORD,
that Your judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness
You have afflicted me.
Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness
be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.
Let Your tender mercies come to me,
that I may live;
For Your law is my delight.
Let the proud be ashamed,
For they treated me wrongfully
But I will meditate on Your precepts.
Let those who fear You turn to me,
Those who know Your testimonies.
Let my heart be blameless
regarding Your statutes,
That I may not be ashamed.
Have you ever considered the purpose for suffering? Not suffering in the abstract or the human condition in general but the purpose of your own personal experience? Many of us have asked “why?” when some tragedy or trial has come our way, but have we really pursued God’s answer to that question? In the next stanza of Psalm 119, the Psalmist offers a divine perspective: the purpose of your personal suffering may be to serve as an example to others of God’s mercy and grace.
God is the source of our life, wisdom, and knowledge, and just as we recognize His authority over us by virtue of His creative power, we ought to recognize His immeasurable sovereignty and wisdom as we face the difficulties of life. In these verses, the Psalmist offers himself as an illustration of the purpose of suffering in the life of a true follower of God. His response is marked by trust in God’s word and humility before God, and he acknowledges that his actions serve as an example to other believers, causing them to rejoice, having their own faith strengthened by his determination to trust rather than question God’s word. While man everywhere angrily accuse God of injustice because they believe themselves innocent and undeserving of such affliction, the believer recognizes that he deserves far worse than the temporary suffering of this life. And so, with eyes of humility and faith, he is able to recognize God’s righteousness in the midst of his trial.
But life is not reduced to fatalistically enduring suffering we deserve, because more than God’s justice is on display in the believer’s trials. His chesed, or “faithful love” has been promised to us as a source of comfort. His compassion gives life, even as His word renews our desires. Accusations of false piety become nothing more than slander, because God’s word produces consistent obedience and personal holiness. This faithfulness to God’s word brings closer fellowship with others who desire to obey and follow God, and a blameless outward testimony is accompanied by the confidence of an honest and pure conscience. When we endure pain and suffering, whether as the result of God’s judgment or the cost of living in a sin-cursed world, we have the opportunity to trust more deeply in God’s word, see ourselves from His perspective, draw on His resources, and encourage others to understand the divine purpose for the suffering of God’s children.