Believers often find themselves up against it. The challenge might be medical, familial, financial, educational, or personal. We tend to think in terms of pressure or stress, and when it gets really bad, trouble. The old Puritans thought in terms of affliction, as well as in terms of God’s antidote to affliction, which is contentment. Samuel Rutherford once said that affliction was like a wine cellar. When I am afflicted, he said, I look for God’s choicest wines.
Contentment is not something that is suspended in a timeless place, but is rather what God is teaching us while we wait for our deliverance. And we are supposed to be looking for that deliverance in such a way as gives us rest in the present. There is a faithless way of looking for deliverance that exacerbates the present troubles, and there is a way of looking for future deliverance that brings a present deliverance. We are called to the latter.
There are two things to remember as you are carrying the weight of an affliction. The first is the “space” of the deliverance, and the other is the “time” of the deliverance. Let us consider the second of these first.
It was a proverb among the descendants of Abraham that “on the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” This came from God’s provision of a ram for Abraham at the last minute, to be substituted for Isaac. As He tells the stories of our lives, we need to come to grips with the fact that God loves cliffhangers. The application that we should draw from this is that we should love cliffhangers too — even though we are the ones hanging from the cliff.
With regard to the “space” of the trial, a weighty difficulty has mass, it takes up room. It is something you have to carry. But as you carry it (to be distinguished from collapsing under it), you grow stronger. Afflictions are God’s weight room, and He can seem sometimes like a particularly hard trainer. When you are benching more than you thought you volunteered for, and way more than what you thought was a good idea, you need to trust Him. He knows more about this than we do.
It may seem odd to quote an unbeliever at this point, but I only do so to provide an analogy. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that when a mind expands to accommodate a new thought, it can never afterward resume its old shape. Once you have carried that weight, you have carried that weight and can do so again — with a lot less commotion in your soul this next time. When your faith has grown to accommodate the task of carrying the weight of your 2010 trials, you should find yourself (in 2014) carrying things that you would have at one time declared an impossibility.
The deliverance is coming, and we should all long for it. But there are two deliverances — one is the natural “last chapter” to that particular story. But the other deliverance revolves around what is happening in the story. Frodo was delivered when Gollum bit his finger off, but he was also delivered when he first agreed to take the ring. This last deliverance is much harder to see, but seeing it makes all the difference.