1. a state of great suffering of body or mind
2. deep sadness especially for the loss of someone or something loved2.
There are many synonyms for affliction; struggle can be one, or cross, hurt and anguish. We often find it hard to recognize that affliction is a good thing and if used correctly, holds the secret to a very important aspect of our lives as Children of God.
One of my favorite passages in the bible is Romans 5:3-5. The domino effect of affliction is cast in a positive light, its course streaming along through the darkness to reach the flip side: hope. Along the way to hope we meet endurance and proven character and all three of these- the offspring of affliction- lead us to the realization that God loves us. But how does one get from point A to point B; or rather, from affliction to knowing God's love? Do we just read this passage in Romans and we are then suddenly transferred there by way of a teleport machine? God, I wish it were that easy.
My siblings and I always joke about having a teleport machine. When we're on the phone and talking about a yummy food (as we often are), one of us will say "did you get that teleport machine fixed yet, send that stuff over?!" Or if we wish we could be there to help, hold or hang out with one another, it might be "darn it, how come no one has invented a teleport machine yet??" Small potatoes, I know, compared to moving from affliction to hope. The wait for that yummy morsel of food or a visit with family is probably a lot easier and less treacherous than the path of affliction. There is a reason why teleport machines haven't been invented. And there is a reason why affliction takes the path that it does in order to reach that glorious hope at the end.
Right now, I'm facing great affliction. There is a lot of stuff going on but one main thing that is at the forefront of my mind is, not so surprisingly, something having to do with a family member. I am in agony as I try to figure out exactly what I did wrong. It's like playing a guessing game with a mute. This family member whom I love so dearly isn't speaking to me or my husband; our kids have been in recent situations to clue them- or at least my older daughter- in to the fact that something is not quite right. And honestly, I want to throw a bubble around them and not let them experience any of this ridiculousness and unnecessary hurt because it has nothing to do with them. But, like all things related to sin, there is always damage, maybe a few casualties, and sometimes there is a whole lot of loss of innocence as the real world comes a little too close for comfort and we have no choice but to explain it.
In talking to a very wise person recently about the situation and what to do; I was told to just let it be and continue to pray for this family member. I was also told by someone else that this situation the kids are experiencing isn't going to be that difficult for them and they'll bounce back and move on. I keep trying to restrain my Mama Bear instincts to protect them from any hurt - big or small - because I know that some things are better left alone. They will go through this affliction with us and will realize the truth on their own and it will disappoint them and it might hurt them a little but they will move on to their "new norm," get used to things as they are and if we do this right, we'll teach them to just pray for this person as we have been because that's the only way we can love her right now.
But then there's me. I'm sensitive. I love so much it hurts. I don't want anyone mad at me. If someone is mad at me, I want to know why. I let things bother me much more than is healthy sometimes. I mean, I have my own life to live. I have a family; 4 babies to take care of, a husband to love, a business to run, a writing career to sort out (?)... I don't have the time to be spending on thinking deeply about this, wondering what I can do to fix it (nothing), what I did wrong (again, nothing). Worrying. Crying. Hurting. Afflicted. The wise advice I was given also assured me that the problem is not me and that I have to recognize that because I've done all I can do, including apologize (for something I didn't do), and pray. Apologize and pray. Does that produce endurance or proven character? Or is it both? Where is my hope? When can I see that last part?
I try not to be angry. I go in spurts with that. But for the most part, I am just incredibly sad and hurt. I'm sad to see this codependent behavior take over someone who at one point wanted nothing more than to be the exact opposite of a codependent. I'm sad to realize that everything I've been told by this person over the years has been a big fat lie. I'm sad to know that everything I've ever done in love was taken the wrong way, twisted and spit back in my face long after; rejected after the fact because this person thought it was judgment or an attempt to control. I'm sad to realize this person has never known who I am.
It seems that everything I know about this person's issues with me/us, and the things I can pretty much guess at, aren't even really true and there isn't a just cause for her anger. I can sit and analyze all I want but the truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if I try to set the record straight, as I tried once with one of the issues I knew she had. It didn't matter and it won't still if I continue to try. I was thinking about this the other day as we approached Passion Sunday. Jesus' very crucifixion was based on things people thought about Him that weren't exactly true; some of it was probably based on jealousy, some probably on blindness and pride. Yet He didn't bother to set the record straight or analyze anything. He had a purpose. He knew His purpose and that it needed to be fulfilled. So He let them hurt Him. He let them cause affliction to His body. He let them do it because He knew it would produce hope. He died to bring about that hope.
Of course, my affliction is far less than Christ's and yet, we are connected just the same in the fact that every affliction, no matter how great or how small, takes the same course if we let it. Endurance. Proven Character. Hope. So, I'm running this race that is set before me, dying to myself so that I can love this person and reach that hope at the end, basking in the love of God. I'm crying out to the Lord for strength and even thanksgiving for this affliction. Because I know that it IS producing endurance, proven character, and hope. Not necessarily hope that things will work out with us because maybe they won't. Given that this is Holy Week and I am acutely aware of the meaning and purpose of our Lord's Passion, I cling to Him even more. I hope in Christ, who died for us while we were still sinners, proving God's love for us through His affliction.
"......knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us." ~Romans 5:3-5 NAB
Definition of Affliction produced by Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, Pronunciation by Dictionary.com.