It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
Psalm 119:71 ESV
The psalmist here draws together and makes explicit what the first four verses of this stanza implied. Recall that he began by rejoicing that the LORD has dealt well with him in accordance with His Word. He then essentially prayed for further good dealings by petitioning the LORD to teach him good judgment and knowledge. In verse 67, the psalmist revealed the uncomfortable means by which God often taught him to keep His Word: affliction. Lest we should think God unjust to afflict His people, the psalmist affirms the goodness of God’s nature and actions in verse 68. Now the psalmist puts those ideas together and states: It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
Difficult as this verse might be to say, all of God’s people ought to be able to utter it of themselves with lowly heads and in hushed whispers. In love, fathers discipline their children. The rod of correction is a painful yet ultimately brief warning about the consequences of sin. Parental discipline of a child is a repeated deterrent against the far greater effects that their disobedience will have whenever they become an adult. Addictions, car wrecks, abusive relations, or simply becoming an unlikeable person may all stem from behaviors that were not corrected as a child. This is why Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Maturity only comes through discipline.
As both Proverbs 3 and Hebrews 12 note, God is a loving Father to His people, which means that He is diligent to discipline. By His providential hand, affliction is very often His means of discipline. Of course, we should also note that discipline does mean punishment. Discipline may certainly correction, but it may also simply a catalyst for further growth and mature. We should not be obsessed with hunting for a particular sin behind each affliction in our lives; rather, we should consider that according to God’s monumental grace each affliction can become a means of seeing more of God’s goodness.
Affliction, of course, is never pleasant, but when we train ourselves to see how it conforms us to His Word through our affliction, we will be able to say with the psalmist that it was good for me that I was afflicted.