Away with self-centered suffering!

Isaiah 48:9-11 (ESV)

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
      for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
      that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
      I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
      for how should my name be profaned?
      My glory I will not give to another.

When experiencing affliction there are times we encourage ourselves to endure because we know that God is using the hardship to help and refine us as His people. It somehow helps the pressure to be endured more easily when we know the outcome of what we are suffering will cause us to be stronger and better as faithful followers of Jesus. We tend to be more resilient and more positive about our circumstances when we believe there is a benefit for us as an end product. There are certainly many passages in the Bible that reinforce this perspective.

However, the passage in Isaiah 48:1-11 gives us another significant perspective. God foretells the coming judgment of His people so that when the landscape of life changes and oppression and then deliverance occurs, God’s hand can’t be ignored and His activity credited to another.

Sometimes the duration and the intensity of affliction is reduced, not because His people deserve to be spared or treated more kindly, but because God wants to show Himself to be glorious through the forbearance He shows His sin-stained children. For the sake of His own praise, God chooses to restrain His just and righteous anger so that sinful people are not annihilated. There are times the purging fires of suffering are limited because His people will not survive the completed fires of refinement.

Why are such limitations to affliction put in place? Is it always or usually because His people are so precious He cannot bear to see people suffering? No. The intensity of God’s refining fire subsides because God wants people to see that all that is taking place is more about His character than it is about the character of His people. God chooses to ease up, not because of His cherished people, but because He wants to put the glory of His kindness and patience on display. When affliction subsides, God is making much of His glory and grace, not much of His people.
Humbling as it may be, we are the means to God’s end. God’s end is to put His glorious character on display for all to see. The glory is God’s alone. There is glory in no other.

Next time the heat is on, may God help us to realize He is at work in our affliction and our deliverance for the glory of His name. This could help us to make our trials less about us and more about Him. Away with self-centered suffering. Let the Lord’s glorious Name be praised!

-Pastor Mark Landess