When the believer suffers affliction, the Holy Spirit places within him a certain yearning. For relief, indeed. But properly understood and experienced, the sort of craving relief from affliction imparted by God is of wholly different nature from man’s regular self-preservation instinct.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
The yearning is not to be rid of all spiritual discipline or sense of obedience to God, even if the suffering came from an act of obedience. The old, dead, unregenerate man would indeed have it this way, but not the new man in Christ. The new creation knows that if only he were in full and proper relationship with God, if only he fully obeyed Him, and if only his longing for heaven was satiated, the affliction would be ultimately be healed. The thirst is for greater communion with God, not lesser.
This is the kind of thinking that God can use. Only when we recognize the true source of our affliction—the world, not the kingdom of God—can we seek the cure—the kingdom of God, not the world. Having “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4b), the man led by the Spirit of God doesn’t desire to return to those things which caused the corruption, but to further distance himself from that corruption. It is in the new clothing of the resurrection body that we will be enabled to truly tasted of the eternal joys of God. We will see Him without being blinded, we will know His heart without having a heart attack, and we will know His mind without entering into a coma. By contrast, the man without Christ also seeks relief, but the relief he seeks is the senseless relief of being unclothed—being made further from God, not closer to Him.
The solution to our affliction cannot fully be realized now, but knowing its source renews our minds. God is not the source of our suffering, though He is sovereign over it, working in it, and using it to awaken a deeper kind of joy in Him than we might otherwise have. The hope of being “further clothed” must inspire us to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7), trusting in the Spirit as the deposit on our heavenly inheritance (v. 5). If we fail to seek God amidst affliction, we have neglected the blessing availed to us through suffering. Our imperative moving forward is to please Him, having found all our satisfaction in Him (v. 9).
We all want relief. Is the relief you crave a relief from God, or the relief of God?
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