“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)
One of the great explanations for why God allows suffering is recorded in this verse: to “learn Your statutes.” There may be no better school than the school of affliction. The psalmist’s affliction was beneficial, and he knows that because the Word has taught him so.
Affliction is a schoolmaster.
Consider these words from one of Job’s companions who came speaking to him to explain his suffering – “Elihu also proceeded and said: ‘Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf. I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you. Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not preserve the life of the wicked, but gives justice to the oppressed. He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; but they are on the throne with kings, for He has seated them forever, and they are exalted. And if they are bound in fetters, held in the cords of affliction, then He tells them their work and their transgressions – that they have acted defiantly. He also opens their ear to instruction, and commands that they turn from iniquity” (Job 38:1-10).
When people suffer, their attention is seized. God has their notice.
Albert Barnes echoes the psalmist’s wisdom here when he wrote, “Whatever leads a sinner to secure the salvation of the soul is a gain to him. No matter what is may cost; no matter what he may be required to give up; no matter to what persecutions and troubles it may expose him; no matter what he may suffer, or how long he may suffer; no matter through poverty, contempt, toil – even the rack or the stake – may be the consequence of his religion, – yet it is a gain to him; and he will be thankful for it to the end, – for nothing that can be endured in this life can be compared with the sufferings of the world of despair; nothing on earth can be ‘compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us to heaven.” (Barnes Notes, pg. 199)
The psalmist knows the benefit of troubles. He knows they are instructive.