Jesus said: “In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Lord is warning that no one is spared from the afflictions of this world: The one who sees a sick son, looses a job and lacks bread, or owes and cannot pay his debt goes through a lot of affliction. To the one who is betrayed by a friend or brother whom he loves, the affliction is unbearable. There is, nevertheless, a different kind of affliction: it is the affliction that a Christian suffers for his love for Jesus. Paul said to Timothy, his son in the faith and teammate in the ministry: “You therefore must endure hardship, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). In the letter to the Hebrews, we read: “Others were tried by mocking and scourging, yes, moreover by bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, and the holes of the earth” (Heb. 11:36-38). Paul declares that his suffering was such that he despaired of his life (2 Cor. 1:8).
Well, in the Old Testament, who was the author of the afflictions of the faithful? Many will immediately think that it was the wicked Satan, the demon. Let us look at this: Who afflicted the people of Israel? The people of Israel walked in total darkness (Is. 9:2). The psalmist sang: “Let them praise Yahweh for his loving kindness, for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfies the longing soul. He fills the hungry soul with good. Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron, because they rebelled against the words of God, and condemned the counsel of the Most High” (Ps. 107:8-11). It is strange that the kind Jehovah would put his people into darkness, afflictions, and shadows of death because of sin. He fills the hungry soul with good, and then brings them into darkness and the shadows of death, bound in affliction and iron? Can, from the same fountain, blessing and curse come? (James 3:10-11). This becomes clearer when Jehovah promises to take his people from under the yoke and the affliction of Egypt to take them to a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey (James 3:10-11). The people, who were slaves for 120 years, forced to practice idolatry and prostitution, do not correspond, and die in the desert under the rod, thirst and hunger, as punishment. In the days of Isaiah, Jehovah spoke, saying: “‘His rock will pass away by reason of terror, and his princes will be afraid of the banner,’ says Jehovah, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem” (Is 31:9). And Jehovah goes on: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction” (Is. 48:10). We are certain of one thing: The author of Israel’s afflictions was always Jehovah.
David’s heart was after Jehovah (Acts 13:22). He was, for this reason, very dear to Jehovah (Ps. 4:3). Then Jehovah chose him to be the messiah, and that with an oath (Ps. 89:3). Very well. David was an afflicted man. Such was his affliction that David would call out in prayer: “My soul is also in great anguish. But you, Jehovah—how long?” (Ps. 6:3). “I am weary with my groaning. Every night I flood my bed. I drench my couch with my tears” (Ps. 6:6). “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me. My heart within me is desolate” (Ps. 143:4). And David prayed incessantly, saying: “Jehovah, remember David and all his affliction” (Ps. 132:1). Jehovah said to Jeroboam, son of Nebat: “I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever” (1 Kings 11:39). After the adultery and the murder, Jehovah said to David: “Now therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Sam. 12:10). “You have struck Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Sam. 12:9). And Jehovah pronounces the cruel sentence that he would afflict David’s heart: “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun” (2 Sam. 12:11). Can you imagine David’s affliction seeing his firstborn Amnon violating his sister Tamar, a delicate and pure virgin? And then Absalom, brother of Tamar, murdering his brother Amnon? Then Absalom promotes a rebellion and marches against the palace of his father with an army of insurgents. David, who flees to avoid killing his son, leaves ten women back home. Absalom makes a tent in the terrace of the royal house, and lays with the ten wives of David in broad daylight, before the astonished people. Can you imagine David’s affliction? Where did this entire affliction come from? From Jehovah (2 Sam. 12:11-12). Finally Joab, the captain of David’s army, kills Absalom.
Jehovah testified to Job, a sincere and righteous man, who feared god and avoided evil (Job 1:6-8). For Jehovah, tempted by Satan, gave Job to suffer in his diabolical hands. He killed his seven sons and three daughters, and destroyed everything Job had: crops, flocks and buildings. Job, then, says: “Terrors have turned on me. They chase my honor as the wind. My welfare has passed away as a cloud. Now my soul is poured out within me. Days of affliction have taken hold on me” (Job 30:15-16). And Job declares: “Have pity on me, have pity on me, you my friends; for the hand of God has touched me” (Job 19:21). Who afflicted the peoples who did not even know him? Jehovah himself did, for the psalmist said: “You drove out the nations with your hand, but you planted them. You afflicted the peoples, but you spread them abroad” (Ps. 44:2).
In the New Testament the name of Jehovah disappears, and Satan comes into play as the one who causes afflictions to the Christians. Christ warned the disciples that they would suffer afflictions in the world (John 16:33). And the apostle Peter reveals that Satan is responsible for these afflictions. Let us read the text: “Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
Amazing! Is the role that Jehovah had in the Old Testament now the role of Satan, in the New Testament? And is Jehovah occupying the place of the Father of mercies (2 Cor. 1:3)? If they are the same God, then he changes like a chameleon. They are not the same person, though! And the Holy Spirit sent by the Father through Jesus Christ is the comforter in afflictions and tribulations (John 14:26). “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (2 Thess. 2:16).
It is easy to understand that Satan may make us go through afflictions, and that, if Jehovah makes us go through afflictions, too, they are similar to each other, for two things that are equal to a third one, are equal between them. And God the Father, who is love (1 John 4:8), God the Son, who is love (John 15:13), and the Holy Spirit, who is love, the three of them, which are one in love, comfort those who go through afflictions, and are never the cause of any affliction (Rom. 5:5).
“For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body” (Col. 3:15). “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways” (2 Thess. 3:16).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira