Why Are the Afflictions of the Righteous Many?

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

The most righteous person to walk the earth endured an astronomical amount of affliction. Christ endured severe pain. Jesus wept. He was betrayed, beaten, mocked, and tortured as He faithfully walked out the will of the Father by dying on the cross. Sacrificially, once for all, God’s only Son made a way for us to escape the deathly consequences of sin in this world. There is no greater love. Everyone in Christ becomes an adopted member of the family of God. If God’s Son suffered affliction, Christ-followers can expect nothing less. Though joy, blessing, and peace are very much a part of our everyday lives in Christ, affliction is ever-present and palpable.

What Does 'Many Are the Afflictions of the Righteous' Mean?

It means there is hope even in suffering. Affliction is “a state of pain, distress, grief or misery; a cause of mental or bodily pain, as sickness, loss, calamity, or persecution.” David was familiar with trying times and difficult circumstances. King Saul wanted him killed, and David had just escaped death as the Philistines chased after him. The heading of Psalm 34 says David was pretending to be insane before Abimelek. He did run David off, and he hid in a cave as he penned this Psalm. “Although both the righteous and the wicked have troubles, the outcome of their circumstances is different because of their different relationships with the Lord,” Moody Bible Commentary explains, “God knows and sees everything, and is concerned for the good of those who love Him.” The same man God choose to be king, ran for his life. David, who defeated Goliath, experienced the pain and injustice of the world, too.

We weren’t promised it would be easy to follow Jesus; we were promised life in eternity with Him. Jesus suffered affliction on earth. He knowingly accepted the walk to the cross and everything that came with it, but on the way, He cried in the garden to His Father in heaven over it. “Jesus is our model for understanding suffering and righteousness,” Penny Noyes, explains, “God often allows believers to suffer so that they become more like Jesus in their character and so that they can connect to others in their suffering.” In our weakest moments, when our anguish and affliction is too much to bear, Jesus meets us in our suffering on a personal level. God is faithful to deliver us, sometimes carrying us through each storm, valley, depression, addiction, and dark season. “Describing believers as the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit does not indicate depression/despair in this context, but rather it is intended to describe their ongoing attitude of repentance and humility before God” (Moody).

We have a very real enemy, who the Bible reminds us aims to “kill, steal, and destroy.” But Jesus defeated death, once for all. He came to give us life to the full. (John 10:10) Following Christ puts a target on our backs, and the enemy will try to trip us up. It’s not easy, but life isn’t a downer following Jesus. The joy and peace we have in Him sustain us through every trial, supernaturally. Faith isn’t a false sense of being okay when we’re not, but a faithful trust in who God is and whose we are through all of the hard things.

Why Are the Righteous Afflicted If God Is Going to Deliver Them Out of It?

“These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones would be broken.’” John 19:36

Jesus did not suffer one broken bone when he was crucified, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy. In Psalm 34, he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken conveys God’s complete and total protection of the righteous. He supernaturally intervened the day Christ was crucified, as the other two men who died alongside Him had their legs broken. But not Jesus. God supernaturally intervenes on account of the righteous, His children, if not on this earth than fully restored for eternity.

The Old Testament explains that often affliction was an outward sign of sin, but David’s experience with Saul shows even the righteous can experience affliction at the hands of someone else’s sin. Sin permeates the world, and so therefore does injustice, pain, heartbreak, sadness, sickness, and death. Jesus came into the world and sacrificed His life once for all to replace the penalty of death for sin with forgiveness, mercy, grace …salvation. He saved us. But it’s our choice to believe in Jesus and follow Him. It’s our decision to accept the free gift of salvation in Christ. Even when we follow Christ faithfully, our own sin and the sins of others butts up against our lives, and wreaks all kinds of havoc. “God often allows believers to suffer so that they become more like Jesus in their character,” Penny Noyes writes, “and so that they can connect to others in their suffering.”

What Else Should We Know about Psalm 34 and the Writer?

Verses 11-22 of Psalm 34 were written by David to teach children. “Though a man of war, and anointed to be king, he did not think it below him; though now he had his head so full of cares and his hands of business, yet he could find heart and time to give good counsel to young people, from his own experience.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) A true sign of our faith is our ability to look beyond our own circumstances, not only in search of God’s will for our lives but for those He’s placed in our lives to help as His loving arms. “Come, my children, listen to me;” the Psalm reads, “ I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” 

David took the opportunity to leave a legacy of wisdom for the next generation, testifying to God’s goodness. Often David’s gratefulness in the Psalms turned the countenance of his heart and the tone of the psalm from a cry for despair to a praise and worship session of how amazing God is. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies,” David wrote, “turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (vv13-14). As a mother and youth ministry volunteer, I recognize the plea in David’s tone to turn from the world and its ways and toward God and the commands He has set in place as guardrails on our souls. We want the very best for them! Any and all wisdom we can share we pour into the young people in our lives.

The way David describes God to the youth of his nation reflects the personal relationship he had with Him: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (vv17-18). We prepare our children by speaking wisdom to them because we know how hard life can be and how good and faithful our God is through it all. “The Lord is the unfailing deliverer of the righteous-“ the NIV Study Bible explains, “and he holds the wicked accountable for their hostility toward the righteous.”

A Prayer for those Enduring Affliction

Father, The world is harsh, cruel, and full of pain and injustice. Everyday we witness sickness, sadness, heartbreak and death. Flip our hearts and perspective to see Your goodness through it all. We long to see and hear through Your eyes and ears, Father. Remind us, when we are low, You see and hear us. Father, You roll up your sleeves to come and help us. You are not far off and away, but close. In Jesus, we have a friend who endured affliction, and understands and empathizes with us. 

Spirit move in and through us, empowering us in our weakness, to glorify God with every breath on this earth. Today, we lift up all of the people in the world, of whom You know of and are aware, who are suffering affliction. In all walks of life and corners of the globe, we pray healing over them, hope for them, and the love of Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Affliction can be a hard subject to reconcile to our good God, but He isn’t afraid of our questions, or our anger on account of our circumstances or those of others. We are welcome to bring any and all of our afflictions to the feet of our Father in heaven who hears and sees us. His love for us can not be outdone or undone. He is faithful, He is good, and He is close.

Sources:

  • Christianity.com, 'What Does it Mean 'Many Are the Afflictions of the Righteous'?
  • NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
  • The Moody Bible Commentary. Michael Rydelnik, Michael VanLaningham. Moody Publishers, Chicago. 2014.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/tommaso79

meg bucher profile pic bioMeg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.


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