Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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How Can It Be So Good When It Feels So Bad

By on April 19, 2016

I often take the opportunity to repeat our family purpose statement that Jeannie and I forged together over three decades ago. Now that she is in heaven, and with the Lord, I still find that statement as true and applicable as ever. Our purpose is to be living illustrations of the faithfulness of God to any person who will take Him at His word.

Of course, that presents a challenge when going through life experiences that are particularly raw. In those times I am reminded of the psalmist’s conclusion: It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes” (Ps 119:71). But how can bad be good?

Each of us experiences hard times in life. Of course, none of us wants to be numbered among the “sick and afflicted” for whom we often pray. Yet afflictions do inevitably come to the child of God and in many shapes and sizes. It is none other than our Lord Himself who calls to mind that as long as you are “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Thus the psalmist remembers a time when he “was afflicted.” Can you? Are you?

Not everyone responds to hard times in the same manner. You are well aware of the options.  We can cut and run, constantly complain, then simply quit. Or, like the psalmist, we can attempt to see hardships from God’s point of view. With the latter approach we gain something of enduring value from our walk through the valley. “It is (now) good for me that I was (earlier) afflicted.”

Approached correctly our hard times can be the means by which we enter into deeper intimacy with God. “That affliction was good for me,” the psalmist seems to be saying, “because in it I learned the very principles by which the Lord operates. This enables me to continue walking forward by faith, aggressively cooperating with my Lord.”

I was looking over the list of my mentors and discovered that each had his times of affliction. Painful loss, terminal disease, inexplicable and undeserved rejection, personal failure and accompanying discipline, consuming sorrow…each could testify to the reality of what the psalmist calls “affliction.” But in every instance that “affliction” became the wheel upon which a greater faith was forged. Thus each man had something in his life that I desperately wanted in my life as well.

It is an uncomfortable equation as I am learning through my own experience. Something “ bad” equals something “good.”

But it’s a lesson this pilgrim finds worth discovering.

Rejoice evermore!
Tom Elliff
2 Tim 1:12