Forest of Affliction


2 Samuel 18:8 The battle spread over the entire region, and that day the forest claimed more people than the sword.

(The tide has turned. Absalom has taken the advice of David’s spy, Hushai, and David has trapped Absalom’s army in a forest that becomes more of a detriment to them than the weaponry of David’s men.)

Over the years, I’ve seen many addicts fall from their pinnacle of sobriety to a valley of despair. Full of self-loathing, they wander off onto the streets again fully understanding they’ve returned to that place of bondage volitionally but in disbelief none the less.  Over those years, I’ve also had opportunity to question a few of those folks, “What happened? How did you fall?” Most shake their bowed heads in shame as they recall the trial or difficulty that led them to drink again or take up the needle. And usually, that trial or difficulty is no stranger.  The pressure or situation that triggers that person’s relapse is usually one with which he or she is very familiar.

We all go through tribulation. Jesus was clear about that. There is no option and it should be no surprise. Really, the only option is how we deal with it. The Bible is clear that we should rejoice in our affliction. But how? Remember that perseverance through tribulation or affliction produces character and character, hope (Rom 5:3-4). When you persevere through the tribulation and find your way out of the forest of affliction, then the next time you find yourself there, rather than flailing, failing and falling, you rejoice because you have hope of victory.

David had been in that forest more than once.  Pursued by King Saul and the Israelite army, David had taken refuge in the wilderness of Ziph and the forest of Hareth. It may have been the greatest tribulation of David’s life, yet he persevered. He became familiar with the forest, literally in Hebrew, “a dense tangled wood.” He became familiar with it, no longer afraid in it, and one might surmise he understood it.

And in this chapter and verse, it becomes the place of victory for him.

Oh! That our own forests of affliction would be places of victory for us! That when we come into the hardship, the pressure, the tension, we don’t succumb to it, but persevere through it knowing we, too, can become familiar with it, no longer afraid in it and in fact, can use it.

David did. It was in the forest, a place where his enemy had once driven him in affliction, that he now defeats his enemy. “..that day, the forest claimed more people than the sword.”

May God help us to rejoice in the midst of difficulty and not for a moment entertain the notion that it be the place of our defeat, but instead that it be our enemy who falls in that forest of affliction.

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