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Greatly Have They Afflicted Me From My Youth, Yet They Have Not Prevailed Against Me

a fiery phoenix..
The mythological Phoenix, rising from the ashes of its predecessor.

Today’s reflection is inspired by one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Psalm 129:2. Psalm 129 is a “Song of Ascents,” which the Hebrews would sing as they made their way uphill to worship in Jerusalem. This verse most immediately applies to the collective history of the Hebrew nation, but underscores a prominent theme throughout the entire Bible–the power to overcome evil characteristic of the righteous. We cannot avoid experiencing evil in this life; it is as much a part of this world as plants, animals, and trees. The takeaway, however, is that when we live a life of faith and integrity, we gain access to divine help that empowers us to overcome it.

Overcoming Evil, Pain, Trauma, And Criticism With The Power Of Faith

Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.

Psalm 129:2

Psalm 129 goes on to elaborate just who “they” are. “They” invariably refers to people with malevolent intentions. People who know the damage their harmful words, actions, judgments, and criticisms will inflict on us, yet they are unabated by it. Or, yet worse, it motivates them, in the manner of an enemy. Some of our afflictions in this life are caused by weather, disease, and human limitations, but I would wager to say that most of them are caused by the evil, subtle and unsubtle, of other human beings.

Some golden verses worth meditating on..

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Proverbs 24:16

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalm 34:19

They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.

Jeremiah 1:19

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

The evil we experience has the power to seed within us, if we do not transform it into something good. The truth is that many addictions, toxic behaviors, and bad habits were birthed from a place of trauma and emotional pain. When we lose hope that things will get better in the long-run, we often turn to destructive, self-gratifying behaviors in the short-run. Even in the absence of these behaviors, people in pain may simply lack the resources to cope with life’s challenges in an empowering manner. For the believer, faith in God’s goodness is an essential element of the “psychology of overcoming.”

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I don’t know what you’ve been through or what your present struggles consist of, but whatever it is, consider making Psalm 129:2 your life’s mantra.

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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