Thoughts on Trials and Difficulties
All the afﬂictions which attend the people of God, are such as shall turn to their proﬁt and glorious advantage.
Afﬂictions discover that ﬁlthiness and vileness in sin, which the soul has never yet seen.
Afﬂictions contribute to the mortifying and purging away of their sins. Afﬂictions are God’s furnace, by which he cleanses His people from their dross. Afﬂiction is a ﬁre to purge out our dross, and to make virtue shine.
Afﬂictions are medicines which heal soul diseases. Colds and frosts destroy vermin; so do afﬂictions destroy the corruptions which are in our hearts. The Jews, under all the prophet’s thunderings, retained their idols; but after their Babylonish captivity, there have been no idols found among them.
Afﬂictions are sweet preservatives to keep the saints from sin-which is a greater evil than hell itself.
Afﬂictions assist to make us more fruitful in holiness. ‘But He afﬂicts us for our proﬁt, that we might be partakers of his holiness.’ The ﬂowers smell sweetest after a shower; vines bear the better fruit, after pruning. Saints spring and thrive most internally when they are most externally afﬂicted. Afﬂictions are called by some ‘the mother of virtue.’ Manasseh’s chain was more proﬁtable to him than his crown. Luther could not understand some Scriptures until he was in afﬂiction.
God’s house of correction is his school of instruction. All the stones that hit Stephen’s head, did but knock him closer to Christ, the corner-stone.
Afﬂictions lift up the soul to more rich, clear, and full enjoyments of God. God makes afﬂictions to be but inlets to the soul’s more sweet and full enjoyment of His blessed self. Christians, by their afﬂictions, gain more experience of the power of God supporting them, of the wisdom of God directing them, of the grace of God refreshing and cheering them, and of the goodness of God quieting and quickening of them to a greater love to holiness, and to a greater delight in holiness, and to a more vehement pursuing after holiness.
Afﬂictions keep the hearts of the saints humble and tender. Prosperity does not contribute more to the pufﬁng up the soul, than adversity does to the bowing down of the soul. This the saints by experience ﬁnd; and therefore they can kiss and embrace the cross, as others do the world’s crown. The more the purest spices are beaten and bruised-the sweeter scent and fragrance they send abroad. So do saints when they are afﬂicted.
Afﬂictions bring the saints nearer to God, and to make them more importunate and earnest in prayer with God.
Afﬂictions revive and recover decayed graces; they inﬂame that love which is cold, and they quicken that faith which is decaying, and they put life into those hopes which are withering, and spirits into those joys and comforts which are languishing. Most men are like a top, which will not go unless you whip it, and the more you whip it the better it goes. You know how to apply it.
Those who are in adversity do better understand Scriptures. The more saints are beaten with the hammer of afﬂictions, the more they are made the trumpets of God’s praises, and the more are their graces revived and quickened. Adversity abases the loveliness of the world which strives to entice us; it abates the lustiness of the ﬂesh within, which strives to incite us to folly and vanity.
The afﬂictions which attend the saints in the ways of holiness, are but short and momentary. ‘Sorrow may abide for a night-but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5). This short storm will end in an everlasting calm; this short night will end in a glorious day, that shall never have end. It is but a very short time between grace and glory; between our title to the crown and our wearing the crown; between our right to the heavenly inheritance and our possession of the heavenly inheritance. What is our life but a shadow, a bubble, a ﬂower, a runner, a span, a dream?
It will be but as a day before God will give his afﬂicted ones beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness; before he will turn all your sighing into singing, all your lamentations into consolations, your sackcloth into silks, ashes into ointments, and your fasts into everlasting feasts!
There are none of God’s afﬂicted ones, who have not their intermissions and respites while under their short and momentary afﬂictions. When God’s hand is on your back, let your hand be on your mouth, for though the afﬂiction be sharp, it shall be but short.
It is mercy that our afﬂiction is not execution-but a correction. He who has deserved hanging, may be glad if he escapes with a whipping.
God’s corrections are our instructions,
His lashes are our lessons,
His scourges are our schoolmasters,
His chastisements are our admonitions.