The Beneficent Design of Affliction
By Robert Trench
In the world in which we dwell, trouble and death are no strangers. Few, indeed are the families into which these unwelcome visitors have not found an entrance. However long the beneficent Creator may give them health and prosperity — they are none the less exposed to the calamities which others around them have endured.
Unexpectedly, the clear and cloudless sky, which gave promise of a beautiful day — may soon be overcast, and a storm suddenly burst forth, leaving destruction everywhere in its track! Without any warning, the untimely frost may nip the young bud and the tender blossom — and our expectations of a fruitful autumn may soon be blasted.
Exemption in the past from affliction — is no argument that we shall always be exempted in the future.
The child who romped about the household — whose presence shone like a sunbeam through the dwelling, whose rosy cheek and increasing vigor inspired the hope of a long life — may be quickly snatched away by the crude hand of death!
The light of our eyes may be extinguished by some sudden darkness, and the children may soon miss the tenderness and soothing love of one whom they can never expect to see again on earth.
The anxious father may soon require to commit to the "Husband of the widow, and the Father of the fatherless"--those from whom, in this life, he is about to be separated forever.
By the majority of families, such events do not need to be anticipated. In some form or other, they have already happened. Since, therefore, there is nothing we may more surely expect than "a day of trouble" — it is well for us not to be impatient under our own afflictions, or discontent murmurers when death removes from us the objects of our warmest love!
Trouble and death seize upon us by God's appointment! These are the penalties attached to sin. In His infinite mercy, God seeks to turn them into channels through which spiritual blessings may flow. To His children, they are not inflicted in anger — but in love; and are designed to refine, purify, and prepare His people for the fellowship of the redeemed in Heaven.
In whatever form trials may come, the end the great loving Father has in view is to lead his erring offspring to thoughtfulness, repentance, and reformation. "I smote you with blasting, with mildew, and with hail, in all the labor of your hands; yet you did not turn unto me, says the Lord," Tender — yet solemn, are words like these! "Turn! turn!" is His earnest entreaty, and when treaty fails — He lifts the rod and strikes!
Reader, has your life been spent in sin? Have you been careless in regard to your best interest? Have you been selfish and self-indulgent — caring nothing for the God of love? Have you been living without Christ — a stranger to His brotherly sympathy, and a despiser of His mercy?
Do not wonder, then that God has lifted His rod and smitten you. Do not imagine that He hates you — because He has sent trouble and death into your domestic circle. You are mourning — perhaps you are murmuring — perhaps you are saying, "Such things must happen; we must yield; we cannot help ourselves." See the mercy of God in your trials! He is seeking to turn you from neglect of your eternal interests, and from indifference — to His honor and glory. He seeks your highest well-being. He is watching with intense interest the effect produced upon your mind and heart by these severe and crushing blows, and upon your first motion towards Him to express regret for the past — He will run to meet you; clasp you in the arms of His love; clothe you with the best robe; put a ring on your hand, and shoes on your feet; and make you a partaker of all the honors and privileges which the members of His family enjoy!
Here, then, is your consolation — your trials have been sent in mercy. See that they do not harden your heart and drive you further from God. Return to the great loving-hearted Father — and you shall never cease to rejoice that you have been brought back, even though it has been through a fiery furnace. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
As to His own people, God deals with them not merely in mercy — but with the greatest parental love. They are His children, and accordingly He addresses them: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him! For whom the Lord loves — He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." Purification, refinement, elevation of the spiritual faculties — are the ends which He seeks, when He sends trouble and death upon them.
Reader, have you met with worldly losses? Have your children been swept away by the pestilence? Or have they drooped, and withered, and died? Have you had severe domestic trials in which "living griefs" were worse to bear, than even the ravages of death? Do not think that God has forsaken you, because of these things. You may have been severely afflicted. The billows may have passed over your soul. The very flames of the fire may have kindled upon you.
What then? Perhaps you were becoming too worldly and needed all you have endured — to enable you to set your affections on things above. You may rest assured that whatever may have been your trials, however severe and difficult to bear — the one grand end your Father has in view — is to draw you nearer to Himself; to make you wiser and happier, and better qualified for the purity of your Heavenly home!
You may not soon or easily perceive either the goodness or wisdom of God's procedure, in these troubles and bereavements; but for the present you must "walk by faith — not by sight." Patiently wait — and you shall see the glory of God. Call upon Him in your "day of trouble," and He will disclose to you in due time — His great purposes, both in regard to yourself and your loved ones.
Remember, that infinite wisdom is at work on your behalf. Can you then murmur or question God's plan of operation?
Remember, also, that infinite goodness is at work on your behalf. Can you then imagine that God hates you, and is plotting your ruin?
Remember, still further, that infinite power is at work on your behalf. How, then, can any real harm befall you?
When you reflect that all these divine attributes are exerted on your behalf, and for your good — how can you doubt that your highest good will be secured?
Listen to His voice — while He speaks to you through these afflictions! Drink at this well of consolation, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name — you are Mine! When you go through deep waters — I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty — you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression — you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3