The heaviest afflictions on this side Hell
A consolatory letter to a Christian friend under severe afflictions, by John Berridge
I grant that your circumstances are very severe and difficult—but let me beg of you not to construe your afflictions as a token of God's displeasure, or a sign of your not belonging to Him. This is an old temptation of Satan's, with which he often assaults the afflicted Christian; but take the shield of faith, that you may quench the fiery darts of Satan.
Alas! Crosses and afflictions are the common lot of the people of God in this present world. Our Lord has told us, that in this world—we shall have troubles! Every saint has his own particular difficulties, temptations and conflicts to grapple with.
We are too apt to settle on our lees, too apt to be absorbed with the vanities of this passing world. We are now chastened, that hereafter we may not be condemned with the world.
Ah! happy afflictions—which wean us from this wretched, dying world! They are a means to mortify our corruptions; to teach us to live more constantly by faith in Jesus Christ; and to fix all our hopes and expectations on another and better world!
Sanctified afflictions are a thousand times rather to be chosen—than unsanctified prosperity. These may consist with, yes are often the effects of God's special love. "Those whom I love—I rebuke and discipline." Revelation 3:19. God sees that we need afflictions—and He knows that they will work for our good.
God is infinitely wise—and knows what is best for me. God is infinitely gracious—and will be tender of the weakest of His children. God is infinitely sovereign—and may do what He pleases with His own!
The heaviest afflictions on this side Hell—are less, far less than my iniquities have deserved! Oh, boundless grace! The chastening rod of a reconciled Father, might have been the flaming sword of an avenging Judge! I might now have been weeping and wailing with devils and damned spirits in hell! I will bear the indignation of the Lord—because I have sinned against Him. It is of His mercy alone, that I am not consumed!
Oh, it is but a little while—and then there will be an eternal end of all your sorrows, fears, trials and disappointments! That heavenly Bridegroom, who has betrothed you to Himself, will, before long, bring you into His eternal kingdom, where you will forget all the storms and tempests, clouds and darkness—in your passage through this wilderness world—and all shall be eternally filled with joy and peace, love and praise!
No troubles or afflictions shall ever assault you in that glorious place—but you shall dwell eternally under the immediate shinings of divine love, and shall sing with the strongest believers, yes with the highest and most glorious archangels in heaven—the wondrous mysteries of redeeming grace! The comforts and blessedness of that state of rest, will be more brightened and endeared—by all your tears and sighings here below. The remembrance of the gall and wormwood of afflictions, will tend to sweeten the taste of heavenly enjoyments.
I pray that God may be with you—to support and comfort you with the divine consolations of His Holy Spirit, and establish you in His own due time. He is a faithful God;—and therefore will not lay upon you more than He will enable you to bear. 1 Cor. 10:13. If you have less of this world—may you have more of His comfortable presence! Oh, blessed exchange! May you be supported with His everlasting arms—and have Him to sustain and uphold you in every time of need!
Remember your once dying, but now exalted Redeemer. Is the servant greater than his Lord? Shall we not joyfully tread in His steps—that we may at last be where He is? Can, or ought we to repine—if God deals with us as He did with His own well-beloved Son?
May the Lord help you willingly to submit to Him. Doubt not, but that at the appointed time, when He sees it will be for your good and His own glory—that your heavenly Father will bring you out of your affliction. You should rejoice to think that He is carrying on the great work of your eternal salvation, amidst all your troubles and disappointments, and under all your difficult afflictions. Oh, say then, with Job: "Though He slays me—yet will I trust in Him!" Job 13:15. Though I am surrounded with terrors—I will bless Him that I am out of hell!
Oh that you may be embraced in the arms of everlasting love, and enjoy the comforts of your pardoned state! Let me beg of you, once more, dear sister—not to allow the disappointments and crosses of this world, however sore and trying in themselves—to drive from your mind the frequent and joyful forethought of what free, rich, and sovereign grace has designed for you in the eternal glorious world—and is fitting and preparing you for, every day you live.
Let not the hardships of your journey—make you forget, but rather long for your eternal home. Oh, think on that heaven which neither sin, nor death, nor hell—shall ever be able to deprive you of; in which you through sovereign grace, shall spend the endless ages of a blessed eternity!
"Do then, Lord, what You please with me—so that I may but die to this world, overcome my corruptions, live more upon Christ, bring more glory to Your name, and have more comfortable tastes and pledges of Your love. May Your will be done!"