"But evil does not spring from the soil, and trouble does not sprout from the earth. People are born for trouble as predictably as sparks fly upward from a fire." Job 5:6-7

"For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children." Hebrews 12:6

Affliction comes upon all. None are exempt from the sufferings incident to our fallen nature. The young, the old, the rich and the poor, alike feel the withering touch of affliction and of sorrow. Disease invades the strongest constitution, and affliction prostrates the mightiest energy. Often those in the prime and vigor of life are laid down on the bed of sickness, and made to feel that they are dying creatures. How true it is, that "How frail is humanity! How short is life, and how full of trouble!"

The children of God are not exempted from the afflictions of this life; but it is their blessed consolation to know that they have a Friend to sympathize with them in all their sorrows and sufferings, while in this mortal state. Yes, Jesus is that friend, who watches over their sick beds, and consoles their desponding spirits amid the frailty of sinking nature. Oh! how often does the blessed Jesus wonderfully manifest his love to his afflicted ones! How often does he whisper words of peace and love and consolation in their ears! How often, in the manifestation of his love, do their souls overflow with joy, even when their bodies are racked with severe pain!

Christ will always make that promise good, "As your days, so shall your strength be;" and amid all our trials and afflictions here, we may rely with unshaken confidence on the promises of our loving Redeemer, who will not forsake us in the hour of extremity. Then he will manifest his love to us, and display the riches of his grace. In all our trials, his promise runs thus: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

All the afflictions of the children of God are designed for their good. They come from a kind heavenly Father, from a God of love; and one of their designs is the purification and sanctification of believers. "I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin." "By this, therefore, shall all the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit– to take away his sin." "In this way, they will be refined and cleansed and made pure until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come." "Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials."

Afflictions make us fit for glory: they enable us to obtain a correct view of the vanity of terrestrial happiness; they tend, through grace, to fix our souls on Him, in whom alone we can find true happiness and immortal joys. Happy sickness, that leads the soul to Jesus, the only source of blessedness! Afflictions, then, promote our spiritual welfare, and are ordered for our good. It is expressly declared, "that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose;" and afflictions are among the "all things" that are beneficial to the present and eternal welfare and happiness of God's children.

Afflicted believer, Christ says to you, "You don't understand now why I am doing it; someday you will." You will soon know the merciful design, which Christ had in afflicting you. In the light of eternity, you will look back and say that he has brought you by a way that is right.

In their afflictions here, Christ manifests most tender love to believers: he renews their fainting souls, by the manifestation of his love and the revelation of his grace; he strengthens them inwardly. "In the day when I cried, you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul." It was the manifestation of the love and grace of the Lord Jesus, that supported the Apostle Paul amid all his afflictions. "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever."

How greatly will our light afflictions and trials here, add to the weight of that crown of glory, which we shall wear hereafter! How will they sweeten that eternal rest which remains for the people of God, our happy home in heaven!

Were the sun of prosperity always to shine upon us, we would soon forget our Father's house, our heritage above. Christ sends us afflictions to tell us that this is not our rest, that our blessed home is far above this scene of perishing mortality. Here, we must be fitted for glory; and Christ says to his followers, "In the world you shall have tribulation." It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God. Of that happy throng who stand around the throne of the Eternal, it is said, "these are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

The way to Mount Zion lies through the valley of Baca. The road to glory is a rough one. Believers may exclaim with the Psalmist, "You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. You sent troops to ride across our broken bodies. We went through fire and flood. But you brought us to a place of great abundance." But when we come to that abundant place, even to the heavenly Canaan, we will find that it will make amends for all our momentary afflictions on earth– that one hour with Christ in glory, will make us forget a lifetime of suffering.

"Though rough and thorny be the road,
It leads you home, apace, to God
Then count your present trials small,
For heaven will make amends for all."

Even now, when we are traveling through this valley of tears to mansions of glory, we have our comforts and enjoyments. The love of Christ sweetens every affliction; turns the darkest night of adversity into the light of day, and the saddest night of weeping into the morning of joy. Come afflictions, come trials, come whatever may, we are assured that all things shall work together for our good.

Reader, are you afflicted? Is it sanctified to you? If so, look upon it as an evidence of Christ's love. Let it ever be remembered, that "For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children." And again, "For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights." The Lord afflicts his people, because he loves them. "As many as I love," says Christ, "I rebuke and chasten.'' He does it "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." And though now, "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised thereby."

Afflictions are often sent to arrest the wanderer in his course, and to bring him back to God. Many a child of God can say with David, who had often been tried and made to pass through the furnace of affliction, " Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept your word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me."

Afflictions are also designed for the conversion of sinners. Thousands have been chosen in the furnace of affliction. Oh! how many saints of God, in every age, can witness to the truth of these words: "Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver; I lave chosen you in the furnace of affliction." How many careless sinners, under the softening touch of affliction, have been brought to Jesus, and have found peace in his atoning blood! How many, without the saving knowledge of Christ, have been cast on beds of sickness, and there made, for the first time, to feel that Jesus is precious! Then they enjoyed his love, received his grace, and knew by experience that the Lord is gracious. Then affliction became light, Christ precious, and heaven sweet. The manifestation of a Savior's love dispelled every gloom, and heavenly light irradiated their souls. In affliction, Christ manifests the tenderest love to his people, and then it is that they get a glimpse of his matchless perfections. He is always near them, and "in all their affliction he is afflicted, and the angel of his presence saves them."

How happy are they to whom the love of Christ is manifested in affliction; in whose hearts the love of God is shed abroad; and who are filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory! Such are enabled to say, with an experienced apostle, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."

A young lady who had lain on a bed of sickness for many months, once declared to the writer, that she would rather suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Whence arose this resignation to the will of God, amid extreme sufferings? From the manifestation of Christ's love; from that love being shed abroad in her heart.

"How often does Christ manifest his dearest love to his suffering ones," said an eminent saint of other days (Hannah Housman), during her sickness. "Blessed be God for all his mercies, and for this comfort in my affliction. O, how many mercies I have! I lack for nothing. Hitherto I can say, the Lord is gracious. He has been very merciful to me, in sustaining me under all my trials. The Lord brings affliction, but it is not because he delights to afflict his children; it is at all times for our profit. I can say it has been good for me to be afflicted; it has enabled me to discern things, which, when I was in health, I could not perceive. It has made me know more of the vanity and emptiness of this world, and all its delusive pleasures- for at best they are but vanity."

Said an amiable and devoted young minister (Thomas Taylor) in his last sickness, "I do not consider my circumstances melancholy or painful. I am very mercifully dealt with. My passage to the tomb is easy. I have comparatively little suffering, and I enjoy that peace of God which passes all understanding. I can truly say, that goodness and mercy have followed me all my days, including these suffering days: and looking upwards to that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, I can also add, I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Thus afflictions work for our good, and qualify us for the joys and bliss of heaven.

And now, afflicted reader, remember the divine exhortation, "My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children." "But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the chastening of the Almighty when you sin. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal." "As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all." Dear believer, the time is short. Your afflictions are nearly over.

"A few more trials; a few more tears; a few more days of darkness, and we shall be forever with the Lord. In this tabernacle we groan, being burdened: All dark things shall yet be cleared up; all sufferings healed; all blanks supplied; and we shall find fullness of joy (not one drop lacking) in the smile and presence of our God. It is one of the laws of Christ's kingdom– 'we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.' We must not reckon upon a smooth road to glory, but it will be a short one." (McCheyne)

"Be still, my soul, and know the Lord;
In meek submission wait his will,
His presence can true peace afford,
His power can shield from every ill.
Your path is strewed with piercing thorns;
Each step is gained by arduous fight,
Yet wait, till hope's bright morning dawns,
Till darkness changes into light.
Soon shall the painful conflict cease;
Soon shall the raging storm be o'er;
Soon shall you reach the realms of peace,
Where suffering shall be known no more.
There shall your joy forever flow
In one unbroken stream of bliss;
There shall you God the Savior know,
And feel him your as you are his."

Cleave closely to Jesus; you shall soon see him as he is; then your afflictions, and trials, and days of mourning will have ended; you shall reign with Jesus, and be like him. "And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again."

Sanctified afflictions are fitting you for heaven. " Happy are those whom you discipline, Lord, and those whom you teach from your law. You give them relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked."

Choose Christ now, and you may rest assured that goodness and mercy shall follow you through life, and glory and immortality crown you at death. You will enjoy the love of Christ in health, and in sickness, and when you come to feel your last pain, and draw your last breath, you will shout forth, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."