The Wisdom of God in our Afflictions
The Lord has wisely and sovereignly determined each one of our lots in this life. Even in our afflictions the sovereignty and wisdom of God is displayed. But how often do we complain against them? How often do we murmur and demand our rights? Does the American Christian's unceasing demand for his rights reflect Christ as it ought, or would yielding to God's sovereign hand in glad submission to those God has placed us under have a greater effect and use by God? When we are sinned against, do we complain, plot revenge, or do we bless? and humbly desire the good of the other?
We might do well to recognize and live as missionaries here in the U.S. (or wherever you are from), and not get too comfortable here, that is, live as if we had no rights ourselves willingly living as servants ... taking opportunity to escape affliction when it offers itself (in the course of God's Providence), but instead of complaining, we humbly bear up under affliction and, in fact, go out of our way to serve and love those who treat us contemptuously. God will make all things right in HIS time. This He has promised and thus let us believe. Even if this means giving up some of our rights during this short time we have on earth. In the meantime, we need to submit to God's Providence in our lot and work for the good, but without complaint and without cursing those who work against us ... for our battle is not with flesh and blood. Take note that the first century Jews wanted a political messiah, and some worked against God by their attempts to forcibly take the political reigns... let us not make the same mistake and think that the purpose God has given us is to attempt to take over the political realm, as if this would solve the world's problems. If God places us in a position in the political realm as our lot in life, great; work for the good, for justice and redeem as much as God uses you to, but do not put your hope in it. Our hope is in Christ... Remember that Jesus is "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come." Jesus reigns now over all creation and over every name that is named. This means what is occurring in your life, even that which may make you bitter, is under his sovereign and wise hand. Take comfort in that whatever your circumstance the Lord has a distinct purpose in it. Complaining and murmuring is a complaint against the Lord. He has promised in the age to come that these temporary afflictions will turn to eternal glory, as if our time here were but for a moment, the blink of an eye.
See what the Puritan divine Thomas Boston in his classic The Crook in the Lot, said about yielding to God's providence under afflictions:
Directions for rightly managing the application for removing the crook (affliction?) in the lot...
Humble yourselves under it, as the yoke which the sovereign hand has laid on you. "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him." Justify God, condemn yourselves, kiss the rod, and go quietly under it; this is the most feasible way to get rid of it, the end being obtained. "You will prepare your hearts, you will cause your ear to hear."
Let us then set ourselves rightly to bear the crook in our lot, while God sees fit to continue it. What we cannot mend, let us bear Christianly, and not fight against God, and so kick against the pricks. So let us bear it:
1. Patiently, without fuming and fretting, or murmuring. Though we lose our comforts in the creature through the crook in our lot, let us not lose the possession of ourselves. The crook in our lot makes us like one who has but a scanty fire to warm at: but impatience under it scatters it, so as to set the house on fire about us, and expose us to danger. "He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls."
2. With Christian fortitude, without sinking under discouragement, - "nor faint when you are rebuked of Him." Satan's work is by the crook, either to bend or break people's spirits, and oftentimes by bending to break them. Our work is to carry evenly under it, steering a middle course, guarding against splitting on the rocks on either hand. Our happiness lies not in any earthly comfort, nor will the want of any of them render us miserable. So that we are resolutely to hold on our way with a holy contempt and regardlessness of hardships. "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."
Where is our conformity to Christ, while we cannot submit to the crook? We cannot evidence ourselves Christians, without conformity to Christ. "He that says he abides in Him, ought himself, also so to walk, even as He walked." There was a continued crook in Christ's lot, but He submitted to it. "And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. " "For even Christ pleased not Himself. " And so must we, if we will prove ourselves Christians indeed.