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Archive for the ‘suffering’ Category

Thus the promise of God, which had exalted [Joseph] to honour, almost plunges him into the grave.  We, also, who have received the gratuitous adoption of God amidst many sorrows, experience the same thing.  For, from the time that Christ gathers us into his flock, God permits us to be cast down in various ways, so that we seem nearer to hell than heaven.  Therefore, let the example of Joseph be fixed in our minds, that we be not disquieted when many crosses spring forth to us from the root of God’s favour.  For I have before showed, and the thing itself clearly testifies, that in Joseph was adumbrated [foreshadowed], what was afterwards more fully exhibited in Christ, the Head of the Church, in order that each member may form itself to the imitation of his example.

Source: John Calvin on Genesis 37

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John Flavel, in 1678, instructs readers to see God as the author of all circumstances in life, including suffering:

Set before you the sovereignty of God. Eye Him as the Being infinitely superior to you, at whose pleasure you and all your have subsist (Psalm 115:3), which is the most conclusive reason and argument for submission (Psalm 46:10). For if we, all we have proceeded from His will, how right is it that we be resigned up to it!

Set the grace and goodness of God before you in all afflictive providences. O see Him passing by you i the cloudy and dark day, proclaiming His name, ‘The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious’ (Exodus 34:6).

Eye the wisdom of God in all your afflictions. Behold it in the choice of the kind of your affliction, this, and not another; the time, now and not at another season; the degree, in this measure only, and not in a greater; the supports offered you under it, not left altogether helpless; the issue to which it is overruled, it is to your good, not ruin.

Set the faithfulness of the Lord before you under the saddest providences. 
O what quietness will this breed! I see my God will not lose my heart, if a rod can prevent it. he would rather hear me groan here than howl hereafter. His love is judicious, not fond. He consults my good rather than my ease.

Eye the all-sufficiency of God in the day of affliction. See enough in Him still, whatever is gone. Here is the fountain still as full as ever, though this or that pipe is cut off, which was wont to convey somewhat of it to me.

Lastly, eye the immutablity of God. Look on Him as the Rock of ages, ‘The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). Eye Jesus Christ as ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’

The Mystery of Providence, 1678, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 130-132

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Sorrows

God sanctifies our sorrows.

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Psalm 76:10
Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt

The devil blows the fire and melts the iron, and then the Lord fashions it for his own purposes. Let men and devils rage as they may, they cannot do otherwise than subserve the divine purposes.

source: Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Commentary on Psalm 76:10

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It was the enraptured Rutherford who could shout in the midst of serious and painful trials, "Praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace."

The hammer is a useful tool, but the nail, if it had feeling and intelligence, could present another side of the story. For the nail knows the hammer only as an opponent, a brutal, merciless enemy who lives to pound it into submission, to beat it down out of sight and clinch it into place. That is the nail’s view of the hammer, and it is accurate except for one thing: The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman. Let the nail but remember that the hammer is held by the workman and all resentment toward it will disappear. The carpenter decides whose head shall be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating. That is his sovereign right. When the nail has surrendered to the will of the workman and has gotten a little glimpse of his benign plans for its future it will yield to the hammer without complaint.

The file is more painful still, for its business is to bite into the soft metal, scraping and eating away the edges till it has shaped the metal to its will. Yet the file has, in truth, no real will in the matter, but serves another master as the metal also does. It is the master and not the file that decides how much shall be eaten away, what shape the metal shall take, and how long the painful filing shall continue. Let the metal accept the will of the master and it will not try to dictate when or how it shall be filed.

As for the furnace, it is the worst of all. Ruthless and savage, it leaps at every combustible thing that enters it and never relaxes its fury till it has reduced it all to shapeless ashes. All that refuses to burn is melted to a mass of helpless matter, without will or purpose of its own. When everything is melted that will melt and all is burned that will burn, then and not till then the furnace calms down and rests from its destructive fury.

With all this known to him, how could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace? The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshiped the Lord who heated the furnace for the everlasting blessing of His children. He had felt the hammer till its rough beatings no longer hurt; he had endured the file till he had come actually to enjoy its bitings; he had walked with God in the furnace so long that it had become as his natural habitat. That does not overstate the facts. His letters reveal as much.

Such doctrine as this does not find much sympathy among Christians in these soft and carnal days. …

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

* Samuel Rutherford (1600? – 1661) was a Puritan Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author, and was was one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his Letters. The quote above comes from a letter to Robert Gordon of Knockbrex dated 1st January 1637 and titled ‘Benefit of Affliction’ .

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Broken Bone Hymns

In his psalm of repentance after his sin against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah, David writes this provocative little prayer, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” … “Broken bones” is a physical word picture for the pain of redemption.

It’s time for each of us to embrace, teach, and encourage others with the broken-bone theology

… if you’ve ever prayed that God would be near you and would do what he has promised in and for you, then resist the temptation to doubt his goodness in the middle of your moment of stress. It’s time for you and me to stop thinking that we are going through difficulty because Satan is winning or God is punishing us. If you are God’s child and you humbly recognize and admit that the battle with sin still rages in your heart, then tell yourself that those difficulties are the sure sign of his rescuing and redemptive love.

God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t turned his back on you. He isn’t punishing you in anger. He surely isn’t withholding the grace that he has promised from you. No, you’re receiving grace, but it’s grace that is willing to break bones in order to capture and transform your heart. This grace is unrelenting. … This is loving, patient, perseverant, powerful grace.

In those moments when you are tempted to wonder if God has forgotten you, may you preach to yourself of this relentless, transforming grace. May you remind yourself that you are being loved with real love and showered with real grace. And as you limp to his throne once more to thank him for his unyielding grace, may the bones that he has lovingly broken sing a hymn of praise to this One who alone blesses you with his amazing grace.

Source: Paul Tripp, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/broken-bone-hymns

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John Flavel provides an example of how God’s providence might ordain suffering as a means of preserving his people from sin and temptation.

Basil was sorely grieved with an inveterate headache; he earnestly prayed it might be removed; God removed it. No sooner was he freed of this clog, but he felt the inordinate motions of lust, which made him pray for his headache again.

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