“But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
There is a painful forgetfulness among many of the saints of God of the appointed path of believers through the world. It is forgotten that this path is to be one of tribulation; that so far from being a smooth, a flowery, and an easy path, it is rough, thorny, and difficult. The believer often expects all his heaven on earth. He forgets that whatever spiritual enjoyment there may be here, kindred in its nature to the joys of the glorified—and too much of this he cannot expect—yet the present is but the wilderness state of the church, and the life that now is, is but that of a pilgrimage and a sojourning.
Kind was our Lord’s admonition, “in the world you shall have tribulation:” and equally so that of the apostle, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom.” Affliction, in some of its many and varied forms, is the allotment of all the Lord’s people. If we have it not, we lack the evidence of our true sonship; for the Father “scourges every son whom he receives.” But whatever the trial or affliction is, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. And how does He comfort the afflicted soul? In this way.
He unfolds the love of his God and Father in the trial. He shows the believer that his sorrow, so far from being the result of anger, is the fruit of love; that it comes from the heart of God, sent to draw the soul nearer to Himself, and to unfold the depths of His own grace and tenderness; that whom he “loves He chastens.”
And, oh, how immense the comfort that flows into a wounded spirit, when love—deep, unchangeable, covenant love—is seen in the hand that has stricken; when the affliction is traced to the covenant, and through the covenant, to the heart of a covenant God.
The Spirit comforts by revealing the end why the affliction is sent. He convinces the believer that the discipline, though painful, was yet needed; that the world was, perhaps, making inroads upon the soul, or creature love was shutting out Jesus; some indulged sin was, perhaps, crucifying Him afresh, or some known spiritual duty was neglected. The Comforter opens his ears to hear the voice of the rod, and Him who had appointed it. He begins to see why the Lord has smitten, why He has caused His rough wind and His east wind to blow; why He has blasted, why He has wounded.
And now the Achan is discovered, cast out, and stoned. The heart, disciplined, returns from its wanderings, and, wounded, bleeding, suffering, seeks more earnestly than ever a wounded, bleeding, suffering Savior. Who can fully estimate the comfort which flows from the sanctified discipline of the covenant? When the end for which the trial was sent is accomplished, it may be in the discovery of some departure, in the removal of an obstruction to the growth of grace, of some object that obscured the glory of Jesus, and that suspended His visits of love to the soul,
“Blessed discipline,” he may exclaim, “that has wrought so much good—gentle chastisement, that has corrected so much evil—sweet medicine, that has produced so much health!”