Measure Your Afflictions by Their Outcome, Not by Their Hurt
“For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10 (ESV)
Perhaps a clear mind is our greatest need in the time of suffering. We’re tempted to misinterpret events, actions, words, and motives–including God’s. We may even think that our suffering has the final word, a word of doom and despair, a word of defeat and dereliction. Then the critical question becomes, “Is that true? Am I interpreting my suffering correctly?” We seldom stop to question the false messages our suffering intimates. The pain is real, so we too quickly conclude the inferences we make are real.
Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) offers us a helpful, mind-clearing word about our afflictions and how to understand them. Consider his words slowly:
Satan seeks to draw the soul into sin by presenting the sufferings that daily attend those who walk in holiness. But all the afflictions that attend the people of God turn out to their profit and glorious advantage. Afflictions are a looking glass that show the ugly face of sin. They are God’s furnace to cleanse and preserve His people. Saints thrive most internally when they are most afflicted. Manasseh’s chain was more profitable to him than his crown. Luther could not understand some Scriptures until he was in affliction. God’s house of correction is his school of instruction. Afflictions lift up the soul to a fuller enjoyment of God, and more sweet and full enjoyment of his blessed self. They keep the heart humble and tender, and by experience saints find that they can embrace the cross as others do the world’s crown. Afflictions inflame love that is cold, quicken decaying faith, and put life into withering hope. The more the saints are beaten with the hammer of affliction, the more they trumpet God’s praises. Adversities abate the loveliness of the world that entices us and the lusts that incite us. They afflict, but never harm. They are momentary; sorrow may abide for a night, but joy comes in the morning. This short storm will end in an everlasting calm. We must measure afflictions by their outcome, not how they hurt. The misery that attends wickedness is far greater. O the gnawing of conscience that attends wickedness! There is no peace for the wicked. There are snares in their mercies and curses attend their comforts. What is a fine suit of clothes with the plague? What is golden cup with poison? What is a silk stocking on a broken leg? Ah the horrors and terrors, the tremblings that attend their souls! (from Voices from the Past, p. 288)
“Measure afflictions by their outcome, not how they hurt.” Thabiti, in your next season of pain, which will surely come, remember this!