In the furnace of
(J. R. Miller, "Living Without Worry")
Sooner or later, affliction and sorrow come to every Christian. We ought, therefore, to have true views about pain, about the divine reasons for sending it, and about the mission on which it comes. We ought to know, also, how to endure suffering so as to get from it the blessing, which its hot hand brings to us.
While they do not solve all the mystery of human suffering, the Scriptures show, at least, that suffering is no accident in God's world--but is one of His messengers; and that it comes not as an enemy--but as a friend on an errand of blessing. The design of God, in all the afflictions which He sends upon His people--is to make them more holy, to advance their purification of character.
It is very clearly taught in the Word of God, that suffering is necessary in preparing sinful souls in this world, for heavenly glory. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." There is no easy way to glory. There is so much evil in us, even after we are born again, that nothing less than the discipline of pain, can cleanse our nature.
Tribulation is God's threshing, not to harm us or to destroy us--but to separate what is heavenly and spiritual in us--from what is earthly and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. Evil clings strongly, even to the godly. The golden wheat of godliness is so wrapped up in the strong chaff of the flesh--that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation. Godly character can never be attained, but through suffering. Holiness cannot be reached, without cost. Those who would gain the lofty heights--must climb the cold, rough steeps which lead to them.
It is God's design, in all the pain which He sends--to make us more Christlike. His puts us in the fire of purification, until His own image shines reflected in the gold! His prunings mean greater fruitfulness. In whatever form the suffering comes--the purpose of the pain is merciful. In all our life in this world, God is purifying us--and suffering is one of the chief agents which He employs.
"We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4. Suffering develops in us, qualities of Christian character, which cannot be developed in any other way.
But not all afflictions make people better. They do not always produce endurance. Chastening does not always yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We all have seen people suffering--who became only more impatient, irritable, ill-tempered, and selfish--as they suffered. Many a life in the furnace of affliction, loses all the beauty it ever had. It is not by any means universally true--that we are made more holy and Christlike, by pain.
Afflictions must be received as God's messengers. They often come in very somber garb, and it is only when we receive them in faith, that they disclose to us their merciful aspect and mission.
We should therefore receive afflictions reverently, as sent from God. We may be assured that there is always some blessing for us, in pain's hot hand. There is some golden fruit, wrapped up in the rough husk. God designs to burn off some sins from us, in every fire through which He calls us to pass. No one who murmurs under God's chastening hand, is ever made better by it.
The true aim of suffering is to get from it--
more purity of soul,
greater revelations of God's face,
more love to Christ,
deeper joy in the heart,
holier living, and
fresh strength for obedience and all duty.