The first lesson in the school of tribulation!
(Walter Purton, "Lessons of Peace in the School of Affliction" 1868)
"Affliction does not come forth from the dust — neither does trouble spring out of the ground." Job 5:6
Why has this trial come? How ought I to regard affliction? These questions are natural in seasons of suffering. Pain and sorrow make us ask in earnest, the why and the wherefore of what befalls us. And so the soul finds a time of trial, to be a time of education.
The first lesson in the school of tribulation, is that affliction is the visitation of God. "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21
Nothing in any man's life comes to him by "chance." All things, both small and great, are under the control of God. He foresees, and limits, and disposes. What is sometimes called "good fortune" — comes not by accident; neither does trouble spring out of the ground.
Am I healthy and prosperous? It is the will of God.
Am I suffering in body or in mind? It is the Lord — let Him do what seems good unto Him. This is the only answer that can be given to the weak and sorely tempted ones, whom one trial after another afflict with increasing sorrows, "So it pleases God! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right!"
To the believer, Providence is not merely general and universal, but particular and personal. "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:30. The believer looks to his own particular afflictions, as the dispensations of Divine Providence. To myself, affliction comes as the special visitation of God; and, looking above second causes, the word of trust from my soul should go forth, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
Affliction must not therefore be received as a burden, laid on by a blind and cruel fate — it is given by my wise and loving Father! Nor must I regard it as a "misfortune" — as an unmixed evil, which comes by chance, and is to be received with unconcern. Affliction does not come forth from the dust — it is from God. It is sent in mercy and wisdom — yes, and in power. "For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole." Job 5:18. His visitation is rich in lessons of comfort, of strength and of peace — for all things work together for good to His obedient children. Yes, ALL things!
"O Lord my God, bless this trial which You have sent. Teach me to feel that Your hand is laid upon me. Help me to know that You are speaking unto my soul. May I look on affliction as Your Fatherly visitation — a token of Your love, and wisdom, and power.
"Almighty Father, You have told me that all things are under Your control — not a sparrow falls to the ground unnoticed. Lord, teach me to believe in Your love for me. Oh, help me to feel Your wise guidance and control! Aid me to see that this affliction is sent for my good. O my God, increase my faith. Remove from me doubts and carnal-mindedness. May Your Spirit cleanse and sanctify my soul. Teach me to humbly submit to Your will. By patience and faith may I please You, submitting to sufferings because You send them for my good.
"Teach me that pain and sorrow are Your heavenly messengers. Enlighten my eyes, that so I may say of affliction — it is Your doing. To me, have You sent this. Not by chance, but in wisdom, and with loving purpose it has come. Oh, Lord, do with me what seems good to You. Help me to feel that my lot is wisely ordained. If it is in accordance with Your holy and blessed will — then remove this trial. But if You see fit still to afflict me — then teach me truly to pray, "May Your will be done!" Hear me, O God, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."