How is affliction a blessing?

(James W. Alexander, "
Consolation" 1852)

"Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord"
     (Psalm 94:12)

We are all familiar with suffering. We are either now
enduring, or shall at some future time endure severe
afflictions. There are few of us therefore to whom the
inquiry may not be interesting--how is affliction a
The question may be thus answered.

The chastisements which God inflicts upon His children
are profitable to them--as they tend under the Divine
blessing to promote piety in the heart. Chastisement
forms a necessary part of that paternal discipline, by
which our heavenly Father fits His children for their
eternal rest in glory.

1. Chastisement is useful, because it tends to convince
the believer of his misery, and shows him that without
Christ he cannot be happy. One great end of your
affliction is answered, when you are led to commence
and persevere in a faithful and earnest application to
Christ, as the great Physician.

2. Chastisement is useful, as it leads the believer to
see and feel his exceeding sinfulness.

3. Chastisement is useful, as a trial of faith. Adversity
is compared to the fire, the furnace, the refining-pot
or crucible, because it not only purifies--but tries; it
not only consumes the dross--but ascertains the gold.

4. Chastisement is useful, as it strengthens faith, by
leading the believer to the promises--and especially
to the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Chastisement is useful, because it leads the believer
to exercise entire submission to the Divine will.

6. Chastisement is useful, because it leads the believer
to look for complete happiness in heaven alone. Let the
worst, most lingering, and most aggravated instance of
suffering be presented--and the hope of heaven is still
sufficient to mitigate its ills! It is well to learn to look
beyond all secondary, earthly, imperfect comforts--to
God, the source of good, and to that world where all
tears are wiped away!

In pain, and despondency, and grief, we go to Jesus
as to a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We
pour our sorrows into His friendly ear, and ask His
aid, and then, when He reveals to us His love, and
speaks His promises, and unveils His face, even though
He gives no assurance that we shall be set free, He does
more--He gives us Himself, and faith is refreshed and
nourished by receiving Him. And shall we not regard
as a mercy--that illness, or that bereavement, or that
severe trial--which so embitters the world's cup, as to
lead us to Christ, that we may see His beauty, and be
filled with His love?

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted!" Ps. 119:71