“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”— Rom. 5:3-4
All the afflictions of God’s people are designed, under His gracious management—to test, to make manifest, and to exercise, those graces and virtues which He has implanted in them. Though afflictions in themselves are not joyous but grievous, nevertheless they yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness in those who are exercised thereby. Afflictions serve to quicken the spirit of devotion in us; and to rouse us from that formality and indifference which frequently attend a long course of ease and prosperity. We are constrained to seek God with sincerity and fervor, when His chastening hand is upon us, since we then feel our absolute need of that help and deliverance, which He alone can give us……
Losses and disappointments—are the trials of our faith, our patience, and our obedience. When we are in the midst of prosperity, it is difficult to know whether we have a love for the Benefactor—or only for His benefits. It is in the midst of adversity—that our piety is put to the trial.
Afflictions serve most effectually—to convince us of the vanity of all that this world can afford—to remind us that this is not our rest—and to stir up desires and hopes for our everlasting home. They produce in us a spirit of sympathy towards our companions in tribulation. They give occasion for the exercise of patience, meekness, submission, and resignation. Were it not for the wholesome and necessary discipline of affliction—these excellent virtues would lie dormant. Afflictions serve to convince us more deeply of our own weakness and insufficiency, and to endear the person, the grace, the promises, and the salvation of our Redeemer, more and more to our hearts. Thus we are taught to esteem His very chastisements as precious—on account of the benefits we derive from them.
Afflictions are not to punish—but to purify the believing soul. They are not in wrath—but in mercy. Amidst the distresses and miseries of life—it is a felicity to belong to Christ, without whose permission and appointment, no evil can befall us! He always sends afflictions for our good; and knows by experience, what it is to suffer them. His kind hand will speedily put an end to all the pains we feel—when we have derived from them all the good which He intends to do for us, by them. (John Fawcett)