The evil of affliction works for good to the godly

Watson WednesdaysWednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson.  This week’s selection is taken from All Things for Good.

It is one heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions that befall us, that God has a special hand in them: ‘The Almighty hath afflicted me’ (Ruth 1.21). Instruments can no more stir till God gives them a commission, than the axe can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, ‘The Lord gave, and the devil took away,’ but, ‘The Lord hath taken away.’ Whoever brings an affliction to us, it is God that sends it.

Another heart-quieting consideration is, that afflictions work for good. ‘Like these good figs so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good (Jer. 24.5). Judah’s captivity in Bablylon was for their good.  ‘It is good that I have been afflicted’ (Psalm 119.71) This text like Moses’ tree cast into the bitter waters of affliction, may make them sweet and wholesome to drink. Afflictions to the godly are medicinal. Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation.  Afflictions are as needful as ordinances (1 Peter 1.6). No vessel can be made of gold without fire so it is impossible that we should be made vessels of honour, unless we are melted and refined in the furnace of affliction. ‘All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth’ (Psalm 25.10). As the painter intermixes bright colours with dark shadows, so the wise God mixes mercy with judgment. Those afflictive providences which seem to be prejudicial, are beneficial. Let us take some instances in Scripture.

Joseph’s brethren throw him into a pit; afterwards they sell him; then he is cast into prison; yet all this worked for his good. His abasement made way for his advancement, he was made the second man in the kingdom. ‘Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Gen. 50.2o). Jacob wrestled with the angel, and the hollow ofJacob’s thigh was out of joint. This was sad; but God turned it to good, for there he saw God’s face, and there the Lord blessed him. ‘Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for I have seen God face to face’ (Gen. 32.30). Who would not be willing to have a bone out of joint, so that he might have a sight of God?

King Manasseh was bound in chains. This was sad to see — a crown of gold exchanged for fetters; but it wrought for his good, for, ‘When he was in affliction he besought the Lord, and humbled himself greatly, and the Lord was entreated of him’ (2 Chron. 33.11, 12). He was more beholden to his iron chain, than to his golden crown; the one made him proud, the other made him humble.

Job was a spectacle of misery; he lost all that ever he had; he abounded only in boils and ulcers. This was sad; but it wrought for his good, his grace was proved and improved. God gave a testimony from heaven of his integrity, and did compensate his loss by giving him twice as much as ever he had before (Job 42.10).

Paul was smitten with blindness. This was uncomfortable, but it turned to his good. By that blindness God made way for the light of grace to shine into his soul; it was the beginning of a happy conversion (Acts 9.6).

As the hard frosts in winter bring on the flowers in the spring, and as the night ushers in the morning-star, so the evils of affliction produce much good to those that love God.

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