I shall show you several ways how affliction works for good.…
(6) Afflictions work for good, as they make way for comfort. ‘In the valley of Achor is a door of hope’ (Hos. 2.15). Achor signifies trouble. God sweetens outward pain with inward peace. ‘Your sorrow shall be turned into joy’ (John 16.20). Here is the water turned into wine. After a bitter pill, God gives sugar. Paul had his prison-songs. God’s rod has honey at the end of it. The saints in affliction have had such sweet raptures of joy, that they thought themselves in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.
(7) Afflictions work for good, as they are a magnifying of us. ‘What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him, and that thou shouldest visit him every morning?’ (Job 7.17). God does by affliction magnify us three ways. (a) in that He will condescend so low as to take notice of us. It is an honour that God will mind dust and ashes. It is a magnifying of us, that God thinks us worthy to be smitten. God’s not striking is a slighting: ‘Why should ye be stricken any more?’ (Isa. 1.5). If you will go on in sin, take your course, sin yourselves into hell. (b) Afflictions also magnify us, as they are ensigns of glory, signs of sonship. ‘If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons’ (Heb. 12.7). Every print of the rod is a badge of honour. (c) Afflictions tend to the magnifying of the saints, as they make them renowned in the world. Soldiers have never been so admired for their victories, as the saints have been for their sufferings. The zeal and constancy of the martyrs in their trials have rendered them famous to posterity. How eminent was Job for his patience! God leaves his name upon record: ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job’ (James 5.11). Job the sufferer was more renowned than Alexander the conqueror.
(8) Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of making us happy. ‘Happy is the man whom God correcteth’ (Job 5.17). What politician or moralist ever placed happiness in the cross? Job does. ‘Happy is the man whom God correcteth.’ It may be said, How do afflictions make us happy? We reply that, being sanctified, they bring us nearer to God. The moon in the full is furthest off from the sun: so are many further off from God in the full-moon of prosperity; afflictions bring them nearer to God. The magnet of mercy does not draw us so near to God as the cords of affliction. When Absalom set Joab’s corn on fire, then he came running to Absalom (2 Sam. 14.3O). When God sets our worldly comforts on fire, then we run to Him, and make our peace with Him. When the prodigal was pinched with want, then he returned home to his father (Luke 15.13). When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her foot, then she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, then we fly to the ark of Christ. Thus affliction makes us happy, in bringing us nearer to God. Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to Christ.
(9) Afflictions work for good, as they put to silence the wicked. How ready are they to asperse and calumniate the godly, that they serve God only for self-interest. Therefore God will have His people endure sufferings for religion, that He may put a padlock on the lying lips of wicked men. When the atheists of the world see that God has a people, who serve Him not for a livery, but for love, this stops their mouths. The devil accused Job of hypocrisy, that he was a mercenary man; all his religion was made up of ends of gold and silver. ‘Doth Job serve God for naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him?’ Etc. ‘Well,’ says God, ‘put forth thy hand, touch his estate’ (Job 1.9). The devil had no sooner received a commission, but he falls a breaking down Job’s hedge; but still Job worships God (Chap. 1.20), and professes his faith in Him. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Chap. 13.15). This silenced the devil himself. How it strikes a damp into wicked men, when they see that the godly will keep close to God in a suffering condition, and that, when they lose all, they yet will hold fast their integrity.
(10) Afflictions work for good as they make way for glory (2 Cor. 4.17). Not that they merit glory, but they prepare for it. As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us meet for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark colours, so God first lays the dark cools of affliction, and then He lays the golden colour of glory. The vessel is first seasoned before wine is poured into it: the vessels of mercy are first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in. Thus we see afflictions are not prejudicial, but beneficial, to the saints. We should not so much look at the evil of affliction, as the good; not so much at the dark side of the cloud, as the light. The worst that God does to His children is to whip them to heaven.