We have noted that suffering is normal in the life of the believer. And thinking (meditating) on Scripture and the product of our suffering is helpful.
In His grace, the Lord has also provided other helps for us as well — primarily the help of other faithful men who have suffered well and written about their sufferings (consider the biblical examples of Job and Hebrews 11).
What follows is a brief list of resources that I have found particularly helpful to draw my heart towards Christ when I am enduring some form of tribulation and trouble (along with brief statements from those works). I trust they will similarly benefit you.
- Theodore L. Cuyler: God’s Light on Dark Clouds. This work is brief and concise, and filled with profoundly helpful statements about suffering.
“God’s people are never so exalted as when they are brought low, never so enriched as when they are emptied, never so advanced as when they are set back by adversity, never so near the crown as when under the cross. One of the sweetest enjoyments of heaven will be to review our own experiences under this law of compensations, and to see how often affliction worked out for us the exceeding weight of glory.”
“The trial that tests graces and purifies character must be something more than a pin-scratch. It must cut deep, it must try us; and sharply too, or it does not deserve the name.”
- Thomas Watson, All Things for Good. Watson is my favorite Puritan writer and this is probably my favorite work of his. It is a 125-page meditation on the truth of Romans 8:28.
“What a blessed condition is a true believer in. When he dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything shall do him good. Affliction is for his good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does the fan to the corn? It only separates the chaff from it.…God never uses His staff, but to bear out the dust. Affliction does that which the Word many times will not, it ‘opens the ear to discipline’ (Job 36:10).”
- Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed.
“Suffering brings discouragements, because of our impatience.……But if God brings us into the trial he will be with us in the trail, and at length bring us out, more refined. We shall lose nothing but dross (Zech. 13:9). From our own strength we cannot bear the least trouble, but by the Spirit’s assistance we can bear the greatest.”
- Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Another Puritan; I refer back to this book frequently.
“…if a man is to be free from discontent and worry it is not enough merely not to murmur but you must be active in sanctifying God’s name in the affliction.”
“…be of good comfort though you have outward afflictions upon you; still your soul, your most excellent part is not afflicted.”
- Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life (esp. chapter 9).
“So God brings into our Christian lives repeated disappointments and trials and losses, not because he wants to grieve us and weary us, but because these are necessary lessons teaching us to treasure Christ above ourselves. By taking our eyes off Christ, our own spiritual inclinations become hazardous to us. We turn inward for sufficiency, we pursue broken cisterns of worldly joy, legalistic obedience, and self-sufficiency. The very things we pursue, if we were to get them, would be like pouring boiling water over our own heads.”
- John Piper, The Hidden Smile of God. Most of Piper’s brief biographies at least touch on afflictions and suffering; the chapter on William Cowper in this volume is particularly helpful.
“Behind a frowning providence, he [God] hides a smiling face. We may see it in our lifetime, or we may not. But the whole Bible is written, and all the swans [great men of God who have gone before us] are singing, to convince us it is there, and that we can and should ‘exult in our tribulations’ (Rom. 5:3).”
- Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot. A friend who was dying of cancer gave me this book many years ago. My friend exemplified Christ in his suffering because of this book. The book is a treasure to me.
“God and nature do nothing in vain. Since He makes the crook [trial] there is, doubtless, a becoming design in it, which we ar obliged in duty to fall in with, according to that, Micah 6:9: ‘Hear ye the rod.’ And indeed, if one shut not his own eyes, but be willing to understand, he may easily perceive the general design thereof to be, to wean him from this world, and move him to seek and take up his heart’s rest in God.”