Almost 20 years ago, a dear friend was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after falling and breaking his arm. It was a non-violent fall that happened when he slipped on ice while pumping gas. The doctor was curious why his arm broke in the fall. So he conducted some tests and discovered the cancer. About 2-1/2 years after the diagnosis, my friend was in the presence of the Lord.
A few months after the diagnosis, we had lunch and he brought me a book (I told you he was a good friend!). He said it was a book that had encouraged and strengthened his heart much in the months after the diagnosis.
The book was Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot. The book is about the trials and sufferings we experience in this world, and the graces we receive from God in the midst of those difficulties.
During my friend’s illness, he wrote regular updates about his medical condition and his spiritual progress. About a month after we met for lunch and less than two years before his death, he wrote this:
God has always been merciful to comfort me when I call out to Him to release me from the anxiety of the cancer’s return or the nearness of death — what a wondrous God we serve! I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me in times of trouble. He has proven that endlessly throughout my illness. I know He is present when I call out to Him for help and He carries me through my trials. I recently read a quote from a Puritan writer concerning Abraham departing his homeland at an old age into an unknown country out of obedience to God’s command, “Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went; but he did know with whom he went”. I do not compare myself to Abraham, but I fully understand his confidence to go anywhere and do anything because of God’s promise of providential care for His children. I know my fate ultimately rests in the hands of a holy and loving God who does what is best for His children. I dread the return of my cancer, but do not fear it. I trust that my God will not give me more than I can bear whenever that time comes. If I have learned anything in this struggle with cancer it is my dependence upon my heavenly father. All flesh ultimately fails to bring the kind of comfort needed during these life threatening times in our lives, only our Abba Father can comfort us during those times —— praise be to Him!
That contentment and praise of God came from much meditation on God’s Word, and through the pens of faithful men like Thomas Boston. If you have suffered in the past, are suffering now, or suspect you might suffer in the future, I commend the book to you.
What is the benefit of learning of God’s role in our sufferings and the benefit of those sufferings? Boston answers:
It speaks comfort to the afflicted children of God. Whatever is the crook in your lot, it is of God’s making; and therefore you may look upon it kindly. Since it is your Father who has made it for you, question not but there is a favourable design in it towards you. A discreet child welcomes his father’s rod, knowing that, being a father, he seeks his benefit in this way; and shall not God’s children welcome the crook in their lot, as designed by their Father, who cannot mistake His measures, to work for their good, according to the promise? The truth is, the crook in the lot of a believer, how painful it proves, is a part of the discipline of the covenant, the nurture secured to Christ’s children by the promise of the Father. Psa. 89:30, 32 “If His children forsake My law, and do not walk in My judgments, then I will visit their transgressions with the rod.” Furthermore, all who are disposed to betake themselves to God, under the crook in their lot may take comfort in this, let them know that there is no crook in their lot but they may be made straight; for God made it, surely then He can mend it. He himself can make straight what He has made crooked, though none other can. There is nothing too hard for Him to do: “He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dung-hill; that he may set him with princes. He makes the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children,” Psa. 113:7-9 Do not say that your crook has been of so long continuance, that it will never mend. Put it in the hand of God, who made it, that He may mend it, and wait on Him. And if it is for your good that it should be mended, it shall be mended; for “no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly,” Psa. 84:11.