Some people I meet with have been so unspeakably abused by others, it is almost impossible for them or me to grasp how something so horrific could a) be allowed by God and b) be used for good.
Thomas Watson, a 17th Century writer who wrote the little book, All Things for Good has done an excellent job of helping to unpack this concept. In chapter two, he deals with how the worst things work for good for the godly and I would like to share a portion of these concepts. First, he clarifies that these worse things are a fruit of the curse and that though naturally evil; the wise overruling hand of God transforms them and uses them for the good of the universe. One of the evils he discusses is the evil of affliction.
-Affliction teaches what sin is and helps us to see it in our own heart. We may hear about how horrible sin is, but until we experience it ourselves, we have no idea. And, having experienced it, we see our own sinfulness in our reaction to it.
-Afflictions are the means of making the heart more upright. When things are going well, our hearts are apt to be divided between the world and God. When the world draws us away from God, affliction can pull us back again.
-Afflictions conform us to Christ. Our goal is to be like Christ. Christ’s life was a series of sufferings. He wept and bled. Jesus drank a bitter cup; it made Him sweat drops of blood to think of it. He did it for us – if He gives us this path, can we walk on it for Him, even when we don’t understand why?
-Afflictions are destructive to sin. There is much corruption in the best heart; affliction does by degrees work it out, as the fire works out the dross from the gold.
-Afflictions are the means of loosening our hearts from the world.
-Afflictions make a way for comfort. God sweetens outward pain with inward peace. “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” John 16:20)
-Afflictions are a magnifying of us…in that a) God would go so low as to take notice of us and find us worthy to be smitten b) they are ensigns of glory, signs of sonship and c) they make the saints renowned in the world…’ye have heard of the patience of job”…(James 5:11)
-Afflictions are a means of making us happy. When God sets our worldly comforts on fire, then we run to Him, and make our peace with Him and find happiness in His nearness.
-Afflictions put to silence the wicked. Wicked men are silenced when they see that the godly will keep close to God in a suffering condition and even though they lose all will hold fast their integrity.
-Afflictions make way for glory. God first lays the dark colors of affliction as a backdrop and then lays the golden color of glory which then shines even brighter.
Working through the pain of the past is difficult…but what a magnificent victory when that terrible darkness is covered over by God’s glorious light!