I mentioned some time ago that we need to have a theology of affliction. By that I mean that the Bible has a lot to say about how we are to handle affliction, troubles, and trials. So the Christian woman ought to turn first to the Scriptures to see what her duties are in any difficult situation she finds herself in. Let’s consider a handful.
Have you been wronged? Then we are told to return good for evil.
Are you persecuted? We are to bless those who bring us the trouble and pray for them.
Have you been slandered? Lied about? Jesus is still being slandered today. How does He handle it? He could strike His slanderers down at any given moment, couldn’t He? But He bears with them, fulfilling all His purposes. So when people say all kinds of false things about us, we are to rejoice.
Huh? How do we do that? We are to do these things by faith, by grace. Our flesh certainly is not inclined to do these things, but resurrecting grace enables us to pray for our enemies, to look for opportunities to do them good, to rejoice around our tables in the midst of adversity.
Every one has some kind of trouble or other. Could be health issues, financial burdens, loneliness, broken relationships, and any number of heartaches. Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). We have a Savior who understands these things far better than we do.
In the midst of a trial it is easy to think that no one else understands or feels your pain. That is true. How can they? Do you feel every one else’s troubles and pains? No. You feel your own. So it is important to know that you do have a Savior who has compassion. You must look away from yourself, away from your trouble, and find help from Him.
Years ago I heard a visiting minister tell the story of losing a son at birth. I’ll never forget his words: “So I knelt down beside my wife’s bed and we rejoiced in the Lord.” Were they feeling joyful? No. Were they sad? Yes. Were they broken hearted? Yes. But their joy was in the Lord. They were rejoicing in Him, not in the circumstances. This is faith.
Knowing that God is sovereign over everything all the time is a sweet doctrine. There is nothing outside His control; nothing outside His perfect purpose and plan. He is governing the world and He does all things well. He is in charge of our sanctification. That means He decides our course, He sets the curriculum, and He gives the tests.
And that is another thing to remember. This is a test. God has instructed you in His ways. Now He is testing you to see how well you remember what you have been taught. You know how to take a test. You remember the material. So do it.
This should be a comfort to us in tough times. What are my duties in this? What has God taught me about how to handle a time like this? Try to ace your test. Do your best. Don’t flake out or resign from the class. God will never leave you or forsake you. These tests are for your strengthening and His promises will see you through.
Now I grant this is a very deep subject with many, many applications. So I commend a couple of books to you that I have read over many times and used in ladies’ book studies multiple times. They have shaped my thinking in this area more than I can say. I’ve plugged them many times already, but here they are again: Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment; and Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good.