“Counsels of the Aged to the Young” – XVI. Bearing Affliction


16. As “man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upwards”; (Job 5:7) as no situation is exempt from the arrows of adversity—I would give it as a necessary counsel, to learn to bear AFFLICTION with fortitude and resignation. To dream of escaping what is appointed unto all, would be to fall wilfully into a dangerous delusion. Every man is vulnerable in so many points, that nothing short of a perpetual miracle could shield any one from the strokes of adversity. Indeed, piety of the most exalted kind, does not secure its possessor from affliction and persecution. Christ Himself suffered while in the world, and has left His followers a perfect example of holy fortitude and filial submission to the will of God. When sorely pressed with the inconceivable load of our sins, so that His human soul could not have sustained it unless supported by the divine nature, His language was, “Not my will but may your will be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Those afflictions which are allotted to the people of God are necessary parts of beneficial discipline, intended to purify them from the dross of sin, and to prepare them for the service of God here, and the enjoyment of God in the world to come. They are, therefore, to them, not penal judgments, but Fatherly chastisements, which, though “not joyous but grievous” (Heb 12:11) for the present, “afterwards work for them the peaceable fruits of righteousness”. But whatever may be our moral and spiritual condition, whether we are friends or enemies to God, we must be subject to various afflictions.

This is a dying world. The nearest and dearest friends must part. Death sunders the tenderest ties, and often pierces the susceptible heart with a keener anguish, by directing the mortal stroke to a dear companion or child, than if it had fallen on our own head. When I see youth rejoicing in the optimistic hopes and brilliant prospects which the deceitful world spreads out before them—I am prevented from sympathizing with their happy feelings, by the foresight of a speedy end to all their earthly pleasures. Their laughter will be converted into mourning. Their day of bright sunshine will soon be overcast with dark clouds; all their brilliant prospects will be obscured, and the overwhelming gloom of sorrow will envelop them.

It is indeed no part of wisdom to torment our minds with vain terrors of evils which are merely possible. Many people suffer more in the apprehension of calamities, than they would if they were present. The imagination represents scenes of adversity in a hue darker than the reality. In regard to such evils, our Savior has taught us not to yield to useless anxieties about the future, but to trust to Providence. “Let tomorrow take care of itself.” (Matt 6:34) But that to which I would bring my youthful readers, is a state of mind prepared for adversity, of whatever kind it may be; that they may not be taken by surprise when calamity falls upon them. And when the dark day of adversity arrives, be not dismayed—but put your trust in the Lord, and look to Him for strength to endure whatever may be laid upon you.

Never permit yourselves to entertain hard thoughts of God on account of any of His dispensations. They may be painful, dark and mysterious—but they are all wise and good. What we cannot understand now, we shall be privileged to know hereafter. Exercise an uncomplaining submission to the will of God, as developed in the events of Providence. Believe steadfastly that all things are under the government of God’s wisdom and goodness. Remember that whatever sufferings you may be called to endure, they are always less than your sins deserve.

Consider that these afflictive dispensations are fraught with rich, spiritual blessings. They are not only useful but necessary. We would perish with the wicked world, if a kind Father did not make use of the rod to reclaim us from our wanderings. Besides, there is no situation in which we can more glorify God than when in the furnace of affliction. The exercise of faith and humble resignation, with patience and fortitude, under the pressure of heavy calamity, is most pleasing to God, and illustrates clearly the excellency of that piety, which is able to bear up the mind, and even render it cheerful, in the midst of scenes of trouble. Bear then with cheerful submission the load which may be laid upon you, and learn from Paul to rejoice even in the midst of tribulation.

And not only bear your cross with cheerful resignation—but endeavor to extract from sorrow—a rich spiritual blessing. While enjoying such an effectual means of grace, improve it to the utmost, to promote growth in the divine life. Be willing to suffer any pain which will render you more holy. Although we naturally desire uninterrupted prosperity, yet if the desire of our hearts was always given to us—it would prove ruinous.

And when schooled in adversity, you will be better qualified to sympathize with the children of sorrow, and better skilled in affording them comfort, than if you had no experience of trouble.

– Archibald Alexander; Counsels of the Aged to the Young (See here for more info)

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