“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV)
Affliction and trial are some of the unpleasant aspects of our journey to glory. We all will have hardships – some as a result of our own foolish devising, others from the foolishness of others inflicted upon us. Some troubles come as a by-product of our faithfulness to Christ – remember the apostle’s word, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
If we stop to think about it, in all our afflictions/trials/troubles, we can discover that God has some kindness, some mercy, some lesson for us. As there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light—so there is no condition so cloudy, but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgment (Psalm 101:1). It should make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, to consider that in every afflictive path of providence, we may see his impress of the footstep of kindness. Several years back our family moved to a new city and new ministry. Though we were in separate vehicles, we had mobile phones to communicate, and it was a comfort to know they were following or ahead if we had lost direct sight of them. By faith, we know that “surely,” yes, indeed, “surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me” (even when we cannot see with our own eyes at present, we know he’s there).
There is kindness in affliction, when God seems most unkind.
Thomas Watson wrote: When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God’s smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When they are pounded they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit…To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.