The Necessity of Afflictions By John R. MacDuff
"As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten." Rev. 3:19.
"If need be!" 1 Peter 1:6
What a blessed motto and superscription over the dark lintels of sorrow! — "if need be!" Every arrow from the quiver of God is feathered with it! Write it, child of affliction, over every trial your God sees fit to send!
If he calls you down from the sunny mountain-heights to the darksome glades, hear Him saying: "There is a need be!"
If he has dashed the cup of earthly prosperity from your lips, curtailed your creature comforts, diminished your "basket and store" — hear Him saying, "There is a need be!"
If He has ploughed and furrowed your soul with severe bereavement — extinguished light after light in your dwelling — hear Him thus stilling the tumult of your grief, "There is a need be!"
Yes! believe it, there is some profound reason for your trial, which at present may be indiscernible. No furnace will be hotter than He sees to be needed.
Sometimes, indeed, His teachings are mysterious. We can with difficulty spell out the letters, "God is love!" We can see no "bright light" — no luminous rainbow in "our cloud." It is all mystery; not one break is there in the sky! Nay! Hear what God the Lord speaks: "If need be!" He does not long leave His people alone, if He sees their chariot wheels dragging heavily. He will take His own means to sever them from an absorbing love of the world — to flush them out of self, and dislodge usurping clay-idols that may have vaulted on the throne which He alone should occupy!
Before your present trial — He may have seen your love waxing cold — your influence for good lessening. As the sun puts out the fire — the sun of earthly prosperity may have been extinguishing the fires of your soul. You may have been shining less brightly for Christ, effecting some guilty compromise with an insinuating and seductive world. He has appointed the very discipline and dealing needful — nothing else — nothing less could have been effectual!
Be still, and know that He is God! That "need be," remember, is in the hands of Infinite Love, infinite Wisdom, infinite Power! Trust Him in little things — as well as in great things — in trifles as well as in emergencies. Seek to have an unquestioning faith. Though other paths, doubtless, would have been selected by you had the choice been in your hands — be it your to listen to His voice at every turn of the road, saying, "This is the way — walk in it!"
We may not be able to understand it now — but one day we shall come to find that affliction is one of God's most blessed ministers — sent forth to "minister to those who are heirs of salvation." There would be no rainbow in the material heaven — but for the cloud! Lovelier, indeed, to the eye is the azure blue — the fleecy summer vapor — or the gold and vermilion of western sunsets. But what would become of the earth if no dark clouds from time to time hung over it; distilling their treasures — reviving and refreshing its drooping vegetable tribes?
Is it otherwise with the soul? Nay! The cloud of sorrow is needed. Its every raindrop has an inner meaning of love! If, even now, afflicted one, these clouds are gathering, and the tempest sighing — lift up your eye to the divine scroll gleaming in the darkened heavens, and remember that He who has put the rainbow of promise there — saw also a "need be" for the cloud on which it rests!
There is therefore reason for this chastisement, for "Whom the Lord loves — he chastens." Hebrews 12:6. What! God loves me when He is discharging His quiver upon me! — emptying me from vessel to vessel! — causing the sun of my earthly joys to set in clouds? Yes! afflicted, tempest-tossed one! He chastens you — because He loves you! This trial comes from His own tender, loving hand — from His own tender, unchanging heart!
Love is the reason of all He does. There is no drop of wrath in that bitter cup you are called upon to drink.
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone, Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."
"Remember, too, you are not your own, but His. You have given yourself up to Him."
"Without this hedge of thorns," says Richard Baxter, "on the right hand and on the left — we would hardly be able to keep the way to heaven!"