"Scripture is a book for life; and as life is full of affliction, so the Word of God abounds with counsel and comfort for the afflicted. For to view and to bear affliction aright is not easy; in fact, it is impossible without God's Word and Spirit.
We are inclined either to despise the chastening of the Lord, or to faint under it. We try to bear trials in pride, in our own strength, without recognizing that they are sent by our Father to humble us, to lead us to self-examination and repentance, to deepen our sense of dependence upon our Father, to fix our thoughts and desires more on heavenly, eternal things.
The world generally endeavors, in time of sorrow, or trial, to get over it; that is, to feel it as little as possible. Our Father does not mean for us to get over it, but to feel chastisement, and in and through it to be drawn nearer to Himself.
The Father has chosen and appointed the sufferings of the saints; that they may win Christ; that they may be made like unto Him; that they may hereafter be glorified together with Him. We see the gentlest, the most heavenly-minded Christians tried; they themselves are the first to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, and to acknowledge that the Father is trying and refining them, to condemn sin in the flesh, to honor the Spirit.
And this chastening is severe. He scourgeth every son. Even the Apostle Paul beseeches the Lord three times to remove it. There, where we are most sensitive, the Father touches us. The thorn in the flesh is something which we fancy we cannot bear if it were to remain there life-long.
We have emerged as it were from a dark tunnel, and fancy that the rest of our journey will be amid sunlit fields. We have achieved steep and rugged ascents, and imagine the period of great and exhausting exertion is over. But Abraham was above an hundred years old when his faith was most severely tested. The trial, deepest and sorest, seems to leave us for a while, yet it returns again.
For the Father's love remains, and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
If the Apostle Paul stood in danger of spiritual pride and self-trust, and needed his perpetual scourging to cling to the Lord's all-sufficient Grace, oh, let us remember that in each of us there is the same flesh which needs painful crucifixion.. Although the Christian anoints his head and washes his face, he is always fasting: the will has been broken by the Father, by wounding or bereaving us in our most tender point; the flesh is being constantly crucified.
God is our Father; this present life is only a school, a period of childhood and minority; discipline and chastisement are the tokens of the Father's unchanging love and constant watchfulness. Childhood is both solemn and peaceful. We look back on it with reverence and affection. For in childhood everything has the character of education; it is spiritual, and for the sake of the real inner man and his future.
Parents and teachers are constantly directing and rebuking; the whole life is under rule, restraint, and guidance; but the only and constant object is the child himself; his good, his character, his future. The only motive is love.
There is more reality in a child's life than in our subsequent life; the whole day, with its lessons and recreations, is devoted to the true and real interests of the child. Hence, when we look back on it, we say, How happy we were! Not that we forget the constant troubles, sorrows, cares, and fears which children have; but (assuming we were raised in a loving, nurturing household and atmosphere) we feel that then everyone connected with us loved us, and sought our welfare; that we were the object, not the means to the end, but the end itself.
NOW . . . as childhood is to the rest of our earthly life, so is the whole of our earthly life to the future heavenly one.
Let us cultivate then the spirit of childhood. Let us think it natural that we are daily rebuked and chastened, that our thoughts, words, and actions need constant correction and alteration; let us receive this with the docility and meekness of children, and with the trustful and sweet assurance that love breathes in all our chastenings, that we are in the most tender and fatherly hands.
God's only object is our blessedness, and this is our blessedness; to be like the Lord Jesus, the only-begotten of the Father, the firstborn among many brethren.
Chastisement is one of the instruments by which the Father prunes the fruit-bearing branches. By affliction and the inward crucifixion we learn to seek our true life, treasure, strength and joy; not in earthly affections, possessions, pursuits and attainments, however good and noble, but in Him Who is at the right hand of the Father in Glory."