It is both interesting and edifying to observe the suffering which each servant is passed through before he is fit to enter on God’s purpose for him—be it an Abraham, a David, a Stephen or a Paul; their sufferings and exercises in a way indicated the goal, or their promotion. Each of them had a night before a morning.
To David, Ziklag was his night; his morning was the throne of Israel. Paul’s night was “all men forsook me,” but his morning was “the Lord stood with me.” To learn by suffering is the Father’s way of fitting us for promotion, be it service or growth. “We which live are always delivered unto death” (1 Cor 4:11).
I have often readily accepted a truth and in great joyfulness, yet it was not really known to me until, through suffering, its virtue and reality possessed me; and surly no one is a witness to anything until he is possessed by it and then he not only sees it and can enunciate it, but he is it. Paul says, “What ye have both learned, received, heard and seen in me, these things do” (Phl 4:9).
It is not so much what we suffer from, as how we suffer—the extent and amount of our sufferings—which declares the purpose of the Father in them. In every suffering, He purposes that a corresponding virtue of His grace should be manifested in me. The suffering is to bring out a peculiar virtue from His own grace which no other suffering could bring out. Certain preparations (caustic often) develop certain desired colors. It is through the tears of the firmament that the colors of the bow are obtained.
But I mean more than this; the character of suffering indicates the nature of the contrast, or correlative which it is appointed to elicit. If the pressure be great and peculiar, some special characteristic of His grace within is therefore to be evoked. The produce is useful according to the severity and peculiarity of the process by which it is made available for use.
We dry grapes for raisins—we bruise them for wine—who does not value the wine more than the grapes? And yet the same grapes which only made raisins might have made wine if they had been subjected to a severer pressure. We can tell by the very sufferings we pass through the order of the virtues in the grace conferred upon us; for we have nothing which we have not received.
But we need special pressure and discipline to set aside the flesh in us, which would hide the beauty of the grace given to us. Therefore “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation” (tests). The light affliction worketh a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
-J B Stoney