I am writing to you about something you may be well acquainted with: affliction.
(I originally wrote most of this booklet as a letter to myself several decades ago while going through deep affliction. Later, I revised it so that it could serve as a generic letter to share with true believers going through difficult times. In the past twenty years, I have shared this letter with many believers around the globe who have sought my counsel, and I have been humbly grateful for how it has helped a number of them. In this booklet, I have added some additional thoughts, praying that many more will profit from it.)
Much has been written on affliction by our forebears. A good part of it you may have known for a long time. For example, you probably know that all affliction is ultimately traceable to our tragic fall in Adam. You know, too, the grievousness of affliction. After all, who enjoys suffering?
Yet you should also know that all affliction is sent by a wise, fatherly God. Perhaps you even know—as the entire book of Job and the Puritans never tire of teaching us—that the important thing is not the amount of affliction we receive but how we respond to it.
Isn’t this the source of your deepest questions about affliction and trials? You want to respond in a God-glorifying manner, but you feel you often fall inexcusably short. You desire that your entire life may serve God’s praise (Isa. 43:21), but somehow when you enter the heat and heart of affliction you find yourself losing grip on your firm intention. To respond rightly to affliction before it comes is hard; to look back on it gratefully after it is over is harder; but to live Christianly in affliction is hardest. Hence you ask yourself again and again: How can I live through affliction more Christianly—in a way that is more like Christ? And how can I grow in grace while—yes, while—suffering affliction?
You are not alone in such wrestling. Countless times God’s children have been there, begging to be made conformable to the image of Christ through the furnace of affliction, the wrestling often agonizing. The prayer is simple, “Lord, grant me grace to live through this affliction Christianly.”
How Should We Consider Christ in Affliction?
Joel R. Beeke