Affliction Is Essential to Spiritual Health

God ordains affliction and we don’t want to believe this.

Who can command and have it done,
if the Lord has not ordained it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Lamentations 3:37-38 NRSV

It is of so much greater concern for us to get our spirits brought down than our outward condition raised. But who believes this? All men strive to raise their outward condition; most men never mind the bringing down of their spirits, and few there are who apply themselves to it. And what is that but to be concerned to minister drink to the thirsty sick, but never to mind to seek a cure for them, by which their thirst may be carried off.

–Thomas Boston, Crook in the Lot

We think the cure is comfort. God thinks the cure is the eternal state and spiritual health of a person.

The man himself is more valuable than all external conveniences that attend him. What therefore betters the man is preferable to what betters only his condition.

[…]

It is far more needful for us to have our spirits humbled under the cross than to have the cross removed. The removal of the cross is needful only for the ease of the flesh, the humbling for the profit of our souls, to purify them, and bring them into a state of health and cure.

[…]

But what God requires is, rather to labor to bring down the heart than to get up the head. Here lies the proof of one’s suitableness for heaven; and then is one in the way heavenward, when he is more concerned to get down his heart than to get up his head, to go calmly under his burden than to get it off, to bow under the mighty hand than to put it off him.

–Thomas Boston, Crook in the Lot

Much more could be said about this, and how it affects prayer, but I will leave it here for now. This was the most significant book I’ve read in a long time.

we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

2 Responses to “Affliction Is Essential to Spiritual Health”


  1. 1 Eric

    Great thoughts. I especially like “what therefore betters the man is preferable to what betters only his condition.” I think that gets at the heart of what God wants for us. Not just a temporary improvement of our condition or circumstances, but real character formation. Eric

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    You and I would love to be healed, and I’m not sure if I can say suffering is a gift yet, but just think how much we’ve been sanctified because of our affliction and how much better off spiritually we are. I wish God didn’t work that way, but I’m glad he does work in affliction and not just let it sit there.
    Jeff

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