Troubles and challenges. We all experience them and have to get through them. Most of us want to get through our discomfort as quickly as possible so we can get back to our ordinary life. But might we miss the benefit of afflictions with such an attitude?
I have been reading about John Newton over the past few years. He wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Newton lived a rebellious and defiant life in his youth and young adult years. God saved him from physical and spiritual death. Eventually, he became a pastor. He also strongly advocated for abolishing the slave trade. Newton had a hard life but focused much on the amazing grace of the Lord. He also wrote many letters to friends and people in his congregation that have been collected into works of John Newton.
In one letter written in December 1776, Newton discusses the “benefits” of afflictions. He doesn’t mean that actual pain or suffering is a good in itself. He instead thinks about how troubles force us into actions or attitudes that we would not normally take. Many of these result in a benefit for us.
So here are 7 benefits of afflictions for the Christian from John Newton.
1 – “Afflictions quickens (stirs up, rouses) us to prayer. . . A long course of ease and prosperity tends to make us cold and formal in our secret worship.” But troubles rouse our spirits so we earnestly call upon the Lord.
2 – Afflictions remind us that our present world is not our ultimate home. This is not our rest and it calls our thoughts upward.
3 – Afflictions move us to greatly desire God’s Word. We search more intently in the Scriptures for the Lord’s promises. We discover a greater sweetness of the promises when we go through trials.
4 – Afflictions help us to know and notice more of the Lord’s wisdom, power and goodness. We experience Him supporting and relieving us. We are more attune to His help and intervention in our lives.
5 – Afflictions show us and others God’s grace. We see undeserved mercies in the midst of them and become more aware of the mercy we experience from God on every ordinary day of life.
6 – Afflictions strengthen our spiritual disciplines. During times of trouble, we cannot take a day off from prayer or calling out to God. We discover how necessary it is to daily and hourly connect to the Lord.
7 – Afflictions grow us in Christlikeness for He was a “man of sorrows” for our sake. Newton writes, “Methinks, if we might go to heaven without suffering, we should be unwilling to desire it.”
Someone shared with me just this week that their trials have brought them closer to the Lord unlike any time of prosperity. Sadly, this is the reality for most of us. So if you have an ordinary day today, thank God for His grace. If we face affliction and trials, let’s not waste them but taste their “benefits.”
The Works of John Newton, Volume 1, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1839, 2015, 534-535.