God's Discipline

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Puritan Board Graduate
Hebrews 12 reads, in part:
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."[a]

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Can anyone point to any resources that provide practical guidance on how to recognize whether suffering is God's discipline or not? Some suffering is not for discpline, such as the suffering endured by Job and Christ. Some suffering is for discpline, such as when God took David's child. How do we know the difference? I imagine Baxter and others have written on this.



Do you think you are confusing discipline with punishment? All of God's children, whom he loves, are disciplined. This includes Job and Christ. Christ's obedience was perfect righteousness was proved through discipline. Suffering is essential for spiritual maturity. Job was disciplined to prove first that he was God's man but secondly to reveal and purge a prideful spirit. All of life is discipline in that it leads to repentance and sanctification (maturity).


Puritan Board Graduate
Andrew: Do you know what sections in those works, if any, discuss how to recogbnize whether suffering comes from discipline/punishment or something else? I looked over the TOCs but did not see anything that looked to address that. Thanks for the sources, BTW.


Puritan Board Freshman
Hebrews 12 reads, in part:

Can anyone point to any resources that provide practical guidance on how to recognize whether suffering is God's discipline or not? Some suffering is not for discpline, such as the suffering endured by Job and Christ. Some suffering is for discpline, such as when God took David's child. How do we know the difference? I imagine Baxter and others have written on this.


Agreed. A former pastor, Jerry McFarland, now at Westminster (PA), urged disciples to prayer through Psalm 139:23-24.


Puritanboard Librarian
I think discipline in the sense found in Hebrews 12.5 (John Owen says: 'The word is variously rendered,” doctrine,” “institution,” “correction,” “chastisement,” “discipline.”') is broader than "punishment." Thomas Case says: "I shall take chastisements here in the utmost latitude, for all kinds and degrees of sufferings, whether from God, or man, or Satan; whether sufferings for sin, or sufferings for righteousness' sake."

Clearly, we cannot always know the "why" behind our suffering. If one cannot discern the reason behind the suffering one may at least bear in mind that it comes from God and therefore constitutes a "hard providence" as opposed to "hard luck." Thomas Case, Treatise on Afflictions:

God hath consecrated thy sufferings by his teachings: afflictions have taken orders, as it were, and stand no longer in the rank of ordinary providences, but serve now in the order of gospel-ordinances, officiating in the holy garment of Divine promises, and to the same uses.

But, if a Christian is suffering, the situation always calls for self-examination, ie., "whether there be any wicked way in me" (Ps. 139.24). Otherwise, if we failed to examine ourselves as to any discernable reason for our suffering, we would be guilty of "despising the chastening of the Lord."

John Owen:

Directly to despise and contemn, or reject, the chastisements of the Lord, is a sin that perhaps none of his sons or children do fall into. But not to esteem of them as we ought, not to improve them unto their proper end, not to comply with the will of God in them, is interpretatively to despise them. Wherefore the evil cautioned against is, 1st. Want of a due regard unto divine admonitions and instructions in all our troubles and afflictions. And that ariseth either from, (1st.) Inadvertency; we look on them, it may be, as common accidents of life, wherein God hath no especial hand or design: or, (2dly.) Stout-heartedness; it may be they are but in smaller things, as we esteem them, such as we may bear with the resolution of men, without any especial application unto the will of God in them. 2dly. The want of the exercise of the wisdom of faith, to discern what is of God in them; as, (1st.) Love unto our persons; (2ndly.) His displeasure against our sins; (3dly.) The end. which he aims at, which is our instruction and sanctification. 3dly. The want of a sedulous application of our souls unto his call and mind in them; (1st.) In a holy submission unto his will; (2dly.) In a due reformation of all things wherewith he is displeased; (3dly.) In the exercise of faith for supportment under them, etc. Where there is a want of these things, we are said interpretatively to “despise the chastening of the Lord;” because we defeat the end and lose the benefit of them no less than if we did despise them.

One should apply 1 Peter 4.15-16 to their situation:

[15] But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
[16] Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Thomas Case, Treatise on Afflictions, pp. 122-130, gives counsel on discerning or rightly understanding the nature of our afflictions that we might improve upon them:

4. Hence we may learn how to judge of our afflictions, and of our deliverances from them and it may serve instead of a use of examination: by this, I say, we may know, when our sufferings come in wrath, and when in love. You need not, as the scripture speaks in another case, say, Who shall ascend up into heaven, to look into God's book of life and death? or who shall descend into the deep of God's secret counsels, to make report hereof unto us? But what saith the scripture? "The word is nigh thee:" [Rom 10:8] the word of resolution, to this inquiry, it is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is to say, if thou canst evidence this to thine own soul, that instruction hath accompanied correction, that God hath taught thee as well as chastened thee, thou art a blessed man, thou shalt be saved: thou hast the word of him who is the author of blessedness, and blessedness itself, "Blessed is the man whom the Lord chasteneth, and teacheth him out of his law."

And therefore peruse, I beseech you, that model of Divine instructions or lessons, presented to you in the doctrinal part of this discourse, either at large, in those twenty particulars; or in the abridgement, the three great heads, to which they were reduced. And then, withal, set before your eyes those six properties of Divine covenant teaching, and compare your hearts and those lessons together. Ask your own souls, Hath God taught you those lessons, or any of them? 1. Inwardly. 2. Convincingly. 3. Experimentally. 4. Powerfully. 5. Sweetly. 6. Abidingly, (for even a hypocritical Ahab can humble himself for a time, walk in sackcloth, and go softly; a bulrush can hold down its head for a day.) And if the Spirit of God can bear witness to thy spirit, that thou art thus taught, happy art thou; bless the Lord, for the Lord hath blessed thee; thou mayest sing David's song, "I will bless the Lord who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night season," Ps 16:7. And again, "I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me," Ps 119:75. If I have been less afflicted, I had been less blessed.

But now on the other side, when there is no interpreter to accompany affliction, to expound unto man the meaning of the Almighty in his chastisements; when there is not a Divine sentence in the lips of correction; when the rod is dumb, or the creature deaf, and cannot hear the rod, and who hath appointed it; it is much to be feared, the stroke is not the stroke of God's children. O my brethren, it is sad when men come out of affliction the same they went in; when affliction leaves them as it found them; as ignorant, as unhumbled, as insensible of sin as sinfulness towards their suffering brethren, as worldly, as proud, as impatient, as unsavoury, as much strangers to Christ and their own hearts, as regardless of eternity: in a word, as fit for sin as they were before. This, I say, is exceedingly sad. And yet it is much sadder, when it may be said of a man, as once it was said of Ahaz; "In the time of his distress he did trespass yet more against the Lord," 2 Chron 28:22. It was an aggravation of wickedness, concerning which we may say, as our Saviour of the alabaster box poured on his head—Wherever the scripture shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this which this man did be published; "This is that king Ahaz." Surely it is a standing and a dreadful monument of reproach and infamy unto him to all generations. Christians, it is sad and dangerous beyond all expression when affliction serveth but as a gauge to give vent to the pride and murmur, the atheism and enmity, which is in men's spirits, against the Lord; when afflictions are but as oil unto the fire to irritate corruption, and make it blaze more fiercely; to continue in wonted sins, against such sensible and real proclamations to desist, is professed rebellion against God: a heavy indictment which the prophet bringeth against Jerusalem; "Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return," Jer 5:3. In such cases it is to be feared, the cup of affliction is a vial of wrath, and the plagues of this life nothing else but some previous drops of that storm of fire and brimstone, wherein impenitent sinners shall be scorched and tormented for ever.

That scripture speaks dreadfully to this purpose, Jer 6:28-30. "They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders; they are all corrupters; the bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain; for the wicked are not plucked away; reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them." "They are all grievous revolters," that is, as the prophet Isaiah expounds it, "Ye revolt more and more," Isa 1:5. Hebrew, They increase revolt, walking with slanders; they do not only revolt, but slander those that reprove their revolting; "They hate him that reproveth in the gate," Amos 5:10, they slander the prophets, and their words; nay, God himself doth not escape the lash of their tongues; they say, "The way of the Lord is not equal," Ezek 18:25,29, when they should condemn their own ways, they censure God's, "The way of the Lord is not equal." They are brass and iron. They would pass for silver and gold, a sincere and holy people, while they are a degenerate and hypocritical generation. "They are all corrupters," Jer 6:8. "They have deeply corrupted themselves," Hos 9:9, they have corrupted all their doings, Zeph 3:7, "they have corrupted the covenant of Levi," the worship, the ordinances, the truths of God, Mal 2:8. "The bellows are burned in the fire," that is, the lungs of the prophets, which have preached unto them in the name of the Lord, rising up early, and lifting up their voices like trumpets, to tell Israel their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins, and stretching forth their hands unto them all the day long, they are spent. "The lead is consumed," that is, all the melting judgments and chastisement, which, as lead is cast into the furnace to make it the hotter, God added to the ministry of the prophets, to make the word more operative, they will do no good. All this while, "the founder melteth in vain," whether God the master-founder, or the prophets, God's cofounders, or fellow-workmen, as the apostle calls them; they all melt in vain, 2 Cor 6:1, all their labour is lost; neither word, nor rod, neither judgments nor ordinances, can stir them; they refuse to receive correction, they will not be taught. Men will give God the hearing, but are resolved on their own courses. "The wicked are not plucked away." They are the same that ever they were; the swearer is a swearer still, and the drunkard is a drunkard still, and the unclean person is unclean still; "The vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord," Isa 32:6, the unjust are unjust still, and the ignorant are ignorant still; nothing will better them, wicked they are, and wicked they will be. What follows? a formidable sentence; "Reprobate silver shall men call them." They would be counted silver, but it is reprobate silver, refuse silver, dross rather than pure metal; and their hypocrisy shall be made known to all men; "Reprobate silver shall men call them;" and happy they, if it were but the censure of mistaking men only; nay, but the Searcher of hearts [cf. Jer 17:10] hath no better thoughts of them; men do but call them so, because God called them so first; "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them." God hath cast them out as the founder casts out his dross to the dunghill, and they shall never stand among the vessels of honour, in whom the Lord will be glorified. A fearful sentence! the sum whereof is this—That when teaching goeth not along with correction, when men come out of the furnace, and lose nothing of their dross, it is a sad indication of a reprobate spirit, without timely and serious reflection, nigh unto cursing. "O consider this, you that forget God" and his chastisements, "lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver," Ps 50:22.

5. A fifth branch of information may be to teach us thus much—That they may be blessed whom the world accounts miserable. The world judgeth merely by outward appearances, and therefore may easily be mistaken. They see the chastisement which is upon the flesh, and thence conclude a man miserable; but they cannot discover that Divine teaching which is upon the spirit, which truly rendereth him incomparably blessed. The men of the world are incompetent judges of the estate and condition of God's children. The godly man's happiness or misery is not to be judged by the world's sense and feeling, but by his own; it lieth inward (save only so far as by the fruits it is discernible) and the world's faculty of judging is only outward, made up of sense and reason; therefore said the apostle, "The spiritual man judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man;" [1 Cor 2:15] that is, he is able to judge of the condition of the men of the world, but the men of the world are not able to judge of his condition, because it is above their faculty. The natural man thinks the spiritual man, under affliction, to be miserable; but the spiritual man knows the natural man, in the midst of his greatest abundance and bravery, to be miserable indeed. Therefore may the saints in their troubles think it, with St. Paul, a very small thing to be judged of man's judgment, 1 Cor 4:3. This is but man's day of judging; so the word signifieth; God's day is coming when things and persons shall be valued by another standard. Christ in his day shall judge not after the sight of the eyes, that is, not as things appear to sense and reason; nor after the hearing of the ears; that is, according to the report of the world; but with righteousness shall he judge; that is, he shall judge of things and persons as they are, and not as they appear. Moreover, this is also another comfort "We have the mind of Christ," 1 Cor 2:16, the judgment of Christ, by virtue whereof we are enabled, in our measure, to judge of things and persons, as Christ himself judgeth.

6. A sixth branch of information—Is chastisement a blessing when accompanied with instruction? See then, and admire the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, who can make his people better by their sufferings. Who knows how to fetch oil out of the scorpion, to extract gold out of clay! to draw the richest wine out of gall and wormwood! that can turn the greatest evil of the body to the greatest good of the soul! the curse itself into a blessing! that can make the withered rod of affliction to bud, yea to bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby! Behold I show you a mystery: sin brought affliction into the world, and God makes affliction to carry sin out of the world. Persecution is but the pruning of Christ's vine, etc. The almond tree is said to be made fruitful by driving nails into it, letting out a noxious gum that hindereth the fruitfulness thereof. God never intendeth more good to his children than when he seems to deal most severely with them. The very heathen have observed it to us: God doth not love his children with a weak womanish affection, but with a strong masculine love, and had rather they suffer hardship than perish: "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." God will rather fetch blood, than lose a soul; break Ephraim's bones, than suffer him to go on in the frowardness of his heart. Destroy the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. "We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world," 1 Cor 11:32. His discipline is made up of severity and love; he doth chastise, but he will teach also, that so his children may inherit the blessing; the discipline is sharp, but the end is sweet. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name: bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
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Puritanboard Librarian
Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot:

III. It remains to inquire why God makes a crook in one's lot? And this is to be cleared by discovering the design of that dispensation: a matter which it concerns every one to know, and carefully to notice, in order to a Christian improvement of the crook in their lot. The design of it seems to be chiefly sevenfold.

First, the trial of one's state, whether one is in the state of grace or not? Whether a sincere Christian, or a hypocrite? Though every affliction is trying, yet here I conceive lies the main providential trial a man is brought into, with reference to his state; forasmuch as the crook in the lot being a matter of continued course, one has occasion to open and show himself again and again in the same thing; from where it comes to pass, that it ministers ground for a decision in that momentous point. It was plainly on this foundation that the trial of Job's state was put. The question was, whether Job was an upright and sincere servant of God, as God himself testified of him: or but a mercenary one, a hypocrite, as Satan alleged against him? And the trial of this was put on the crook to be made in his lot. Accordingly, that which all his friends, save Elihu, the last speaker, did, in their reasonings with him under his trial, aim at, was to prove him a hypocrite; Satan thus making use of these good men for gaining his point. As God made trial of Israel in the wilderness, for the land of Canaan, by a trial of afflicting dispensations, which Caleb and Joshua bearing strenuously, were declared suitable to enter the promised land, as having followed the Lord fully; while others being tried out with them, their carcasses fell in the wilderness; so He makes trial of men for heaven, by the crook in their lot. If one can stand that test, he is manifested to be a saint, a sincere servant of God, as Job was proved to be; if not, he is but a hypocrite; he cannot stand the test of the crook in his lot, but goes away like dross in God's furnace. A melancholy instance of which we have in that man of honor and wealth, who, with high pretences of religion, arising from a principle of moral seriousness, addressed himself to our Savior, to know "what he should do that he might inherit eternal life. " Our Savior, to discover the man to himself, makes a crook in his lot, where all along before it had stood even, obliging him, by a probatory command, to sell and give away all that he had, and follow Him: "Sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and come, take up the cross and follow Me. " By this means he was at that moment, in the court of conscience, stripped of his great possession; so that from that time forward he could no longer keep them with a good conscience, as he might have done before. The man instantly felt the smart of this crook made in his lot; "he was sad at that saying; " that is, immediately upon the hearing of it, being struck with pain, disorder, and confusion of mind, his countenance changed, became cloudy and lowering, as the same word is used. He could not stand the test of that crook; he could by no means submit his lot to God in that point, but behoved to have it, at any rate, according to his own mind. So he "went away grieved, for he had great possessions. " He went away from Christ back to his plentiful estate, and though with a pained and sorrowful heart, sat him down again on it a violent possessor before the Lord, thwarting the Divine order. And there is no appearance that ever this order was revoked, or that ever he came to a better temper in reference to it.

Secondly, excitation to duty, weaning one from this world, and prompting him to look after the happiness of the other world. Many have been beholden to the crook in their lot, for that ever they came to themselves, settled, and turned serious. Going for a time like a wild ass used to the wilderness, scorning to be turned, their foot has slid in due time; and a crook being by that means made in their lot, their mouth has come wherein they have been caught. Thus was the prodigal brought to himself, and obliged to entertain thoughts of returning to his father. The crook in their lot convinces them at length that their rest is not here. Finding still a pricking thorn of uneasiness, whenever they lay down their head where they would fain take rest in the creature, and that they are obliged to lift it again, they are brought to conclude there is no hope from that quarter, and begin to cast about for rest another way, so it makes them errands to God, which they did not have before; forasmuch as they feel a need of the comforts of the other world, to which their mouths were out of taste while their lot stood even to their mind. Wherefore, whatever use we make of the crook in our lot, the voice of it is, "Arise and depart, this is not your rest. "And it is surely that which of all means of mortification, of the afflictive king, most deadens a real Christian to this life and world.

Thirdly, conviction of sin. As when one walking heedlessly is suddenly taken ill of a lameness: his going halting the rest of his way convinces him of having made a wrong step; and every new painful step brings it afresh to his mind. So God makes a crook in one's lot, to convince him of some false step he has made, or course he has taken. What the sinner would otherwise be apt to overlook, forget, or think light of, is by this means recalled to mind, set before him as an evil and bitter thing, and kept in remembrance, that his heart may every now and then bleed for it afresh. Thus, by the crook, men's sin finds them out to their conviction, "as the thief is ashamed when he is found." The which Joseph's brothers feelingly express, under the crook made in their lot in Egypt: "we are verily guilty concerning our brother;" "God has found out the iniquity of your servants." The crook in the lot usually in its nature of circumstances, so naturally refers to the false step or course, that it serves for a providential memorial of it, bringing the sin, though of an old date, fresh to remembrance, and for a badge of the sinner's folly, in word or deed, to keep it ever before him. When Jacob found Leah, through Laban's unfair dealing, palmed on him for Rachel, how could he miss of a stinging remembrance of the cheat he had, seven years at least before, put on his own father, pretending himself to be Esau? How could it miss of galling him occasionally afterwards during the course of the marriage? He had imposed on his father the younger brother for the elder; and Laban imposed on him the elder sister for the younger. The dimness of Isaac's eyes favoured the former cheat; and the darkness of the evening did as much favor the latter. So he behoved to say, as Adoni-bezek in another case, "As I have done, so God has requited me. " In like manner, Rachel, dying in childbirth, could hardly avoid a melancholy reflection on her rash and passionate expression, "Give me children, or else I die. " Even holy Job read, in the crook in his lot, some false steps he had made in his youth, many years before: "You write bitter things against me, and make me possess the iniquities of my youth. "

Fourthly, correction, or punishment, for sin. In nothing more than in the crook of the lot is that word verified, "Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you. " God may, for a time, wink at one's sin which afterward he will set a brand of his indignation upon, in crooking the sinner's lot, as he did in the case of Jacob, and of Rachel, mentioned before. Though the sin was a passing action, or a course of no long continuance, the mark of the Divine displeasure for it, set on the sinner in the crook of his lot, may pain him long and sore, that by repeated experience he may know what an evil and bitter thing it was. David's killing Uriah by the sword of the Ammonites was soon over; but for that cause "the sword never departed from his house." Gehazi quickly obtained two bags of money from Naaman, in the way of falsehood and lying; but as a lasting mark of the Divine indignation against the profane trick, he got withal a leprosy which crave to him while he lived, and to his posterity after him. This may be the case, as well where the sin is pardoned as to the guilt of eternal wrath, as where it is not. And one may have confessed and sincerely repented of that sin, which yet shall make him go halting to the grave, though it cannot carry him to hell. A man's person may be accepted in the Beloved, who yet has a particular badge of the Divine displeasure, with his sin hung on him in the crook of his lot. "You were a God that forgave them, though you took vengeance on their inventions. "

Fifthly, preventing of sin. "I will hedge up your way with thorns, and make a wall that she shall not find her paths. " The crook in the lot will readily be found to lie cross to some wrong bias of the heart, which peculiarly sways with the party; so it is like a thorn-hedge or wall in the way which that bias inclines him to. The defiling objects in the world specially take and prove ensnaring, as they are suited to the particular cast of temper in men; but by means of the crook in the lot, the paint and varnish is worn off the defiling object, by which it loses its former taking appearance. Thus, the edge of corrupt affections is blunted, temptation weakened, and much sin prevented; the sinner, after "gadding about so much to change his way, resuming ashamed " Thus the Lord crooks one's lot that "he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from men;" and so "he keeps back his soul from the pit. " Every one knows what is most pleasant to him; but God alone knows what is most profitable. As all men are liars, so all men are fools too. He is the only wise God. Many are obliged to the crook in their lot, that they do not go to those excesses which their vain minds and corrupt affections would with full sail carry them to; and they would from their hearts bless God for making it, if they did but calmly consider what would most likely be the issue of the removal of it. When one is in hazard of fretting under the hardship of bearing the crook, he would do well to consider what condition he is as yet in to bear its removal in a Christian manner.

Sixthly, discovery of latent corruption, whether in saints or sinners. There are some corruptions in every man's heart, which lie, as it were, so near the surface, that they are ready on every turn to rise up; but then there are others also which lie so very deep, that they are scarcely observed at all. But as the fire under the pot makes the scum rise up, appear on top, and run over; so the crook in the lot raises up from the bottom, and brings out such corruption as otherwise one could hardly imagine to be within. Who would have suspected such strength of passion in the meek Moses as he discovered at the waters at strife, and for which he was kept out of Canaan? Or so much bitterness of spirit in the patient Job, as to charge God with becoming cruel to Him? So much ill-nature in the good Jeremiah, as to curse not only the day of his birth, but even the man who brought tidings of it to his father? Or such a tang of atheism is Asaph, as to pronounce religion a vain thing? But the crook in the lot, bringing out these things, showed them to have been within, how long so-ever they had lurked unobserved. And as this design, however indecently proud scoffers allow themselves to treat it, is in no way inconsistent with the Divine perfections; so the discovery itself is necessary for the due humiliation of sinners, and to stain the pride of all glory, that men may know themselves. Both which appear, in that it was on this very design that God made the long-continued crook in Israel's lot in the wilderness; even to humble them and prove them, to know what was in their heart.

Seventhly, the exercise of grace in the children of God. Believers, through the remains of indwelling corruption, are liable to fits of spiritual laziness and inactivity, in which their graces lie dormant for the time. Besides, there are some graces which of their own nature are but occasional in their exercise, as being exercised only upon occasion of certain things which they have a necessary relation to, such as patience and long-suffering. Now, the crook in the lot serves to rouse up a Christian to the exercise of the graces, overpowered by corruption, and withal to call forth to action the occasional graces, ministering proper occasions for them. The truth is, the crook in the lot is the great engine of Providence for making men appear in their true colours, discovering both their ill and their good. And if the grace of God is in them, it will bring it out, and cause it to display itself. It so puts the Christian to his shifts, that however it makes him stagger for awhile, yet it will at length evidence both the reality and the strength of grace in him. "You are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, may be found unto praise. " The crook in the lot gives rise to many acts of faith, hope, love, self-denial, resignation, and other graces; to many heavenly breathings, partings, and groanings, which otherwise would not be brought forth. And I make no question but these things, however by carnal men despised as trifling, are more precious in the sight of God than even believers themselves are aware of, being acts of immediate internal worship; and will have a surprising notice taken of them, and of the sum of them, at long run. However it may be the persons themselves often can hardly think them worth their own notice at all. The steady routing of a gallant army or horse and foot to the routing of the enemy is highly prized; but the acting of holy fear and humble hope is in reality far more valuable, as being so in the sight of God, whose judgment, we are sure, is according to truth. This the Psalmist teaches: "He delights not in the strength of the horse; He takes not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." And indeed the exercise of the graces of his Spirit in his people is so very precious in His sight, that whatever grace any of them excel in, they will readily get such a crook made in their lot as will be a special trial of it, that will make a proof of its full strength. Abraham excelled in the grace of faith, in trusting God's bare word of promise above the dictates of sense; and God, giving him a promise that he would make of him a great nation, made withal a crook in his lot, by which he had enough ado with all the strength of his faith; while he was obliged to leave his country and kindred, and sojourn among the Canaanites; his wife continuing barren, till past the age of child-bearing; and when she had at length brought forth Isaac, and he was grown up, he was called to offer him up for a burnt-offering, the more exquisite trial of his faith, that Ishmael was now expelled his family, and that it was declared, that in Isaac only his seed should be called. "Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the earth." And he was entrusted with the conduct of a most perverse and unmanageable people, the crook in his lot plainly designed for the exercise of his meekness. Job excelled in patience, and by the crook in his lot, he got as much to do with it. For God gives none of his people to excel in a gift, but some time or other he will afford them use for the whole compass of it.


Puritan Board Senior
This is good Andrew! I love the wording: "Hard Providence" as opposed to "Hard Luck". It is so much more fitting with were we should be in our walk with Christ and our knowledge of Him.

Remember when Christ suffered, He did so quietly. In 1st Tim 6:13-16:

1 Timothy 6:13-14 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time--he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

More important than the why, I think is the "How." Let us get a picture from scripture and our Lord on how He suffered and how He handled it. We would do well ask Him to help us mimic Him in our own suffering knowing that it will come to us in this life.

I love Burrough's thoughts on this:

I offer the following description: Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

All is sedate and still there. That you may understand this better, I would add that this quiet, gracious frame of spirit is not opposed to certain things: 1 . To a due sense of affliction. God gives his people leave to be sensible of what they suffer. Christ does not say, 'Do not count as a cross what is a cross'; he says, 'Take up your cross daily'. It is like physical health: if you take medicine and cannot hold it, but immediately vomit it up, or if you feel nothing and it does not move you-in either case the medicine does no good, but suggests that you are greatly disordered and will hardly be cured. So it is with the spirits of men under afflictions: if they cannot bear God's potions and bring them up again, or if they are insensitive to them and no more affected by them than the body is by a draught of small beer, it is a sad symptom that their souls are in a dangerous and almost incurable condition. So this inward quietness is not in opposition to a sense of afflictions, for, indeed, there would be no true contentment if you were not apprehensive and sensible of your afflictions, when God is angry.

It is not opposed to making an orderly manner our moan and complaint to God, and to our friends. Though a Christian ought to be quiet under God's correcting hand, he may without any breach of Christian contentment complain to God. As one of the ancients says, Though not with a tumultuous clamor and shrieking out in a confused passion, yet in a quiet, still, submissive way he may unbosom his heart to God. Likewise he may communicate his sad condition to his Christian friends, showing them how God has dealt with him, and how heavy the affliction is upon him, that they may speak a word in season to his weary soul.

It is not opposed to all lawful seeking for help in different circumstances, nor to endeavoring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means. No, I may lay in provision for my deliverance and use God's means, waiting on him because I do not know but that it may be his will to alter my condition. And so far as he leads me I may follow his providence; it is but my duty, God is thus far mercifully indulgent to our weakness, and he will not take it ill at our hands if by earnest and importunate prayer we seek him for deliverance until we know his good pleasure in the matter. Certainly seeking thus for help, with such submission and holy resignation of spirit, to be delivered when God wills, and as God wills, and how God wills, so that our wills are melted into the will of God-this is not opposed to the quietness which God requires in a contented spirit.


The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
by Jeremiah Burroughs

Clearly, we cannot always know the "why" behind our suffering. If one cannot discern the reason behind the suffering one may at least bear in mind that it comes from God and therefore constitutes a "hard providence" as opposed to "hard luck." Thomas Case, Treatise on Afflictions:

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
Sometimes the Lord uses your sin itself to chastise you:

5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of his elect is by his appointment, for his glory, and their good.
( 2 Chronicles 32:25, 26, 31; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Romans 8:28 )


Puritan Board Graduate
Thanks, Andrew. This point from Thomas Boston I think directly addressed the issue: "The crook in the lot usually in its nature of circumstances, so naturally refers to the false step or course, that it serves for a providential memorial of it, bringing the sin, though of an old date, fresh to remembrance, and for a badge of the sinner's folly, in word or deed, to keep it ever before him." Is there anything else like this? I did not see anything else directly on point.

Using this, the guy who undergoes suffering would ask if there is any natural connection between the sin and the new suffering. That makes sense and seem the most obvious test. If a guy who sins by getting drunk crashes a car while under the influence, the connection is clear.

But there are other types of suffering that do not occur as naturally. For example, with respect to Israel, God said that a variety of sins (eg. stealing, murder, sexual immorality) could produce things like bad weather (eg. no rain for crops), military failure, or famine. There is no obvious connection between taking foreign wives (forbidden by the Law) and lack of rain as a punishment. Or, to use a NT example, unworthy receipt of communion caused some people to get sick and die. Physical sickness is not something I would naturally connect in my mind with unworthy receipt of the sacraments, certainly not in the same way as getting drunk and having a car wreck while under the influence.

Let me ask, this. In bottom line summary terms, what would someone consider in interpreting suffering as punishment for sin?

1. Whether is a clear connection b/t the sin and the suffering (eg. Boston above).

What about these:
2. The person is in known unrepentant sin.
3. The suffering occurs is close proximity to a sin.

Are these right? Anything else?



Puritan Board Doctor
You know God was really dealing with me on some of my heart attitudes and being judgmental. I fought tooth and nail and whined. Then I opened my heart to the Holy Bible and have found some real peace again. (No! I was not having a super-mystical thing, I am quite serious, at that deep level that a Christian has now and again, I just knew!) Dogpile me if you want and accuse me of being "subjective". But that is how it played out. Pax Vobiscum
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