I’m not sure what one ought to tell his homesick child, but I do know what Jonathan Edwards said to his daughter Esther after she had moved away and then fallen ill. Edwards (as we all have come to expect) offers profound wisdom to his daughter which is, at the same time, a soft correction and very strong consolation.
“I am glad to see some of the contents of your letter to your Mother…that you have been enabled to make a free-will offering of yourself to God’s service, and that you have experienced some inward divine consolations under your affliction, by the extreme weakness and distressing pains you have been the subject of. For these you ought to be thankful, and also for that unwearied kindness and tender care of your companion, which you speak of. I would not have you think that any strange thing has happened to you in this affliction: ‘Tis according to the course of things in this world, that after the world’s smiles, some great affliction soon comes. God has now given you early and seasonable warning not at all to depend on worldly prosperity…. Labour while you live, to serve God and do what good you can, and endeavor to improve every dispensation to God’s glory and your own spiritual good, and be content to do and bear all that God calls you to in this wilderness, and never expect to find this world any thing better than a wilderness” (Quoted in Ian Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, 402).
In a couple of weeks, we begin our new Kerusso Corner program on Wednesday nights. We will be holding conversations about the places in life where God’s Word meets the world. We are beginning those conversations at the heart of the gospel with a series of discussions on the sovereignty of God. I know that when His sovereignty is brought up, there are always questions about 2 things: free will and evil. So, we will have some conversations about those things.
In preparation, I am reading some materials on these topics, and I just came across a glorious little book I want you to know about: The Suffering Letters of C. H. Spurgeon. This book is classic Spurgeon. He is unequaled for his wit and his ability to speak with the clarity of high definition. His pictures in words are more powerful than our pictures on a flat screen TV.
For instance, he says that when we suffer, we tend to question God’s goodness. Then, Spurgeon nails us on that very point, saying that our questioning God’s wisdom in removing us from active service would be like a fly on the mail cart thinking the mail could not get delivered if he were shooed away from its wheel. In other words, God does not need us at all. If He removes us from service through a suffering, He is doing so for our sakes, and He will show us yet more His great power. It is both an humbling and strengthening word to us from Spurgeon, and this little book is full of such help.
(For those of you interested in the conversations, please show up on Wednesday nights, beginning September 1st. If you do not live near Cedar Grove, you should be able to watch these conversations on video. More information about that later.)