The late puritan Thomas Brooks said, "We must measure afflictions by their outcome, not by how much they hurt."
For Brooks every day was a day lived under the Father's hand, moved along through refining fires toward conformity to Christ. The chastising hand of the Father brought lovingly and delicately and deliberately measured discipline. Every day was charged with the presence of God.
Is something not right? Are your circumstances bitter? Are you stuck on the wrong side of a wall? Is your health weakening? Are your colleagues cruel? Do people speak against you? Are you alone in the wilderness? Are friends distracted, sparse, disinterested in God? Have your plans been thwarted again? Can you only see what is missing?
Look on these things as a child under the care of an all-good and always-sovereign Father. Regard no difficulty as random. Regard no hurt as without cause. Regard no want as unplanned? Take all things from the Father's hand.
A favorite Psalm for Thomas Brooks, and many others of his mind, was Psalm 39. In verses 9-11, the Psalmist speaks poignantly of the pain of his Father's discipline:
I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.
Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! - Psalm 39
Notice the Psalmist has stopped his mouth. Why? Because to go on complaining is to complain against God. He knows it now. He has come to know it again. There are no powers in the universe working against him somehow rogue and free of his Father's own power. "It is you who have done it." The weather didn't do it. The doctor didn't do it. The genes didn't do it. The people didn't do it. The enemies didn't do it. The universe didn't do it. Nothing sharp touches his life but that which his Father has sent.
The child has become mute. His protests are over. His full attention has been captured. He accepts the Father's hand. He does not despise the Father's touch. He scorns not the Father's attention. He resigns. Resignation is not folly, it is freedom. It reconciles him to God. He is not alone. His trouble is not random. His enemies are not sovereign. The Father is upon him. In a manner of hurt, yes, but upon him, upon him to bring him to where the Father wants to go. Where else would a child of such a Father wish to be?
Notice, however, that the hurting muted Psalmist seeks relief. "Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand." This is where he ought to be. Small before God. Speaking to God. Seeking God. Hiding in God. Knowing God. Knowing that God is a Father moved by humility. God has not used the rod to see his child's stiff upper lip, but take his child's heart: "I am spent." God wants his child weak before him, looking only to him, reaching up toward him. He is a mere breath. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6).
Speaking of these verses from Psalm 39, Charles Spurgeon said: "Silence from all repining did not prevent the voice of prayer, which must never cease. In all probability the Lord would grant the psalmist's petition, for he usually removes affliction when we are resigned to it; if we kiss the rod, our Father always burns it. When we are still, the rod is soon still."
200 years ago, somewhere near Philadelphia, you could find the grave of 3 young children. Siblings. All cut down by scarlet fever. The marble headstone marking their grave had the following words from Psalm 39 engraved upon it: "I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it."
A minister who saw the headstone, himself living in those times, said: “The most perfect calmness and peace in trouble is produced, not when we rely on our own reasonings, or when we attempt to comprehend and explain a mystery, but when we direct our thoughts simply to the fact that 'God has done it. This is the highest reason that can be presented to the human mind, that what is done is right; this raises the mind above the mysteriousness of what is done, and makes it plain that it should be done; this leaves the reasons why it is done, where they should be left, with God.”
How greatly blessed are the children of God to be lifted, like little ones, up out of the clatter of an accusing world and brought to the bosom of the Father. Much good is done and much good quickly recovered through silence more than speech. When our hearts are quieted then our prayers really begin.
"Thy will be done."