I must admit, in comparison to the majority of Christians, I haven’t tasted too many afflictions in my almost five years as a Christian. Sometimes this can lead to a comfort zone where my focus is pulled away from God. Perhaps, in God’s providence, my fair share of afflictions is still to come.
Nevertheless, recently I have been going through a tougher-than-usual time (though it is nothing in comparison to what many others face daily) primarily in that having 9 subjects in a semester is really getting to me. For the past 3 or 4 weeks my classmates and I, and especially those who like me take extracurricular subjects and are also employed beyond academics in the church or other work/activities, have really been occupied full-time with tests and assignments, together with extracurricular activities. This has grown to the point where my average bedtime has shifted from its usual 12-1 o’clock (yes, I’m a night-owl) to 3-4 in the morning. And then there’s class the next morning, which allows for minimal sleep. Weekends are also non-existent at the moment because they function more as study leave than anything else, because when Monday morning arrives there is either a test or assignment that needs to be written or handed in. In saying this I am by no means oblivious to the fact that there are many students in disciplines other than theology who go through exactly the same thing, or that many working people face similar or even tougher circumstances. But when I finished another assignment just prior to posting this article on the blog (it is now 2:30am in South Africa), I thought about how one of my favourite Puritans, Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686) wrote many solid things regarding Christians in affliction, whatever the cause of their hardships may be. This short excerpt meant a lot to me tonight, and I’m confident it would be edifying to my readers who may find themselves in difficult situations, regardless of what they may be facing (probably much more difficult situations than I find myself in):
“When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God’s smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When they are pounded they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit.”
– Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), All Things for Good (A Divine Cordial), p. 56