Learn not to be discouraged whatever thy case may be, whether thou hast been afflicted in name by reproaches, so as thou thinkest thou shalt never get thy reputation again; or in body by diseases, that thou shalt never have thy health again; or in soul by doubts, that thou shalt never be raised up again. Remember the exceeding great kindness of the Lord, and know that He is able easily to scatter thine afflictions, whatever they be. This I say because, as men in prosperity think it will always continue and “tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant;” so in affliction they think that it will never be otherwise. What unfaithfulness is this! As David says in Psalm 31:15, all times are in the hands of God – the God that alters the weather and turns the winter into summer. It is a storm now, and half an hour afterwards the sun shines. God is able to make such alterations in men’s estates also. And comfort thyself with this: thine affliction shall lie no longer on thee than there is need; the plaster shall not lie a moment longer than while the sore is healing. If it were sooner healed, it would fall off sooner; but then it shall fall off at once. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” because the anger of God lasteth only for a while; and the reason is given: “He delighteth in mercy” (Mic 7:18).
When He is angry with His children, it is but short. His constant course is otherwise; “He delighteth in mercy”. Now whatever a man delights in he will be long doing, he can hardly be taken off from it. When therefore thine affliction is long, it is when thy heart is harder than ordinary; for some are more stubborn than others. But thou wilt say, This affliction is great and I know not how it should be helped unless the Lord should work miracles. It may be so; and indeed when God will send an affliction, all the world cannot keep it off. In Zechariah 1 there were four horns that beset the children of Israel to afflict them, so that whatever way they went, they would have met them. No way was left to escape; for when God will afflict, He will afflict, and there shall be no door to go out at; else it were not an affliction.
Yet what do these horns serve for, but to push them home to the Lord? And though a man cannot escape them, yet there is this comfort, that though those horns be as strong as the horns of a unicorn, so that all the world cannot knock them off. Yet when they pushed them to the Lord, the prophet saw four carpenters. And wherefore came those carpenters? To knock off every horn, and to cast them out, so that every nation was frayed away that was against Judah. Neither the Assyrian, nor Babylon, nor any of them were left. So when God will afflict a man, nothing can hinder Him; so also when the Lord will scatter the affliction again and will raise a man, nothing can hinder it; He will do it, be it ever so great. Be not discouraged then; though the storm grow great and violent, one word of His mouth will allay and still both storms and winds, as in Mark 4:39.
Take the most grievous disease that thou hast long lain under, and from which thou thinkest thou shalt never recover, yet one word will rebuke it. Take the worst and most bitter and most powerful enemy of the Church, such as Haman, if God speak but a word to him, as He did to Laban, “Hurt not this man”, he cannot hurt thee; One word of the Lord Jesus tames them all; only bring faith with thee. In the great storm, Christ saith to His disciples when they were so exceedingly troubled: “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40,41) – as if He had said, It is not the greatness of this storm that causes this fear, but the littleness of your faith. So when all the people murmured at the Red Sea, what was the reason that Moses was quiet all that while when they murmured? “Stand still,” saith he, “and see the salvation of the Lord.” The reason of the difference was: Moses believed; they did not. So that the trouble comes not from the greatness of the affliction, but the littleness of your faith. When therefore afflictions come, be not discouraged, but possess yourselves with patience. Keep this as a sure conclusion against all objections, that God will be merciful to His people.
1. Reprinted, with slight editing, from The Golden Sceptre, pp 28-31. Preston (1587-1628) was one of the earlier Puritans.