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In this sense does St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, cite the expression of Solomon, Proverbs 3 : “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” And in the same connection: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of IIis holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” These passages teach us that the stripes which are inflicted on us by the hand of God are prompted by His paternal love and not by His wrath. If therefore we feel the infliction, let us not suppose that God is angry with us or that He cares not for us. He disciplines us because we are children, that we may not fall short of the inheritance which He has in store for us.
This lesson concerning the purpose of sorrows and sufferings, which the Word teaches us, we also learn from facts and examples. Surely no one would have the presumption to assert that God Almighty, the Father in heaven, did not love His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; and yet
when we view His life and death, if we were to judge from mere external appearances, we would have to say that no love of the Father is manifest there, that He is hostile and cruel towards Ilis Son and punishes Him with utter severity, while the wicked Jews, intent on malicious actions, are spared. It is as Isaiah says: “Yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” And the Jews in mockery said to Him when He was crucified: “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
If God thus willed it with His Son on earth, we need not wonder if the Christians have a similar experience. Christ says: “The servant is not above his master, if they have persecuted me they will also persecute you.” And in the epistle to the Hebrews the apostle says very appropriately : “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Thus we see how Scripture and examples fully agree in this regard, wherefore we ought to recognize in our sorrows and sufferings God's good and gracious will, and not for a moment think that He has for
Our tribulation should become unto us a sure testimonial of the love of God to us, because we are assured by such visitations of our Father in heaven that we are His dearly beloved children.
Let us now consider the reason why God thus seemingly unmercifully chastises His children and keeps them smarting under the rod. St. Paul mentions the reason when he says: “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Likewise we read, Psalm 119: "It is good for me that I
have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.” And Isaiah says in the 28. chapter: Vexatio dat intellectum, “It shall be a vexation only to understand the report.” We must admit that if God gave us everything we desired, if He warded off all misfortune from us, we would become so secure that we would not be troubled by our sins, nor would we think of God's Word and of prayer. But when we are visited by various adversities we have occasion to resort to prayer and to call to mind how our sins have richly merited such chastisement, and we will thereby be prompted to an amendment of our conduct and to an earnest supplication that the affliction may be removed or moderated. This is the meaning of the words: “But our Father in heaven chastened us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness."
If now the Christian is afflicted, he ought not to indulge in effeminate complaints and lamentations, but should remember that he has a merciful God in heaven, who has not forsaken him nor any of His children; who sends these trials and sorrows as reminders of man's trespasses and as a call to repentance and to a more faithful obedience and filial love. If we are thus disposed our sorrows will be our gain, and we will be patient under them. Nothing can then move us to become fretful or to seek forbidden remedies; we will quietly await the help of God and pray for it.
Another lesson we must learn. If we know that no evil can befall us against the good and gracious will of God, we must also know and believe that He will find a rescue from our tribulation and will furnish present assistance. This consolation is fitly
expressed by the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 10: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." In full accord with this is the modicum, "a little while," of our text: “Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy,” yea, into a joy which is everlasting.
There are two prominent reasons why our faith in regard to this "little while” is often wanting or weak. We are apt to regard the affliction when upon us as too severe and are ready to succumb to it. Thus when the chief marshal of the king of Assyria demanded the surrender of Jerusalem, Hezekiah sent to the prophet Isaiah this message: “This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” The same figure of speech is used by our Lord in the text when He speaks of the woman in travail; apparently there is no help, mother and child must die. Thus the tribulations of the Christians are not insignificant nor easy to be borne, as we learn from the 69. Psalm, where Christ Himself exclaims in agony: “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.”
The second reason why we are so desponding is contained in our inability to discover ways and means of
from our miseries. We are quick to conclude that there is no help possible; we refuse to believe that the troubles will last but "a little while.” To encourage us in this despondency the
Lord adduces in our Gospel the example of the woman in travail. When we view her in her distress it seems that there is no help for her, she must perish; but in a moment all is changed; instead of death a twofold life succeeds: the mother is convalescent and a bright, healthy child is born into the world. All sorrow vanishes and rapturous joy ensues. Of this we have examples every day; for fatal results at child-birth, though now and then occurring, are nevertheless not frequent. Generally great happiness quickly succeeds pain and suffering, as Christ here says. This lesson we ought to lay to heart; for this purpose the Lord taught it to His disciples. When sorrows, tribulations and afflictions come, let us call to mind that they will continue only “a little while” and after that joy is ours. The apostle teaches this same lesson to the Hebrews when he tells them: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Because of the sudden and often unexpected change of sorrows into joy our tribulations are said to be but for a little wliile.” Again, because our afflictions are exchanged in the end for everlasting happiness, they are regarded as but for "a little while.” What matters it though poor Lazarus suffers for ten or for twenty years, if after that he is to be eternally comforted ? St. Paul says, Rom. 8: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And 2 Cor. 4: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,