Compliance with God‟s Will During Seasons of Affliction
by Wilhelmus à Brakel
When you pray with your heart, ―Thy will be done, then you are acknowledging the Lord‘s majesty, claim, and authority over you. Then you will acknowledge with delight and joy that He alone is sovereign and is Lord, and you are thus fully submitting yourself to Him and His will. You thereby request that He deal with you in full accordance with His will and pleasure, thus acquiescing in the fact that you will have nothing to say in the matter. You are thereby leaving everything in His hands, since you know you are neither able nor willing to act contrary to Him, knowing that He will deal with you in a fatherly manner and, being reconciled with Him in Christ, all things will work together for good for you.
If the Lord then afflicts you—as He will most certainly do with all His children, not one excepted—you are to reflect upon your petition and thus with all quietness subject yourself to the will (this chastising will) of your Father. This is not to imply that you would not be conscious of your cross, for that would be unnatural and an implicit despising of the God who chastises—which provokes Him to wrath. ―Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved (Jer 5:3). It is also not contrary to submission to the will of God if we desire to be delivered from those oppressing or threatening circumstances. You may indeed pray for deliverance and you may indeed use lawful means to be delivered from it. However, all this must be practiced while embracing the will of God, being much more desirous that God‘s will be done toward us than that we be delivered from the cross. Rather, you would be opposing the Lord‘s will if you were fretful. ―Neither be weary of his correction (Prov 3:11). Such occurs when you thereby become discouraged, reject your spiritual state, and view all this as proceeding from the avenging justice and wrath of God; when you harbor hard thoughts toward God and entertain doubts about the providence of God: ―Thou art become cruel to me: with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me (Job 30:21); ―Lest I ... take the name of my God in vain (Prov 30:9); or when you wish for death and, with Judas, entertain thoughts to hang yourself: ―So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life (Job 7:15). It occurs if you become envious of the prosperity of the wicked: ―For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning (Ps 73:3, 14); and if you begin to doubt as to whether God truly rules all things—whether this evil proceeds from the Lord, whether He sees those who are destitute, and whether He hears their cry or helps them indeed.
To do so is to contend with the Almighty (Job 40:2), and is a hardening of ourselves: ―Who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered (Job 9:4). When such or similar thoughts, dispositions, and inner motions manifest themselves, you oppose the Lord, not being submissive to the will of God. Then you bring a threefold cross upon yourself as well as a chastisement which you will not be able to avoid. You will increasingly be afflicted with grief, and not bearing the cross well will be more grievous than the chastisement itself. The cross will also be made heavier and be of longer duration, for God will prevail: ―That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged (Rom 3:4). You would cause the Lord to withdraw Himself from you: ―Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest My soul depart from thee (Jer 6:8). Have you then gained the upper hand? Therefore, in all quietness submit yourself to the chastising hand of the Lord, and say, ―I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him (Mic 7:9). Learn from a king to bring your soul into submission unto the Lord. He said in Ps 39:9, ―I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou didst it.
And should it not behoove you to conduct yourself likewise?
First, is not the Lord the sovereign God? May not He do with His own as pleases Him? Do you have a right to demand from Him why His dealings are thus? Would you indeed desire that the Lord be obligated to you and be required to do your will? Certainly not; you rejoice that He is God, is sovereign, and is exalted above all. Why then, as you acknowledge His majesty, would you not willingly submit yourself to Him—even if it were with tears in your eyes due to the grief you must endure?
Secondly, believers, is not He your reconciled Father in Christ? Does not He act in love—even if it is due to paternal displeasure with your deeds? ―As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten (Rev 3:19). Should you then render opposition to love and be fretful over the manifestation of love? This is where the problem lies. You think: ―If only I knew that God loves me, I would quietly and willingly endure the affliction. It is that which begets your fretfulness. Overcome this and humbly submit yourself to the chastising hand of the Lord and you will better perceive the grace which the Lord has bestowed in you. During temptation you are not able to ascertain your spiritual state by way of the marks of grace. Rather, you must deem this to be a fact, and exercise faith instead. This will bring you closer to God and cause you to look unto Jesus; all that leads to the Lord Jesus, and through Him to God, cannot be counterfeit. Therefore, consider that the cross is a consequence of God‘s displeasure over your sinful behavior, but you must at the same time esteem it as proceeding from a paternal heart in order to thereby sanctify you and draw you away from sin. With this in mind, submit yourself unto the Lord. ―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 (Heb 12:9).
Thirdly, the chastisement, when you bear it well and embrace the will of God in it, will be greatly beneficial to you. This is God‘s very objective: ―He (chastises) for our profit, that we might be partakers of His 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 (Heb 12:10-11).
Even if you do not perceive the beneficial nature of the chastisement, then do not be surprised by this, for the fruit will come afterwards. Therefore, ―Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass (Ps 37:5), and you will experience what David experienced and say, ―It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes. I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word (Ps 119:71, 75, 67).
Source: The Christian's Reasonable Service (Vol 3) by Wilhelmus à Brakel