The consolations of an afflicted state are very needful, and grace only can furnish us with them. Be ye assured of it, that never did a Christian bear up patiently under God’s heavy hand, but by the strong secret working of some consolation. It is true, we value and seek most that consolation that comes in as a great flood of sense, and that doth swallow up the bitterness of affliction. This the Lord can, and sometimes doth give to his people. But there is a secret, silent spring of consolation, that is as profitable, and more common in the Lord’s way with his children. Of this the apostle speaks in 2 Cor. 1:3-5. Everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, are his blessings, 2 Thess. 2:16, 17.
Theodoret’s History of the Monks of Syria, On Divine Love:
He who arranged the marriage and presented the bride—I mean the inspired Paul—was also enamored of this beauty, and uttered this expression of desire: ‘Who will separate us from the love of God? Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are being put to death all the day long; we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter.’ He then indicates the cause of endurance: ‘in all these things,’ he says, ‘we more than conquer, through God who has loved us’. Let us examine who we are and what benefits we have enjoyed, and that it was not we who loved first, but being loved we gave love in return; while hating we were loved, and ‘while enemies we were reconciled.’ We did not ourselves beg to obtain reconciliation, but received the Only-begotten as intercessor; those who had wronged were consoled by him they had wronged. In addition to this, let us reflect upon him who was crucified for us, the saving passion, the repose of death, the hope of resurrection that has been given to us.
When we examine these and the like, we overcome the melancholy things that fall to our lot; and by applying the memory of benefits to the temporary hardships of the body we gladly bear the attack of things distressing. When we weigh up against longing for the Master all the sorrows of life, we find them light indeed. Even if we assemble together all that is pleasurable and seems delightful, divine yearning, when put in the balance, shows them to be more feeble than a shadow and more perishable than spring blossoms.
Afflictions are of many sorts and kinds. I am apt to believe, that though there be some likeness in the afflictions of many, yet every afflicted man hath a particular affliction of his own. As it is with people’s faces, so it is with their crosses. For as many thousand faces as are amongst mankind, though all are somewhat like, yet every one hath some distinction. The world is full of crosses; yet every afflicted person hath his own cross. Our Lord hints at it, Matt. 16:24, Let a man take up his cross. The Lord appoints a proper cross for every one: though people are ready to think and say, that their cross is unfit for them, and that they would bear another cross better. In crosses we must neither choose nor refuse. David’s case was singular, 2 Sam. 24. The Lord chooseth for us, and we must not, cannot refuse: Job 34:33, Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose, and not I: therefore speak what thou knowest.
Robert Traill (The Throne of Grace), Works 1:199-200:
Spiritual things are so unlike to carnal things, that all comparisons betwixt them must needs halt greatly. That a poor, hungry, starving man, should, in a dungeon, or desolate wilderness, be refreshed, and made strong, by the bare remembrance of a feast he had seven years ago; this is impossible in nature. But in spiritual things it is otherwise. The savoury remembrance of a spiritual enjoyment long since past, can bring back the taste, and power, and virtue of it, to the soul that wants it. Believers are usually upon their recovery from a sad disconsolate state, when they are exercised in remembering with savour their former enjoyments. Thus saith returning Israel, Hosea 2:7, I will go and return to my first husband: for then it was better with me than now.
Faith can stand under that distress that breaks the back of presumption; Job 13:15, 16, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him. “He hath taken away my children all at once, my estate in one day; hath taken away my health, and made me miserable, to a proverb in all ages: although he should proceed, and slay me with his own hand, my slayer is my Saviour, my death shall be my salvation.” Great words, and hard to be spoken in the day of heavy trial! God slaying Job, is Job’s salvation. God slays, Job trusts, and maintains his confidence under the stroke. No hypocrite can do this; and many believers do but bungle at the doing of it. There is an extremity a-coming on every man, that will try and discover what metal there is in his faith; prepare for it.