MY AFFLICTIONS ARE TOO GREAT!

“My afflictions are too great!” Though we may not say this out loud, we probably often times think it, concerning whatever it is we are going through. Once we adopt this attitude it is easy to become turned in on ourselves and have a pity party. In fact, I would argue that this is man’s natural tendency as a fallen creature. We are self-centered and that self-centeredness manifests itself by dwelling on our own feelings. Our thoughts become about ourselves and not about God and neighbor. Once our thoughts are directed away from God and neighbor, we necessarily have a distorted view of the world. We misinterpret God’s actions towards us in providence and our neighbor’s actions towards us. God and neighbor now become “against us.” This is a frame of mind that needs correction.

Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, where he deals with changing this kind of attitude. He has several remedies for fostering contentment, but I want to focus on one. He states the complaint as follows:

Oh, but it is very great, my affliction is exceedingly great,’ says someone, ‘and however you say we must be contented, you may say so who do not feel such great afflictions, but if you felt my affliction, which I feel, you would think it hard to bear and be content.

To that I answer:

1. Let it be as great an affliction as it will, it is not as great as your sin. He has punished you less than your sins.

2. It might have been a great deal more, you might have been in hell. And it is, if I remember, Bernard’s saying, "It is an easy matter to be oppressed than to perish." You might have been in hell, and therefore the greatness of the thing should not make you murmur, even grant it to be great.

3. It may be that it is greater because your heart murmurs so. Shackles upon a man’s legs, if his legs are sore, will pain him more. If the shoulder is sore, the burden is the greater. It is because your heart is so unsound that your affliction is great to you.

In a world where pop psychology dribbles from many pulpits, this advice sounds harsh. But dare I say that, contrary to historical revisionists, the Puritans were a much happier people than we!