Thomas Watson was the pastor of St. Stephen’s Walbrook in the 17th century. As a man familiar with suffering, he was well-equipped to write All Things for Good, which was his meditation on Romans 8:28. In chapter 2, Watson lists 10 ways God works affliction for our good. Below is a summary of his reflections.
10 Ways God Works Affliction for Good
1. Afflictions work for good, as they cause us to see our sin.
“God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not believe was there. Water in the glass looks clear, but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. In prosperity a man seems to be humble and thankful, the water looks clear; but set this man a little on the fire of affliction, and the scum boils up—much impatience and unbelief appear.” (27–28)
2. Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of making the heart more upright.
“In prosperity, the heart is apt to be divided (Hos 10:2). The heart cleaves partly to God, and partly to the world. . . . Now God takes away the world, that the heart may cleave more to him in sincerity.” (28)
3. Afflictions work for good, as they conform us to Christ.
“God’s rod is a pencil to draw Christ’s image more lively upon us.” (28)
“Was his head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, though it be by sufferings.” (28)
4. Afflictions work for good to the godly, as they as they are destructive to sin.
“If a physician should say to the patient, ‘Your body is distempered, and full of bad humours, which must be cleared out, or you will die; but I will prescribe physic which, though it may make you sick, yet it will carry away the dregs of your disease, and save your life’; would not this be for the good of the patient? Afflictions are the medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the tympany of pride, the fever of lust, the dropsy of covetousness.” (29)
5. Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of loosening our hearts from the world.
“When you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it is to loosen the tree from the earth; so God digs away our earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from the earth.” (29)
6. Afflictions work for good, as they make way for comfort.
“After a bitter pill, God gives sugar. Paul had his prison-songs. God’s rod has honey at the
end of it.” (30)
7. Afflictions work for good, as they are a magnifying of us.
Watson lists three ways afflictions magnify us:
Afflictions magnify us in that God takes notice of us and thinks us worthy to be smitten.
Afflictions magnify us by showing signs of sonship. God disciplines those he loves.
Afflictions magnify us as they make us renowned in the world for our suffering. (30)
8. Afflictions work for good, as they are the means of making us happy.
“It may be said, How do afflictions make us happy? We reply that, being sanctified, they bring us nearer to God.” (31)
“Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to Christ.” (31)
9. Afflictions work for good, as they put to silence the wicked.
“How ready are they to asperse and calumniate the godly, that they serve God only for self-interest. Therefore God will have His people endure sufferings for religion, that He may put a padlock on the lying lips of wicked men. When the atheists of the world see that God has a people, who serve Him not for a livery, but for love, this stops their mouths.” (31)
10. Afflictions work for good, as they make way for glory.
“As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us meet for glory.” (32)
“We should not so much look at the evil of affliction, as the good; not so much the dark side of the cloud, as the light. The worst that God does to His children is to whip them to heaven.” (32)