The following is an excerpt from a letter of John Berridge to a fellow minister who had recently injured himself in a bad fall.
I received your letter, and dare not say that I am sorry for your fall, nor indeed for any afflictions that God lays on His children; they are tokens of His fatherly love, and needful medicine for us. Rather would I pray that while God keeps you in the furnace, you may be still, and feel your dross and tin being purged away.
The Lord Jesus gives me a dose of this medicine most days; and I am never so well as when I am taking it, though I frequently make a crooked face at it. If your heart is as my heart, it will need many a bitter potion to cleanse and strengthen it! Afflictions have been to me some of my greatest mercies.
No lasting gain do I get, but in a furnace. Comforts of every kind make me either light or lofty, and swell me, though unperceivably, with self-sufficiency. Indeed, so much dross, native and acquired, is found in my heart, that I have constant need of a furnace. Jesus has selected a suitable furnace for me, not a hot and hasty one, which seems likely to harden and consume me–but one with a gentle and lingering heat, which melts my heart gradually, and lets out some of its dross. Though I cannot love the furnace, yet the longer I live, the more I see of its need and its use. A believer seldom walks steadily and brightly, unless he is well-furnaced.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of affliction!” Isaiah 48:10
May the Lord water your soul and your vineyard, and teach you to know nothing, and preach nothing but Jesus Christ!
Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings.
Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up, and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this life-buoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need!
the living water to quench my thirst,
the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger,
the snow-white robe to cover me,
the sure refuge in times of trouble,
the happy home of my soul,
my food and my medicine,
my solace and my song,
my light and my delight.
The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy!
Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!”
After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17
Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”
Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!
I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.
Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!
“A few more struggles here, A few more conflicts more, A little while of toils and tears — Then we shall weep no more!”
May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, `My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.” By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge….You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.
His eyes looked at me with such compassion I was sure I had found someone who understood, but that was not entirely the case. As I mentioned before, the skies have turned dark, and that darkness has begun to stir something deep within me
When I first saw him coming, I knew he cared and was going out of his way to minister to me. At first, he just sat with me, not saying anything, and that spoke such profound peace and compassion because it made me feel like I was not the only one feeling the weight of the storm. Then he began to speak, and my heart welled up with anticipation because if he was such a comfort when he was silent, how much more would he be a blessing when he started to talk.
At first, he reminded me that suffering exists in this life because of sin. Adam’s transgression opened up the world to all kinds of sickness, hardship, and even death. If it were not for sin in this world, there would be no suffering, but we have a Savior who has dealt with sin on the cross. In rising again, he defeated death and showed that all of our transgressions for which he had to pay, were atoned. He then proceeded to say that Christ would set all things right. My mind began to settle in on this truth. It reminded me that any of the sufferings I was facing, had nothing to do with God’s wrath because that had been satisfied in Christ on the cross. Then he began to tell me that we are saved by faith, and with this, I certainly agreed. In fact, I have said that this fight I am in is a fight of faith.
He then continued to instruct me by quoting our Savior saying that if our faith is strong enough, we can begin to move mountains. “We must trust that God has the power to clear these dark skies, and if we would claim that truth, then God would do it.” In essence, God would see our faith and move on our behalf. He explained that we have the Spirit of God living in us, and since he could speak things into existence, so could we.
He advised me always to speak positive words and think positive thoughts. I should not even acknowledge the dark skies existed. I should call things as I want them to be instead of as they are. This new thought would show God my faith, and he would perform the miracle I needed.
My heart wanted this to be true. As I’ve mentioned before I have a natural desire to be in control, and if there’s something I can do, then I feel it is something I can control. His discourse hit me in many ways that both stirred me to action and emptied me of my resolve. I could not figure out why his words troubled me so much.
Then it hit me. His statements came with a corollary thought that he was not saying out loud. If mustering up enough mental determination, which he called faith, could deliver me from this darkness and give me all I desired, then the very reason I am facing this now was my fault. If I control the Sovereign One through my faith, then any darkness in my life was a result of my lack of faith.
My mind immediately went to all the great saints in scripture: Moses, Abraham, David, Matthew, Joseph, John, and Paul. These were men of great faith who faced darker skies than I can even imagine, and scripture nowhere paints a picture that it was because of a lack of faith on their part. It was often just the opposite. God allowed the dark skies to reveal his glory and strength in their lives. God often paints bright hope across a dark and ominous canvas.
I realized at that point that my friend was Job’s friend. For the first time, his real name was revealed to me. Some have called him Half-truth. I remember reading through Job with the understanding that nowhere in the book was God sovereignty over Job suffering ever questioned, and it was not due to a lack of faith on Job’s part.
When I would read through Job, I would see the God-ordained trials he faced, and then, on top of it all, I would see Job’s friends piling on. Then something clicked, Job’s poor comforters were not some add-on that only happened by chance. They were part of God’s sovereign plan as well.
In the end, it was the suffering inflicted by his friends that God used as the dark canvas to paint hope for the rest of us to see. Just think, how many of us has God helped by Job’s response to his friends? Those speakers of half-truths that condemned Job for his situation are still around today. If you don’t find them surrounding you, you will often find them living within you.
You may be facing accusing voices in your life as well, and we must correct their errors with the Word of God. Never forget that these speakers of half-truth are also part of Gods’ plan for you. Often what God is showing us when they arrive and begin to tell us that God would fix everything in this life if we truly trusted him, is that we are not supposed to place our ultimate hope in our friends or ourselves. We must fully trust in him and his plan. The other thing that begins to be corrected is our false expectations. It is not as if God has failed to do what he was supposed to do; we were simply expecting things from him that he never promised. It is much like when some of Jesus’ followers stopped following him because he was crucified. They expected Christ to reign without a cross. Instead, Jesus reigns through his suffering, and that plan is still in effect today.
God is still using unresolved difficulty in our lives to show his glory, and part of the dark canvas he is using as the backdrop to bring hope to a fallen world may include accusing voices. All things are under his sovereign plan.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”—Mal. 3:3
My soul! your Refiner and Purifier is Jesus. Jesus shapes all your trials; Jesus sends all your afflictions; Jesus mingles all your sorrows; Jesus shapes and balances all the clouds of your pilgrimage; Jesus prepares and heats the furnace that refines you as silver and purifies you as gold. Then, O my soul, tremble not at the knife that wounds you, at the flame that scorches you, at the cloud that shades you, at the billows that surge above you–Jesus is in it all, and you are as safe as though you had reached the blissful climate where the vine needs no pruning, and the ore no purifying, where the sky is never darkened, and upon whose golden sands no storms of adversity ever blow or waves of sorrow ever break.
And, O my soul, what deep need is there for this refining and purifying of your Lord. What inward corruption, what carnality, what worldliness, what self-seeking, what creature idolatry, what God-dishonoring unbelief, imperatively demand the searching, burning, purifying fires of Christ’s furnace! And this is the end of all–to take away your sin, and to make you a partaker of the Divine holiness.
And mark the Refiner’s position. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” It would be fatal to his purpose did the smelter and refiner leave his post while the liquid mass was fusing and seething in the furnace. But there he patiently sits, watching and tempering the flame, and removing the refuse and the dross as it floats upon the surface of the molten ore. So Christ sits as a Refiner; and with an eye that never slumbers, and with a patience that never wearies, and with a love that never chills, and with a faithfulness that never falters, watches and controls the process that purifies our hearts, burnishes our graces, sanctifies our nature, and impresses more vividly His own image of loveliness upon our soul. If He places you in the fire, He will bring you through the fire, “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Sweet and soothing is the truth that the believer is not alone in the fire. The Refiner is with us as with the three children passing through the burning furnace kindled by the king. The Lord will have us polished stones; and as some believers are more rusty and some more alloyed than others, they need a rougher file and a hotter furnace. This may account for the great severity of trial through which some of the Lord’s precious jewels are called to pass. Not less dear to His heart are they for this; it is said God had one Son without corruption, but no son without correction; for “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Look up, my soul, your Portion is your Refiner. Be still, humble, submissive. The knife is in a Father’s hand, the flame is under a Savior’s control.
This morning I had the privilege of preaching at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. The sermon is one that was heavy, but I pray, in the end, lifts you up. We serve a sovereign God, and any suffering you experience in this life will not be wasted. Often, it is in that valley that you hear the Lord speaking tenderly to you.
The video is of the entire church service, but the sermon begins around the 40 min mark. Click to the link below to watch on YouTube.