We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in His wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and He is dealing with us accordingly.
Perhaps He means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions. Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps His purpose is to draw us closer to Himself in conscious communion with Him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest . . . Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.
J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1973), 97.
Oswald Sanders wrote:
How is the process of forming Christ within the believing life advanced? Every circumstance of our lives has been planned with this end in view. Our heredity and environment, our temperament, and all the frustrations and disappointments of life are not the result of blind chance . . . As we subject ourselves to the Word of God, the lordship of Christ, and the leading of the Spirit, the circumstances will combine to wean us from the old life of self-pleasing and to conform us to the image of Christ. Our Father loves us so well that He places us in positions of great difficulty and perplexity, withdraws some cherished object of love, places us to live and work with or among uncongenial people - all in order that we may despair of ourselves and learn to draw more on the resources which are for us in Christ. The process of Christ being formed in us usually progresses more rapidly in times of adversity than in prosperity. When all runs smoothly, we tend to forget our dependence on God, but in times of trouble we turn to Him and appropriate His grace and help. Some of the greatest saints have been those who have been tested most severely. Rightly received, the disciplines of life serve to reproduce in us the likeness of Christ.
J. Oswald Sanders, The Best That I Can Be (Singapore: OMF Books, 1984), 56-57.
HT: Justin Taylor