Lenten Classics - Suffering


The traditional season of Lent consists of the forty days (excluding Sundays) that lead up to Easter. Not all Christians celebrate Lent, but for many it is a meaningful time to seek spiritual renewal from the Lord. For an interesting article on a helpful approach to Lent, click here.

During each week of Lent this year, we will post an excerpt from a classic writing on Christian spirituality, followed by some questions for personal reflection.

Today’s post consists of selected excerpts from the writings of Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who lived from 1600 to 1661. The author of many books, he is best known today for his letters of pastoral counsel written to individuals facing challenges in the Christian life.

The following selections address the problem of suffering. Rutherford was no stranger to suffering. During his lifetime he buried 2 wives and 8 of his 9 children. He was persecuted by the established church, removed from his position of ministry, and exiled from the city where he lived. Rutherford passed through a season of deep depression. Yet amid all this sorrow, he was able to find comfort in God and to counsel other sufferers to do the same.

Here are some of Samuel Rutherford’s thoughts about suffering: 

“The thorn is one of the most cursed, and angry, and crabbed weeds that the earth yieldeth, and yet out of it springeth the rose, one of the sweetest-smelled flowers, and most delightful to the eye, that the earth hath. Your Lord shall make joy and gladness out of your afflictions; for all His roses have a fragrant smell. Wait for the time when His own holy hand shall hold them to your nose; and if ye would have present comfort under the cross, be much in prayer, for at that time your faith kisseth Christ and He kisseth the soul….

“Your afflictions are not eternal; time will end them, and so shall ye at length see the Lord’s salvation. His love sleepeth not, but is still working for you. His salvation will not tarry nor linger; and suffering for Him is the noblest cross that is out of heaven.... 

“If God had told me some time ago that He was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling all my limbs, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a close room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps; and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.”

Personal Reflection:

  • In what ways have you experienced sorrow and suffering?
  • Have you ever seen God use your suffering to draw you more deeply into his joy?
  • How does your eternal hope in Christ affect your experience of present sorrow?