Strokes of Love and Mercy

As I’m reading and learning of the mystery of contentment, I’m realizing I can’t possibly review entire chapters of this book. It is too good.

So I’ll do my best to focus on one (or two or three?) points from each chapter that struck home for me.

Chapter 3 continued the theme of the mystery of contentment, continuing the list of mysteries and embarking on new explanations of why Christian contentment truly is such a mystery. The 9th mystery of contentment provided such encouragement and comfort to me.

IX. Not only in good things does a Christian have the dew of God’s blessing, and find them very sweet to him, but in all afflictions, all the evils that befall him, he can see love, and can enjoy the sweetness of love in his afflictions as well as in his mercies.

What I love about Jeremiah Burroughs is that, if you don’t fully grasp his meaning at first, he quickly clarifies it for you in a kind, paternal kind of way.

The truth is that the afflictions of God’s people come from the same eternal love that Jesus Christ came from. Jerome said, “He is a happy man who is beaten when the stroke is a stroke of love.” All God’s strokes are strokes of love and mercy, all God’s ways are mercy and truth, to those that fear him and love him.

Burroughs goes on to say that Christians experiencing the grace of Christ are given “an eye” for the counsel of God. That while unbelievers toss and turn angrily and bitterly and confusedly in the chaos of their afflictions, a true Christian (although perhaps startled and stumbled and disheartened in their afflictions) can, by the grace of God, see His will in the affliction. Their familiar world could be crashing around them, yet they see the Lord’s hand in it, and see it as good and glorious.

What a mystery! And yet it makes sense to me, as a believer. I have not mastered it at all. But I have been given the grace to see the truth in Burroughs’ statement, and am convicted in my recent doubting heart.

The tenth mystery is another whopper:

X. A godly man has contentment as a mystery, because just as he sees all his afflictions come from the same love that Jesus Christ did, so he sees them all sanctified in Jesus Christ, sanctified in a Mediator.

And because no one can explain Burroughs as well as Burroughs can:

The exercising of faith on what Christ endured, is the way to get contentment in the midst of our pains. Someone lies vexing and fretting himself, and cannot bear his pain: are you a Christian? Have you ever tried this way of getting contentment, to act your faith on all the pains and sufferings that Jesus Christ suffered: this would be the way of contentment, and a Christian gets contentment when under pains, in this way.

Jesus Christ sanctified all of our afflictions as the God-man on earth. He suffered greatly so that we would not. Often we think of Christ’s sufferings as limited to the pain on the cross. But Burroughs notes that He also suffered defamation (they mockingly called him King of the Jews as He died for us), He suffered withdrawal from God (in the garden as he sweat drops of blood and begged for the cup to be removed — God turned His back on Him!), He suffered poverty (Christ did not have an earthly home), and He suffered death!

Why then should we complain about our afflictions? When God afflicted His own Son, He was setting the example for those who would believe in Him. We are to be made more Christ-like! That is the good in Romans 8:28! (Don’t believe me? Read Romans 8:29). See instead how Christ suffered His afflictions, how He endured and saw it as God’s love!

And of course, to follow this, Burroughs gives an eleventh mystery. This mystery encourages the Christian who now sees that not only are afflictions shown in love from God, and not only should we endure suffering and afflictions because Christ showed us how,Β  but that God gives us an aid during our afflictions.

XI. A gracious heart has contentment by getting strength from Jesus Christ; he is able to bear his burden by getting strength from someone else.

This. This goes against the American philosophy of “believe in yourself”. The “pick yourself up by your boot straps” mentality so well demonstrated by blue collar America. There is a certain pride instilled in most American families, even today. We don’t gather strength from others to get us through troubling times. We put on our suspenders, we take a swig of Gatorade, we lace up our sneakers, and we fix it.

And really, there is nothing wrong with good, old-fashioned work ethic. Nothing wrong with refusing hand-outs. In fact, economically, it’s the better method.

But is that the way toward Christian contentment? True, you might fool yourself into fixing your situation temporarily, but what are temporal fixes to eternal, spiritual afflictions?

Rather, lean entirely on Christ. He is our strength!

So often I refuse His help. So often I roll up my sleeves and try to get it done my way.

But the permanence of Christ’s strength is the solace for our afflictions and our burdens. Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

Such comfort in this chapter. Mm. I highly recommend this book.

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