During our move from West Virginia, my copy of the Puritan prayer collection The Valley of Vision ended up on my bookshelf rather than my desk where it usually sits for easy access. So until yesterday, I hadn’t read from it since probably July! Which is a shame, because that book is jam-packed with soul-refreshing prayers.
I cracked it open the other night before I spent some time in the Bible and came upon this phrase:
If thou shouldest give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins,
or to have them burnt away with trial,
give me sanctified affliction.
What a prayer. The author is asking that God would afflict him in order to burn away his propensity to sin. As I read that, I was deeply convicted. I don’t think I've ever asked God to afflict me - for any reason! I’ve asked for him to free me from some of my particularly stubborn sins, but i’ve never asked for him to do so by causing me pain.
But so often in the Bible, trials are linked to our sanctification. Look at James 1:2-3.
James 1:-2-3: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (ESV).
We are to count our trials joy because they lead to steadfastness in the faith. Thus, trials and afflictions are both means that the Lord uses to shape us more into the image of Christ. Through them, he burns away some of our more habitual, sticky sins so that we will look more and more like the new creation that he has made us.
If that’s the case, though, why don’t we find ourselves praying, along with the Puritans, for “sanctified affliction”?
To answer that simply, it’s because we don’t like affliction. We want the Lord to magically poof our sin away so we don’t have to walk the hard road of confession, repentance, mortification, and reliance on Christ and the gospel.
But this prayer is a good reminder that sanctification does not come from God zapping our sin into thin air, but by “sanctified affliction” from the hand of the Lord. So take heart, love your savior more than your sin, and ask the Lord to send some “sanctified affliction” your way. Why? To conform you to his image.
I hope you all are having a wonderful Lord’s Day thus far. Be on the look out for my next installment in the Tim Challies 2019 Reading Challenge series. I’ll be reviewing Joe Thorn’s Experiencing the Trinity. I should have the book finished within the next few days, so look for it by the end of next week! If you want to learn more about the challenge click here. Here is my review of the previous book I completed for the challenge.
As always, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @1689Millennial. And don’t forget to hit that subscribe button below, you’ll receive updates like this one delivered right to your inbox!
Sources: The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth, 2017.