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Suffering

by Kirsty Birkett

I have been reading the diary of the Puritan minister Richard Rogers. In 1589 he was removed from his ministry and so lost his living in the Church of England. In his diary he reflects on how to cope with this.


It is a different kind of suffering from that which the country now faces. We do not know the exact issue for which he was suspended, but it was evidently a matter of conscience. Nevertheless what he writes in order to face the situation boldly is relevant to a Christian facing any kind of suffering, and so to all of us now. Following are Rogers’ thoughts, with some reflections (in italics) from me.

Nov 3 1589

[This loss of ministry] is one of the greatest crosses which could have befallen me, so I saw it very necessary to stay up my weakness with some strength of persuasions to rest contented and thankful to God under it, and prepared with fit readiness and cheerfulness to any good which my place may yield.


1. Seeing it is of the Lord, his will, and thus good reason it should be mine.

We can trust that God has good reason for whatever he does. Therefore there is good reason for us to accept it.

2. Seeing I have enjoyed comfortable liberty so long.

Likewise we in the modern world have enjoyed peace and health and many blessings, for which we can still be thankful.


3. Seeing I did not honour God in studying for my sermons as sometime, and as I should have done.

How well did we praise and thank God for the good we had, when we had it?

4. Seeing it is the lot of my betters, yea and a heavier portion than this also, as deprivation of living, imprisonment.

Rogers had colleagues who were being imprisoned. Likewise, all of us can think of others who are suffering much worse than we are likely to.


5. Seeing my beginning how unlike I was, not only not to govern myself, but much less a part of God’s church. I have no cause to take it hardly.

Rogers is humble about the honour given to him to have a ministry in the first place. How well did we deserve the rich blessings we had in our health and prosperity?

6. Seeing the iniquity of the time affords no better thing, but grows to hinder and cut down those means which are seen to stop the cause of sin most.

Rogers points to the evils of his time; we still live in a fallen world, in which bad things will happen.


7. Seeing God, by this, means to rouse me from making this world my heaven, which, as I am like enough to offend in and go maying in respect of my corruption, so the rather for that many good men are deceived with it.

God warns us all not to ‘make the world our heaven’. We need that warning now as much as ever.

8. Seeing the Lord will exercise my faith, patience, obedience etc hereby.

God strengthens our characters through adversity. He will do so now, too.


9. Seeing he will prepare me for greater afflictions by this.

Not that we want greater afflictions! But there will always be suffering in the world, and we will face them stronger for the strengthening of our faith now.


10. Seeing he would keep me from further corruption of the time, which might, by little and little, winning ground in me, blindfold my judgement and weaken that little measure of good conscience, godly zeal, and courage for the glory of God, which is in me, wherein I pray God that our coldness, in giving place to all that is thrust upon us, be not laid to our charge, while none stand up against it.

Rogers can see that, had he not lost his job, he might have been corrupted by it.

11. Seeing the Lord leaves many encouragements to me, in respect of many other, both in the people’s love, and in communion with them, and otherwise.

I certainly have been much encouraged, even overjoyed, by the closeness and love shown to me by other Christians in this time of illness.

12. Seeing I suffer not, though the reproach and grief and discommodity be great, not as an evil doer, but for the quietness of my conscience, 1 Peter 3.

We are still to live according to the commands of 1 Peter 3:8-17.

___________

Kirsty Birkett is part-time Associate Minister at St Paul's Hadley Wood. She is a Latimer Trust research fellow, currently researching the interface between psychology and biblical anthropology, with an emphasis on resilience, happiness and models of emotion. She has written various books, some of them published by the Latimer Trust and can be found here. 

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