Excerpt taken from “The Crook in the Lot”
Written by Thomas Boston
Adapted and modernized for the young reader
“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?” —Ecclesiastes 7:13.
A just view of our afflictions is altogether necessary for proper Christian deportment under them…
…and this view can only be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for it is the “Light of the World” alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and consequently, crooked designs becoming the Divine perfections. When they are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of our afflictions, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances.
It is under this view that Solomon, in the preceding part of Ecclesiastes 7, advances several paradoxes, which are surprising determinations in favor of certain things, that, to the eye of sense, looking gloomy and hideous, are therefore generally reputed out of order, and shocking. For he pronounces the day of one’s death to be better than the day of his birth; namely, the day of the death of one, who, having become the friend of God through faith, has led a life to the honor of God, and service of his generation, and in this way raised to himself the good and savvy name better than precious ointment.
In like manner, he pronounces the house of mourning to be preferable to the house of feasting, sorrow to laughter, and a wise man’s rebuke to a fool’s song. As for that, even though the latter is indeed the more pleasant, yet the former is the more profitable. And observing with concern, how men are in danger, not only from the world’s frowns and ill-usage, for oppression can make a wise man mad, but also from its smiles and caresses, which is a gift destroying the heart. Therefore, since whatever way it goes there is danger, he pronounces the end of every worldly thing better than the beginning of it. And from the whole he justly infers, that it is better to be humble and patient, than proud and impatient under afflicting dispensation; since, in the former case, we wisely submit to what is really best; in the latter, we fight against it. And he dissuades from being angry with our lot, because of the adversity found in it. He cautions against making odious comparisons of former and present times, by which point he is insinuating against undue reflections on the providence of God: and, against that querulous and fretful disposition. Here he first prescribes a general remedy, namely, holy wisdom, as that which enables us to make the best of everything, and even gives life in the most killing of circumstances; and then he offers a particular remedy, consisting in a due application of that wisdom, towards taking a just view of the case: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?”
In which words are proposed,
1. The remedy itself;
2. The suitableness of it.
1. The remedy itself, is a wise eyeing of the hand of God on all we find hard to bear on us: “Consider the work of God,” namely, His providence in the crooked, rough, and disagreeable parts of your afflictions, the crosses you find in it. For you see very well the cross itself. Yes, you turn it over and over in your mind and leisurely view it on all sides. You look to the primary cause of it, and also to the other secondary cause of it, and so you find yourself in a fret. But, would that you would be quieted and satisfied in the matter, lifting up your eyes towards heaven, seeing the doing of God in it, the operation of His hand. Look at that, and consider it well; eye the first look at the crookedness in your lot; but behold, how it is the work of God, how is it His doing?
2. Such a view of the crookedness of our afflictions is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them: “For who can make that straight which God has made crooked?” As to the crookedness in your life, God has made it; and he will continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even things out, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: for it will not change no matter what you do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is the proper means at once to silence and to satisfy man, and so to bring him to a dutiful submission to his Maker and Governor, no matter the crookedness and afflictions in his life.