GOD SENDS AFFLICTIONS FOR OUR GOOD.
And I will give my fear in their heart, that they may not revolt from me (Jer. xxxii. 40). The Lord says that He infuses His fear into our hearts, in order that He may enable us to triumph over our desires for earthly pleasures, for which in the past we ungratefully left Him. And when sinners have left God, how does He make them look into themselves, and recover grace? By putting on the appearance of anger, and chastising them in this life; In thy anger thou shalt break the people in pieces (Ps. lv. 8). Another version, according to St. Augustine, has: “In thy wrath thou shalt conduct the people.” The Saint inquiring: What is the meaning of God conducting the people in His wrath? He replies: “Thou, O Lord, fillest us with tribulations, in order that, being thus afflicted, we may abandon our sins and return to Thee.”
When a mother wishes to wean her infant she puts gall upon her breast. Thus the Lord endeavours to draw our souls to Himself, and wean them from the pleasures of this earth, which make them live in forgetfulness of their eternal salvation. He fills with bitterness all their pleasures, pomps, and possessions, in order that, not finding peace in those things, they may turn to God, Who alone can satisfy them. In their affliction they will rise early to me (Osee vi. 1). God says: If I allow those sinners to enjoy their pleasures undisturbed, they will remain in the sleep of sin: they must be afflicted, in order that, recovering from their lethargy they may return to Me. When they will be in tribulation they will say: Come, let us return to the Lord, for he hath taken us, and he will heal us; he will strike and he will cure us (Ib. 1, 2). What shall become of us, those sinners will say, as they enter into themselves, if we do not turn from our evil courses? God will not be appeased, and will with justice continue to punish us: come, let us retrace our steps, for He will cure us; and if He afflicts us now, He will upon our return think of consoling us with His mercy.
In the day of my trouble I sought God … and I was not deceived (Ps. lxxvi. 3), because He raised me up. For this reason does the Prophet thank the Lord that He hath humbled him after his sin; because he was thus taught to observe the Divine laws: It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn thy justifications (Ps. cxviii. 71). Tribulation is for the sinner at once a punishment and a grace, says St. Augustine. It is a punishment inasmuch as it has been drawn upon him by his sins; but it is a grace, and an important grace, inasmuch as it may ward off eternal destruction from him, and is an assurance that God means to deal mercifully with him if he look into himself, and receive with thankfulness that tribulation which has opened his eyes to his miserable condition, and invites him to return to God. Let us, then, be converted and we shall escape from our several chastisements: “Why should he who accepts chastisement as a grace be afraid?” says St. Augustine. He who turns to God, smarting from the scourge, has no longer anything to fear, because God scourges only in order that we may return to Him; and this end once obtained, the Lord will scourge us no more.
St. Bernard says: “It is difficult, even impossible, for any one to enjoy present and future goods; to pass from delights to delights.” Therefore, does the Lord say: Envy not the man who prospereth in his way, the man who doth unjust things (Ps. xxxvi. 7). “Does he prosper?” says St. Augustine; “ay, but ‘in his own way’. And do you suffer? You do, but it is the way of God.” You who walk before God are in tribulation, but the sinner, evil as is his way, prospers. Mark now what the Saint says in conclusion: “He has prosperity in this life, he shall be miserable in the next; you have tribulation in this life, you shall be happy in the next.” Be glad, therefore, and thank God when He punishes you in this life, and takes vengeance of your sins; because you may know thereby that He means to treat you with mercy in the next. Thou wast a merciful God to them, and taking vengeance on their inventions (Ps. xcviii. 8). The Lord when He chastises us has not our punishment so much in view as our conversion. God said to Nabuchodonozor: Thou shalt eat grass like an ox, and seven times shall pass over thee till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men (Dan iv. 29). For seven years Nabuchodonozor, shalt thou be compelled to feed on grass like a beast in order that thou mayest know I am the Lord; that it is I Who give kingdoms, and take them away; and that thou mayest thus be cured of thy pride. And in fact this judgment did cause the haughty king to enter into himself and change; so that, after having been restored to his former condition, he said: Therefore I, Nabuchodonozor, do now praise and magnify the King of heaven (Ibid. 34). And God gave him back his kingdom. “He willingly changed his sentence,” says St. Jerome, “because he saw his life was changed.”