In a recent reading through Proverbs around our dinner table, I was struck by a proverb that takes a bit of pondering to make sense of:
“The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly (Pro. 20:30).”
To rephrase this verse, the black & blue of a bruise is the visible proof that the body is remedying some wound which struck the body. God not only designed your body to repair itself from being wounded, but also made that healing visible.
We’re naturally averse to suffering and pain. We try to avoid afflictions. But God’s kindness refuses to let the evil abide in us, and sends us hand-selected chastisements to purge our hearts. A stubborn child, a lawless criminal, a backsliding saint will all need to meet with the various, but stern, correcting strokes of justice. The parents must apply the rod. The judge must give punitive measures. The elders must withhold the Supper.
But the pain of discipline, the sting of rebuke, the sharpness of affliction aren’t ends in and of themselves. The blue bruise cleanses the evil. Only the fool turns a blind eye to the lesson to be learned in his afflictions.
So, looking back on the previous year, and looking forward to the year ahead, don’t lean away from the good chastisements of the Lord. The pricked conscience should lead you to confession & repentance, not hardening your heart. God is working in you, and has innumerable tools at His disposal to sanctify you of remaining corruption. Don’t see the bruises and wounds as only an evil; rather see in them the sovereign hand of God, working good from the evils.
God, at times breaks bones (Ps. 51:8), but when we respond to these chastisements rightly, those very bones will ring with loud rejoicing.
In an age of comfort & ease it is all too tempting to think that afflictions are an inconvenience to our happiness. But the Word reveals to us that all our pains, whether inflicted by our own foolishness, or due to the sorrows that still fill this world, are means which the Lord brings about our true happiness. May the Lord forgive us as a nation for hating the stern rebukes of God’s Word through the faithful preaching of righteousness. May God grant us in His church tender hearts to feel in the sting of conviction and see in the bruises of our chastisement God’s lovingkindness, His purging holiness, His great mercy towards us. Our Father loves us to greatly to leave us in our sin. May we be eager to have the Spirit of the Lord work in us His grace and glory by whatever means necessary.