The word “temptation” often means a solicitation to sin (as in James 1:13 where God cannot be tempted to evil), but this verse can also be speaking about enduring a particular trial or time of adversity. God brings difficulties and sometimes tragedies into our lives to refine us. His goal is not to destroy us, but for us to grow in Christlikeness through the difficulty. It is a comfort that although my personal suffering seems, at the moment, to be unique to me, it is in fact common to endure suffering as part of God’s plan of sanctification. I am drawn to many examples in Scripture where individuals faced problems similar to or much worse than I am facing to find instruction and encouragement.
Jeremiah Burroughs notes that our difficulties or afflictions are not unique when he poses this hypothetical objection: “You will say, ‘Yes, but you do not know what our afflictions are,’ yet I know what your mercies are and I know they are so great that I am sure there can be no afflictions into his world as great as the mercies you have. If it were only this mercy, that you have this day of grace and salvation continued to you it is a greater mercy than any affliction. Set any affliction beside this mercy and see which would weigh heaviest; this mercy is certainly greater than any affliction.
Burroughs points out two passages of Scripture to encourage us in our afflictions:
Job 2:8-9 “‘What?’ said Job, when his wife would have him curse God and die, which was a degree beyond murmuring. Why, he said, ‘Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh…shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil [calamity or adversity]?’ You see, Job helped himself against all murmuring thoughts against the ways of God with this consideration: that he had received so much good from the Lord. What, though we receive evil, yet do we not receive good as well as evil? Let us set one against thither–that is the way we should go.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 “Here you may see what course is to be taken when the heart rises to murmuring: ‘In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.’ When you are in prosperity, then indeed every man can be joyful, but what if afflictions befall you, what then? The consider—consider what? That ‘God hath set the one over against the other.’ You have a great deal of afflictions, and you have had a great deal of prosperity, you have many troubles, and you have had many mercies; make one column of mercies and one column of afflictions, and write one against the other and see if God has not filled one column as full as the other. You look altogether upon your afflictions, but look upon your mercies also.”
See the hymn below!