The Blessing Of Affliction
By J. C. Ryle
A Canaanite woman cries to our Lord for help on behalf of her daughter. “Have mercy on me,” she says, “O Lord, thou Son of David.” (See Matthew 15:21-28.)
This Canaanite mother no doubt had been severely tried. She had seen her darling child vexed with a devil, and been unable to relieve her. But yet that trouble brought her to Christ, and taught her to pray. Without it she might have lived and died in careless ignorance, and never seen Jesus at all. Surely it was good for her that she was afflicted (Psa. 119:71).
Let us mark this well. There is nothing which shows our ignorance so much as our impatience under trouble. We forget that every cross is a message from God, and intended to do us good in the end. Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees. Health is a good thing, but sickness is far better if it leads us to God. Prosperity is a great mercy, but adversity is a greater one if it brings us to Christ. Anything, anything is better than living in carelessness and dying in sin. Better a thousand times be afflicted, like the Canaanite mother, and like her flee to Christ, than live at ease like the rich “fool,” and die at last without Christ and without hope (Luke 12:20).
Persevere in Prayer
What encouragement there is to persevere in prayer, both for ourselves and others. It is hard to conceive a more striking illustration of this truth than we have in this passage. The prayer of this afflicted mother at first seemed entirely unnoticed: Jesus “answered her not a word.” Yet she prayed on. The answer which by and by fell from our Lord’s lips sounded discouraging: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet she prayed on: “Lord, help me!” The second answer of our Lord was even less encouraging than the first: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Yet “hope deferred” did not “make her heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). Even then she was not silenced. Even then she finds a plea for some “crumbs” of mercy to be granted to her. And her importunity obtained at length a gracious reward. “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” That promise never yet was broken, “…Seek, and ye shall find…” (Matt. 7:7).
Let us remember this history when we pray for ourselves. We are sometimes tempted to think that we get no good by our prayers, and that we may as well give them up altogether. Let us resist the temptation. It comes from the devil. Let us believe, and pray on. Against our besetting sins, against the spirit of the world, against the wiles of the devil, let us pray on and not faint. For strength to do duty, for grace to bear our trials, for comfort in every trouble, let us continue in prayer. Let us be sure that no time is so well-spent in every day, as that which we spend upon our knees. Jesus hears us, and in His own good time will give an answer.
Intercede for Others
Let us remember this history when we intercede for others. Have we children whose conversion we desire? Have relatives and friends about whose salvation we are anxious? Let us follow the example of this Canaanite woman, and lay the state of their souls before Christ. Let us name their names before Him night and day, and never rest until we have an answer. We may have to wait many a long year. We may seem to pray in vain, and intercede without profit. But let us never give up. Let us believe that Jesus is not changed, and that He who heard the Canaanite mother and granted her request will also hear us and one day give us an answer of peace.