Advent and Afflictions
Nestled between what some might call metaphysical speculation, the Westminster Confession of Faith has an insightfully sensitive paragraph on the relationship between God and our experience with sin and temptation. The tone is pastoral and very cautiously avoids the theological pitfalls of many. It reads:
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
Whether because of our sin or because of God’s mysterious hand whereby he lets us feel his absence that we might long for his presence, our afflictions, say the Westminster Divines, are underwritten by a God who calls us his children. As Advent is upon we are reminded that God is not only “God with us”, but also “God for us”. Not just present, but active. His commitment to be God with-and-for-us is manifested most climatically in the incarnate life of his Son. God the Son takes the humble act of adding our humanity to his divinity. He enters our pain, misery, and darkness and brings comfort, life and light. His holiness and faithfulness rub against our sinfulness and apostasy and he works our salvation from within our humanity.
Through his Son’s humanity we are made sons and daughters and our humanity is restored. And because we are his children, loved in the Son for the sake of the Son, his love is not abstract or general, but it is personal and involved with the very details of our lives. The Father chastens us, contradicts us, and we feel it. It hurts, but it is love. It is what good fathers do. His hand in our afflictions are not arbitrary or random, but intentional. Dare we say it, he afflicts us in Christ. In Christ we are afflicted with a Fatherly hand that he might raise us to a more close and constant dependence upon Himself.