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Polhill explains that preparation for suffering begins with a vibrant faith which develops and flowers before the suffering begins. We must assured of God before we can trust God in our troubles.

Faith must focus upon the goodness of God’s providence. Faith must also fix upon the power and grace and mercy of God. If we fail to believe that God either has the power or has the goodness to govern rightly in providence, we can never trust his providence. Power and goodness must be matched in our understanding of providence or we will see God as either weak or evil. We will not be able to see through the visible evil to the invisible and eternal good:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV)

Thus, Polhill writes of God’s power:

Faith fixes upon his power. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were threatened with a fiery furnace for not worshipping the golden image, their answer was, “Our God is able to deliver us.” (Dan. 3:17.) Persecutors may be strong, but faith assures the soul that God is much stronger, and can deliver his people; nay, and will do it also; not, as those three worthies were, in a visible manner, yet in an invisible one: suffering saints have ever found by experience that the power of God hath bore them up in their sufferings.

Faith also focuses upon the grace and mercy of God in providence:

Faith fixes upon his grace and mercy; men are cruel, but God is gracious and merciful to his people at all times, but especially in a time of trial. He chooses them in the furnace of affliction, (Isai. 48:10). When men reprobate them as the off-scouring of all things, then God doth as it were choose them afresh; I mean, his electing love, which was in his heart towards them, as early as eternity itself, doth then break out in fresh acts of grace towards them. St. Paul tells the Philippians, That it was freely given to them in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but to suffer for his sake, (Phil. 1:29). Faith, which is the first gift, and suffering, which is the last in this life, do both issue out from the fountain of grace. Cast thyself, O christian, upon the grace and mercy of thy good God; that grace, which calls, justifies, sanctifies thee, will also give thee the gift of suffering; that mercy, which spares thee in thy ordinary duties, will, in a time of suffering, be indulgent over thee in a more than ordinary manner. The mercy of God will be upon us according as we trust in him: the sweetest strains of mercy are reserved for the highest acts of faith, which are seen more in sufferings than in other things. If we carry faith with us into prisons and fiery furnaces, goodness and mercy will follow us thither in an eminent way. Faith hath a respect to Christ, it comes to him as to a centre of rest, receives him as a precious gift, leans on him as a sure foundation; nay, ἰδιοποιέομαι, it individuates and appropriates him to the soul.

Our heart must be first resolved upon the goodness and strength of God so that we can see God who is invisible in the midst of visible trouble. Faith gives an eye that can see what eyes cannot see.[1]


[1] Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 342.