From Holy Living by Jeremy Taylor (1613-67) (paraphrased)
9. Let us often call to mind what it would be like to be without such blessings as we now possess. Consider how desirable health is to a sick man or liberty to a prisoner. If even a toothache seizes you with violence, all of your other troubles instantly disappear and seem inconsiderable. He who is troubled that he is in debt, and spends sleepless nights, and refuses to eat because of his anxiety, let him get a kidney stone, and he will forget to be concerned about anything else. So remember to value all those blessings that God is allowing you at the present moment, and be thankful and contented. If God should send a cancer upon your face, what would you all be willing to give then to be as you now are? Would you not then choose your present loss or affliction as to be preferred to that greater affliction? You are right now free of a thousand calamities, every one of which, if it were upon you, would make you forget all your present sorrow.
10. If you want to have a contented spirit, be governed by your needs, not by your fancy; by nature, not by artificial customs and ambitious principles. He that would hunt a hare with an elephant, is not unlucky for not being able to catch his prey; but foolish for choosing the wrong method. Such is he that searches for contentment with appetites not springing from natural needs, but from false necessities. These cannot to be satisfied, for God did not intend rest to a man by the filling of such desires. When we create needs that God or nature never made, we have erected to ourselves an infinite stock of trouble that can have no end. Sam complained of lack of clothes, and was very anxious to get a new suit, being ashamed to appear in the theater with his old suit. When he got it, he gave his old clothes to poor Tom; and the poor man was filled with joy, and went and gave God thanks for it. Tom was made cheerfully warm by that which Sam was ashamed to wear; and yet, their natural needs are the same. The only difference was that Sam had some artificial necessities, which Tom did not have, and so Sam was harder to be relieved and could not have joy at so cheap a rate. Tom lived only according to nature; and Sam by pride, ill customs, and measures taken by other men’s opinions. He that believes he needs such fancy things, and is discontent and troubled when he is not able to make such purchases, ought not to complain to God, or blame his fortune; but the blame rests on his own folly.
11. In all our troubles let us take sanctuary in our faith, and by innocence cast out anchors for our souls to keep them from shipwreck, even though they may not be kept from storm. When a man suffers in a good cause or is afflicted, and yet walks with God, then he may be killed, but he cannot be harmed; as St. Paul said, ‘We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.’ For indeed, God is the fountain of our greatest good, and when things look sad all around us, only then shall we find how excellent a fortune it is to have God to our friend. Let us, therefore, not be governed by how things appear in the present, judging by the usual understanding; but let faith and hope be the measure of our judgment, and rest content on God’s promises.
12. Consider how many excellent persons in all ages have suffered greater calamities than this which now tempts you to impatience. Our Lord Himself was the King of sufferings, suffering all the sorrows which we deserved. We therefore have reason enough to be content; for it is a strange pride to expect to be more gently treated than the best and wisest men, than apostles and saints, and even the Son of the eternal God. When your little misfortune troubles you, remember that Jesus, the best of men, was put to death publicly by His own people.
13. Consider that afflictions are oftentimes the occasions of great temporal advantages; and we must not look upon them only as they bear down heavily upon us, but as they might very well be serving God’s greater purpose. If one could have at the beginning explained to Joseph the future results of his being sold into slavery, he might have dried up the young man’s lonely tears. When God’s purposes were later seen in the unfolding of events, as when Joseph became lord of Egypt and prevented a great famine and saved many people, then we see what wrongful judgment we make of things. For God esteems it one of his glories to bring good out of evil, and therefore that should be reason enough to trust God to govern his own world as he pleases, and we should patiently wait until the change comes or the reason is discovered.
14. If you will not otherwise be cured, remember that time will at last relieve you. Be content to bear your calamity, because you can be sure that it will end, for to a Christian no evil is without end. The worst that can happen is for it to end in death, and we know that to be near enough anyway; and then we inherit eternal peace.
O Lord, let me not desire health or life, except to spend them for Thee, with Thee, and in Thee. Thou alone knowest what is good for me; do, therefore, what seems best to Thee. Give to me, or take from me; conform my will to Thine; and grant that, with humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may receive the orders of Thine eternal providence; and may equally adore all that comes to me from Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Blaise Pascal (17th century)