You do not need to read extensively in Christian history or Christian biography to spot the connection between sorrow and sanctification. Though it is certainly not always the case, very often the people who are particularly used by the Lord are the same people who endure suffering. De Witt Talmage makes this point well in a quote from one of his sermons.
Call the roll of all the eminently pious of all the ages and you will find them the sons and daughters of sorrow. The Maronites say that one characteristic of the cedar tree is that when the air is full of snow, and it begins to descend, the tree lifts its branches in a way better to receive the snow and bear up under it, and I know by much observation that the grandest cedars of Christian character lift higher their branches toward God, when the snows of trouble are coming. Lord Nelson’s coffin was made out of the masts of the ship L’Orient, in which he had fought so bravely, and your throne in heaven, oh, suffering child of God, will be built out of conquered earthly disasters.
What gave John Bunyan such a wondrous dream of the celestial city? The Bedford penitentiary.
What gave Richard Baxter such power to tell of The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, and give his immortal Call to the Unconverted? Physical disease which racked every nerve of his body.
What made George Whitefield so mighty in saving souls, bringing ten thousand to God when others brought a hundred? Persecution that caricatured and assailed him all up and down England, and dead vermin thrown in his face when he was preaching.
What mellowed and glorified Wilberforce’s Christian character? A financial misfortune that led him to write: “I know not why my life is spared so long, except it be to show that a man can be as happy without a fortune as with one.”
What gave John Milton such deep spiritual eyesight that he could see the battle of angels? Extinguishment of physical eyesight.
What is the highest observatory for studying the stars of hope and faith and spiritual promise? The believer’s sick-bed.
What proclaims the richest and most golden harvests that wave on all the hills of heavenly rapture? The snows, the deep snows, the awful snows of earthly calamity. And that thought is one of the treasures of the snow.