Recently I have been reading through a very helpful book titled A Puritan Theology: Doctrine For Life, by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones. Part of what motivated me to purchase the book is that God has used the Puritans and their writings to grow me through the years. Their Bible-soaked, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, practical approach to pastoral ministry has been a breath of fresh air.
One of the chapters in this book addresses “the Puritans on Providence”. In other words, what did these 16th-17th century British pastors and writers believe on God’s most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing his creatures and all their actions? As they address the topic of trials in life, they list seven reasons for trials that Puritan pastor, Thomas Boston, listed in his book The Crook In The Lot.
Consider Boston’s list as a guide for how you approach the difficult things God brings your way:
1. “To prove your spiritual state as a hypocrite or genuine believer.” (James 1:12)
2. “To stir you to obedience, wean you from this world, and set your eyes on heaven.” Romans 5:3-5; 8:18f.; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:6-8
3. “To convict you of sin.” Ps. 119:67
4. “To correct or punish you for sin.” Ps. 119:67; Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-6
5. “To prevent you from committing sin.” 2 Cor. 12:7
6. “To reveal latent sin deep in your heart.” Ps. 119:67
7. “To awaken you from laziness so that you exercise yourself in grace.” 2 Cor. 12:9
 Though Puritanism spans beyond these centuries and even into New England, this is the period from which Beeke and Jones primarily draw their material. They do occasionally move out of that period and even into New England (e.g. Jonathan Edwards). The definition of God’s providence given here is from answer #11 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a 17th century Puritan tool.
 I have supplied the scriptural texts myself. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but does start us down the road of thinking about why God allows hard things to come our way. Other purposes would include: To help us help others in hard times (2 Cor. 1:3-7); to grow our faith and teach us that we can trust in God who raises the dead and so he can deal with whatever we face (2 Cor. 1:9; 1 Pt. 1:6-8); and to exalt the glory and power of Christ in us (2 Cor. 12:9).