Providences and Circumstances
Charles Naylor, 1918
Life is often an enigma. It brings to us many things that we cannot understand. How blessed it is at such times, to realize that there is One wiser than we, who has our lives in his care and who sees all and understands all! God is our father, and we are the children of his love. He has our welfare at heart. He is interested in all that concerns us. He watches over all our lives, and nothing that comes to us can come without his knowledge. Whatever comes, he knows full well its effect upon us, and his loving hand is ever ready to protect and help his children.
He could, if he chose, lead us in a pleasant and easy path through life, but he knows that a pleasant and easy path would not develop in us that strong and hardy Christian character so essential for us. Neither would it give him an opportunity to reveal the riches of his grace or his tender care. He knows that we must taste the bitter, before we can appreciate the sweet. He knows that we must feel life's sorrows, before we can value its joys. Suffering more than anything else, develops us in the Christian graces. It is for this purpose that he sometimes leads us along difficult ways. Therefore his providences are often dark and mysterious.
But throughout our lives, if we are his, then "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). When difficulties arise through which we can see no way, and he makes a way of which we had never thought—it is then that our hearts are made to wonder at his wisdom and are melted with gratitude.
His ways are not our ways. They are higher and better than our ways. If we were wise enough, we would always choose for ourselves, that which he chooses for us. But alas! How often when we choose for ourselves, we choose that which is least wise!
We must often deny ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to give up what we have chosen, as it seems desirable and exactly what we need. But God often denies us the seeming good, that a greater good may come. If we submit and trust, that greater good will surely come; but if we rebel and clamor—then God may be compelled to hold back that greater good; and if we have our way, it may in the end prove to be a bitter way. What God gives is ever the best. We would often have better, if we would trust God's wisdom and take gladly what he gives.
The trouble so often, is that we fail to trust him. We know that if he chooses he will choose well for us, but we think that perhaps he may forget us. May not the bitter thing which comes escape his notice, or may he not grow careless?
Sometimes we fear and tremble and wonder. We try to escape it, but still it comes, and in the future days we often look back upon this very thing as one of God's greater blessing to us because of what it wrought for us and in us.
God sometimes places a wall before us, that we may stop and consider. We may come face to face with this obstacle across our path. We see no way by which we can surmount it; we see no way to go around it. Sometimes it fills us with foreboding. We question, "What will be the result? What shall we do?" Sometimes we grow very much troubled over it, but it is through this very thing, that God makes us to do the serious thinking that he desires us to do and that it is necessary for us to do. He does not put a wall before us just to hinder our progress. He has some other purpose in it always, and when he has worked out that purpose, he will either take the wall out of the way, show us a way to surmount it, or lift us completely over it and set our feet again triumphant in the way.
He sometimes places a mountain of difficulty before us that we may climb to higher altitudes, and that in the climbing, we may develop spiritual strength. A rugged mountain before us may be hard to climb. Its difficulties may discourage us; but if we will gather up our courage and surmount it, no matter what effort may be necessary—we shall find that we have gained true spiritual benefits. We now stand on a higher altitude with a broader outlook, and instead of our being weakened by these difficulties, they have been the very source of our strength.
Every difficulty that we conquer by God's grace, raises us higher in the Christian life. This is the purpose of these difficulties. God is not desirous that we have the difficulty, but he must let us have the difficulty if he is to raise us to the higher altitude, and he desires us to have the higher position. He never lets the difficulties be too great. He knows that we can surmount them if we will. If he did not know this, he would not let them be placed in our way.
He sometimes sends sorrow to soften us and make us hungry for His comfort. We may become too satisfied with earthly things. We may draw too much of our joy from them. He delights to have us draw our joy and our comfort from Him; therefore He must take away our toys which have been occupying our time—that our souls may yearn for the comfort and blessedness which only He can give. He knows that nothing softens us like sorrow. So he gives us a cup of sorrow to drink to the dregs—and oh, what tenderness and blessedness come into our lives when we drink submissively of that cup, no matter how bitter it may be to our taste!
He sometimes takes away the staff upon which we lean, that we may learn to lean upon him. He sometimes takes away that in which we trust, that we may learn better to trust in him.
He may sometimes take away our strength, that he may be our strength and that his strength may be made perfect in our weakness.
He sometimes takes away our company, that we may desire his company the more.
All these happenings may seem dark and mysterious to us; they may seem the very things that are the worst for us—but they are not. They are but the manifestations of His kindly wisdom and His fatherly tenderness. Sometimes behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face. We often see only the frown of the providence, and that frown looks very threatening; but if we will look away from that frowning providence to the smiling face of God, we shall see that which will uplift us and strengthen us and enable us to bear whatever stroke of providence may come.
O soul, trust Him. He knows the way that you take. He knows just what is needful for you. So bear with patience, and endure with meekness, and do not question His wisdom or love. It will all come out for the very best in the end. Here is a little verse that speaks out a great truth:
"With patient mind, your course of duty run;
God nothing does, or suffers to be done
But you would do yourself, if you could see
The end of all events, as well as he."
You will do well to memorize these lines and when things happen that you cannot understand, repeat them over to yourself until their truth enters your heart and becomes real to you. It will help you to trust; it will help you to bear difficulties; it will help you to be strong. Learn to look at things just that way, for such they are in reality. If you will count them so, it will often help you. This will make the hard places easier, and the tiresome places less tiresome.
When you are tried, you should think, "Should I not have these same things to bear if I were not a Christian? And should I not have to bear them without the grace of God to help me?"
Too many people are looking for an easy way, and when they find a little hardship somewhere, something that requires a little endurance, they are ready to look for some other way. Some people think that Christians ought not to have these difficult things to bear, but God sees otherwise. These things will come and must come. Giving up our hold on God, will make it harder instead of easier for us to bear them. We shall not get rid of them. We shall have to pass through them, no matter what we do; so we might as well bravely face them and trust God to take us through.
The thing to do is to meet courageously whatever comes. It is safe to rely upon his wisdom. His love will never fail us.