Sorrow in Christian
J. R. Miller
Sooner or later, sorrow comes to every home. No
conditions of wealth or culture or social standing, or even of religion, can
exclude it. When two young people come from the marriage-altar, and set up
their new home, it seems to them that its joy never can be disturbed, that
grief can never reach their hearts in that charmed spot. For a few
years, perhaps, their fond dream remains unbroken. The flowers bloom
into still softer beauty and richer fragrance; the music continues
light and joyous, with no minor cords; the circle is unbroken; children grow
up in the tender atmosphere, blessing the home with their love and
lovableness; the household life flows on softly and smoothly, like a river,
gathering in breadth and depth as it flows. In other
homes, all about, there are sorrows, bereavements, but amid these
desolations of the dreams of other households, this one remains untouched,
like an oasis in the desert; but not forever does the exemption
continue. There comes a day when the strange messenger of sorrow
stands at the door, nor waits for bidding and welcome—but enters, and lays
his withering hand on some sweet flower!
The first experience of grief is very sore—its
suddenness and strangeness add to its terribleness. What seemed so
impossible yesterday, has become a fearful reality today. The dear one whom
we held so securely, as we thought that we never could lose her, is gone
now, and no more answers to our call. It seems to us that we never can be
comforted, that we never can enjoy life again, since the one who made for us
so much of the gladness of life has been taken away.
The time of the first sorrow is to every life a
most critical point, a time of great danger. The way is new and untried, one
over which the feet have never passed before. At no other point, therefore,
is wise and loving guidance more needed. Many lives are wrecked on the
hidden reefs—and the low, dangerous rocks which skirt the shores of
sorrow's sea. Many people find in grief—an enemy only, to
whom they refuse to be reconciled, and with whom they contend in fierce
strife, receiving only injury and harm to themselves in the unavailing
An impression prevails, that sorrow is in itself a
blessing in its influence, that it always makes purer and holier and
better—the lives that it touches; but this is not true. Sorrow has in itself
no purifying efficacy, as some suppose, by which it removes from sinful
lives their blemishes and stains. The same fire which refines the gold—destroys
the flowers. Sorrow is a fire, which in God's hand is designed to
purify the lives of his people, but which, unblessed, produces only
desolation. It depends on the relation of the sufferer to Christ, as a
friend or enemy; and on the reception given to grief, whether it leaves good
or ill where it enters.
In a Christian home, where the love of Christ dwells and
holds sway, sorrow should always leave a benediction. It should be received
as God's own messenger; and we should welcome it, and listen for the divine
message which it bears. For God's angels do not always come to us—as we are
apt to imagine them coming, in radiant dress, with smiling face and gentle
voice. Thus artists paint them thus—in their pictures. Thus we
imagine them—in their ministries. We think of them as possessing rare and
wondrous loveliness; and so, no doubt, they do as they appear before God,
and serve in his presence. There is no unloveliness in any angel-face in
heaven. No angel has features of sternness; but, as these celestial
messengers come to earth on their ministries, they appear ofttimes in forms
which appall, and fill the trembling heart with terror and alarm! Yet
ofttimes it is when they come in these very forms—that they bring their
sweet messages and their best blessings.
"All God's angels come to us disguised,
Sorrow and sickness, poverty and death,
One after other lift their frowning masks,
And we behold the seraph's face beneath,
All radiant with the glory and the calm
Of having looked upon the face of God."
Wherever God's messenger of sorrow is thus received in a
Christian home, with welcome even amid tears and pain—it will leave a
blessing of peace, and will make the home sweeter, tenderer, heavenlier. We
speak of love as the atmosphere in which the home reaches its best
development in the direction of happiness, as in summer warmth the flowers
unfold their rarest beauty and sweetest fragrance; but really no home ever
attains its highest blessedness and joy, and its fullest richness of life,
until in some way, sorrow enters its door. Even the home love, like
certain autumn fruits, does not ripen into its sweetest tenderness, until
the frost of trial has touched it.
When a green log of wood is laid on the hearth on a
winter evening, and the fire begins to play about the log—a strange,
plaintive music comes from the wood. A poet would tell you, that, while the
tree stood in the forest, the birds sat amid its branches, and sang there,
and that the notes of their songs hid away in the tree. Then he would tell
you that the music you now hear from the log as it burns, is this
bird-minstrelsy, which has remained imprisoned in the wood until brought out
by the hot flames. The poet's thought is only imaginary, but it well
illustrates a truth concerning the life of a Christian home, which is worth
pondering and remembering. In the sunny days of joy, the bird-notes of
gladness are sung all about us, and sink away into our hearts, and hide
there. The lessons, the influences, the tender impressions, the peace, and
the beautiful things of quiet, happy, prosperous years, fall upon our lives,
as the sunbeams and rain showers fall the fields and the long autumn and
winter and early spring—and seem to be lost. There appears but little to
show for so much absorption of brightness and blessing. Our lives do not
appear to yield the measure of joy they should yield. Then the flames of
trial are kindled; and, in the heat of suffering, the long-gathering and
long-slumbering music is set free—and flows out!
Many of the world's best things have been born of
affliction. The sweetest songs ever sung on earth—have been called out by
suffering. The richest blessings that we enjoy—have come to us out of
the fire. The good things we inherit from the past—are the purchase
of suffering and sacrifice. Our redemption comes from
Gethsemane and Calvary. We get heaven through Christ's tears and blood.
Whatever is richest and most valuable in life anywhere, has been in the
Our love for one another may be strong and true in the
sunny days, but it never reaches its holiest and fullest expression
until pain has touched our hearts, and called out the hidden treasures of
affliction. Even the love of a mother for her child, deep and pure as it
is, never reaches its full wondrousness of devotion and sacrifice—until the
child suffers, and the mother bends over it in yearning and solicitude. The
same is true of all the home loves—the best and divinest qualities in them
come out only in the fires. The household which has endured sorrow in
the true spirit of love and faith, emerges from it undestroyed, untarnished,
and with purer, tenderer affections, with less of animosity, of selfishness,
and earthliness. When husband and wife stand together beside their dead
child, they are drawn to each other as never before; their common grief is
purifying. Children which remain are dearer to parents, after one has been
taken. Brothers and sisters grow more thoughtful and patient in their mutual
fellowship, when the home circle has been broken. There is in an empty
chair in a Christian home a wondrous power to soften the animosities of
each, and refine all the affections and feelings. The cloud of grief which
hangs over a household, like the summer cloud above the fields and gardens,
leaves wondrous blessings.
Is it raining, little flower?
Be glad of rain.
Too much sun would wither you.
Twill shine again.
The sky is very black, tis true,
But just behind—it shines blue.
Are you weary, tender heart?
Be glad of pain;
In sorrow, sweetest things will grow
As flowers in rain.
God watches, and you will have sun
When clouds their perfect work have done.
But how many we make sure of the benedictions which
sorrow brings? Even the gospel is the savor of death to those who reject it;
and sorrow, though it may be God's evangel, ofttimes comes and goes away
again, leaving no heavenly gift. How must we treat this dark-robed
messenger, if we would receive the heavenly blessings it bears in its hands?
We must welcome it, even in our trembling and tears—as sent from God! We
must believe that it comes from our Father, and that, coming from him, it is
a messenger of love to us, bearing a true blessing to us, though it
is a loss or a pain. We must ask for the message which God has sent
us in the affliction, and listen to it as we would to a message of gladness.
It has some mission to us, or some gift from heaven. Some
golden fruit lies hidden in the rough husk! Some bit of gold in
us, God designs to be set free from its dross—by this fire. There is some
radiant height beyond this dark valley, to which he wants to lead us.
Christ himself accepted and endured with loving
submission—the bitter sorrow of his cross, because he saw the joy set before
him, which waited beyond the sorrow. In the same way, we should
accept our griefs, because they are but the shaded gateways to peace and
blessedness. If we cannot get through the gateways, we cannot get the
radiant joys which wait beyond the sorrow. Not to be able to take
from our Father's hand, the seed of pain, is to miss the fruits of
blessing which can grow from no other sowing. If we are wise, we will
give sorrow as cordial a welcome as joy; for it is from the
same loving hand, and brings gifts as good and as golden.
We must remember, that it is in the home where Christ
himself dwells—that sorrow unlocks its heavenly treasures. A Christless home
receives none of them. Those who shut their doors on Christ, shut out all
blessedness, and, when the lamps of earthly joy go out—are left in utter
darkness! A wise forethought will make sure of the hopes and comforts, of a
personal interest in Christ; and of having him as a guest in the sunny
days, that, when the shadow of night falls—the stars of bright
hope may shine out!