TO A STRICKEN SOUL
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
My dear brother,
Greetings in the precious name of Him who, in the supreme crisis of His life said, "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). Those words were uttered by the Lord Jesus on the night of His betrayal: the Cross and all it entailed was fully before His view. This sublime utterance of the Savior's exhibits His absolute submission unto His Father's will, the total absence of resistance and murmuring. The words He uttered on that dark, dark night have been placed on record for our instruction, for He has left us "an example" that we should "follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).
As we read these words "The cup which My Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" they should be turned into humble and earnest prayer, that we may be permitted to enter more into the spirit of Christ, that Divine grace may be given us so that we shall be enabled to meekly acquiesce unto whatever our all-wise God may appoint. It is in heart-submission to God's providential dealings with us, that true religion largely consists. By nature man is born "like a wild donkey's colt" (Job 11:12): he wants his own way in everything, and chafes and kicks when his will is crossed and his plans are thwarted. But where a Divine work of grace is wrought in the soul this spirit of rebellion against God is subdued, and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart. It is true the old spirit of insubordination is not entirely cast out: yes, it often makes its evil presence felt, for "the flesh lusts against the Spirit" (Gal. 5:17). But the Christian strives against that hostile influence, turns to the Lord for help, and begs Him to still the storm going on within, and to bring him into submission.
Your letter of April 30 is to hand. My heart goes out to you in sympathy in this dark hour, and I feel my helplessness to comfort you. The loss you have sustained is far greater than any human creature can make up: your suffering too acute for any fellow-mortal to alleviate. I may endeavor to pour into your sorely-wounded heart something of "the balm of Gilead," but only the great Physician can give any efficacy to the same. I can do little more than point you to Him who alone can "bind up the broken-hearted" (Isaiah 61:1). Now is the time for you to make free with Him, for He is a "Friend that sticks closer than a brother." "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Unburden yourself to Him, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). "Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6).
Observe well, dear Brother, the words, "With thanksgiving"—that should never be absent from our prayers even amid our acutest sorrows. You have much cause for "thanksgiving": even amid your sobs and groans it is your privilege and duty to own God's great goodness to you.
First, in having favored you with one who was such a faithful wife and devoted mother to your children: that was "of the Lord," and His hand should be duly acknowledged. It was purely of His distinguishing mercy that you were not plagued with a contentious, nagging, undutiful wife, such as thousands of men have. Own, then, unto the God of all grace His goodness, for a "prudent wife is from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14).
Second, you should present sincere "thanksgiving" unto God that He spared your beloved wife unto you for so many years. This, too, is entirely of His good pleasure. A parent, a wife, a child, is loaned to us for a season, and the One who gives, decides for how long. Often the wife is removed from the husband quite early; often her life is taken in child-bearing. You have been highly favored, and instead of dwelling exclusively on her removal from you, seek, dear Brother, to praise God for sparing her to you for so many years! It was a signal mercy and blessing that she remained until her children attained their majority. God might have called her years ago, and left you with motherless babes on your hands!
Third, if as your letter denotes, you have good ground to conclude your dear wife was one of the high favorites of Heaven—an elect, regenerated, and redeemed soul, trusting only in the merits of Christ for her acceptance with God—then you have abundant cause for "thanksgiving" that she has been removed from this wilderness of woe and translated to the Paradise of bliss! Think, then, not only of your great loss, but of her immeasurable gain! She is now done with sin and suffering forever. She is with the spirits of just men made perfect. She is in the immediate presence of the Lamb! Would you, if you could, call her back from Heaven itself to this sad world?
Fourth, what "thanksgiving" should ascend from your heart in the assurance that you have not parted to meet no more! Only for a brief season at most will you be separated from your loved one. Before long the call will come for you to join her in that Place where partings are no more. You shall be united with her again, not a few brief years, but forever! Let, then, this blissful prospect cheer your drooping heart. Dwell not on the brief period of separation, but on the eternal dwelling together on High. But you are not in Heaven yet. No; God sees fit to leave you on earth a little longer. Why? To teach your heart some needed lessons, to bring good out of apparent evil, to make this sorrowful loss a real enrichment to your soul. This too is among the "all things" which work together for good to them that love God. If the Spirit of God is pleased to sanctify this affliction unto you, it will prove a real blessing in disguise. It is your duty and privilege to ask Him so to do: to beg Him to bless to you the chastening rod.
May I suggest several lines of meditation which, if pursued by you and blessed to you by God, will enable you to improve this affliction.
1. Learn anew the terribleness of sin. "Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). Yes, had sin never entered this world, no graves had ever been dug in it. Every funeral should be a forceful reminder to us of what the Fall has brought in! Every funeral ought to beget in us a deeper hatred of sin. It was sin which necessitated the death of God's beloved Son. Then how we should loathe it, seek grace to resist its evil solicitations, and follow hard after its opposite—holiness.
2. See now the great importance of holding with a light hand all God's temporal mercies. The best of them are only loaned us for a season, and we know not how early we shall be called to relinquish them. It is the part of wisdom for us to recognize and remember this while they are in our hands: not to grasp them too tightly, nor to look upon them as ours to enjoy forever down here. Holy Writ bids us to "rejoice with trembling" (Psalm 2:11), for that which delights my heart this morning may be taken from me before the shades of night fall. The more I live with this fact before me, the less shall I feel the loss when it comes!
3. Endeavor to get your heart more weaned from this perishing world. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). But we are slow to heed this exhortation, and often God has to use drastic means to bring us to a compliance with it. It is for our own good as well as His glory, that we do so. It is only the heavenly things which abide; then let us seek grace to have our hearts more and more set upon them. "Change and decay in all around I see; O You who change not, abide with me."
4. Seek to demonstrate now to your fellows the reality of true religion. The test of a soldier is not while he is on parade, but when he enters the battle. So it is spiritually. In seasons of prosperity even the worldling is contented and happy, but in times of adversity it becomes evident that he knows nothing of the Source of real and lasting joy. Only the real child of God is enabled to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." Earnestly seek supernatural help from above, dear Brother, that you may be enabled to manifest before your fellows the sufficiency of Divine grace to strengthen and support—to show you do have a peace and comfort which the Christless are strangers to.
Now, dear Brother, I have snatched several hours from a busy life to try and send you a few lines both of comfort and counsel. May it please the God of all grace to bless them to you. Read, and re-read what I have written, and above all turn it into definite prayer. Write me again when you feel like so doing. Sorrow not as others who have no hope. Doubt not the Lord's goodness. Look forward to the future, and it will nerve you for the duties of the present. Assuring you again of my heart-felt sympathy, and of my poor prayers. "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." Psalm 55:22.
Yours by God's abounding mercy,
A. W. Pink.
(The above is a copy of a letter which was sent to one who had suddenly been plunged into the deep waters of bereavement. We felt that perhaps its contents might be pertinent to the cases of others of our readers who have lately been called on by God to give up loved ones. May it also speak to those Christian husbands who still have their wives with them, and move them to treat their partners with that love, sympathy, patience, gentleness, considerateness, which is their due.)