A Word to the Bereaved
James Smith, 1865
"I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said — I will not hear!" Jeremiah 22:21
Prosperity is not always a blessing. Ease sometimes genders hardness of heart. Painful discipline is absolutely necessary. The Lord speaks to the prosperous — but they are too busy to attend. He brings a cloud over their affairs, he changes his pleasant dealings with them, and says, "Heed the rod and the One who appointed it!"
There is a parent bereaved of a lovely Christian child; it was an idol; or, if not, it was in a fair way of becoming so. The affections were set upon it. The Lord was displaced by it. It became absolutely necessary to remove it, for nothing else would do. The Lord had spoken by his word, by his ministers, by the gentle voice of his Spirit — but all was disregarded. The fond and foolish parent would not hear. Now the beloved object is taken away, and the idolater refuses to be comforted. The Lord's ways are called mysterious. The heart rises in opposition, and it is just ready to indulge in hard thoughts of Him, or to murmur against Him. But it must not be. No, rather examine your course. Turn over the pages of your past history. Attend to the Lord's inquiry, "Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?"
An eastern shepherd had taught his flock to know his voice and follow him. But on one occasion, when the weather was fine, and all was pleasant, he wished to lead his flock to another spot. He called them to follow him; a ewe who was feeding with her lamb beside her, refused to do so. He turned and snatched up her lamb and carried it off in his bosom, and she readily henceforth followed his call. Just so the good Shepherd, when we allow our lambs so to engross our attention, or captivate our affections, that we neglect to hear his voice, and obey his call, takes our lamb, lays it in his bosom, saying, "Follow me."
Bereaved Christian, has Jesus taken away your lamb? He has laid it in his bosom. He is carrying it to his Father's house. He will place it beyond the reach of the storm, the wolf, and painful disease. He is tender over it. He will take the utmost care of it. He will feed it, and lead it to living fountains of water. He will wipe away every tear from its eyes. It shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on it, nor any heat. It is safe. It is happy. It is at home. It knows its Shepherd's voice, is always in its Shepherd's presence, and enjoys its Shepherd's love. Happy lamb! Gracious Shepherd! Glorious flock!
Beloved! the Shepherd, who has your lamb in his bosom, still gently whispers, "Follow me." He spoke to you in your prosperity — but you would not hear; he speaks to you now in your sadness and sorrow, listen and attend to his voice. Follow him into his chambers of secret communion, there he will soothe and solace your soul. Follow him into his ordinances where he feeds his flock, and he will make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside the still waters; he will restore your soul. Follow him in the path of tribulation with patient spirit and steady pace, and he will show you the path of life, and conduct you to his Father s right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore.
Look not for your missing lamb — but look up in the Shepherd's face; there love is enthroned in brightness, and sympathy speaks in tears. Look at the Shepherd s arms, your lamb is safe there; and look at his warm bosom, your lamb is happy there. It was necessary that he should thus discipline you, and you will see this by-and-bye. At present believe his word; he says, "I will do you no hurt." Believe his love to you, it is too great to allow the presence of a rival, or to allow you to injure yourself by improper attachments. Had he loved you less, he might have spared your feelings. You might have retained your loved one. Can you regret that Jesus loves you so much? Could you wish him to love you less? My friend, weep no longer. Dry up your tears. Listen to your Shepherd's voice. Follow in your Shepherd's footsteps. Detach your affections from earth and earthly things, and set them on those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
It is but a little while, and we shall be done with everything here on this poor earth. If the Lord had not taken your child now, you must have left it very soon; and if you had left it behind you in a world like this, who can tell what might have been its sufferings or its sorrows? If the Lord had not taken it from you — it may have been necessary that he should take you from it, and this might have been far worse. Your Savior has done wisely, you will see this by-and-bye.
Your Savior has acted kindly, and the time is coming when you will acknowledge it. Silence, then, your complaints. Dry up your tears. Rise from your mourning. Go forth at your Redeemer's call, and ask, as you fall in submission at his feet, "Lord, what will you have me to do?"
We may anticipate his reply. "Love me more. Keep closer to my side. Speak to me more frequently, and more fully. Live for my honor. Walk by my word. Let nothing occupy my place in your affections. Rest in my love to you. Rely on the promises I have made you. Attend to the cautions I have given you. Expect the mansion which I am now preparing for you."
Lord Jesus, let us not refuse to hear you — but give us your grace in such abundance, that we may listen to catch the first sounds of your voice, and stand ready to do whatever you shall command, or to surrender whatever you shall call for!