The Widow Directed to the Widow's God

by John Angell James, 1841

Letter to a friend who had lost a near relative

Your long and intimate letter gave me great pleasure. There is a sympathy in the feeling of people who have been recently afflicted, which cannot be expected to be found in others; a mutual chord, which, touched, vibrates with a kindred sound. We have not suffered exactly alike. But we have suffered; and that circumstance has made us love each other better than we did before.

When I view myself, riven asunder, root and branch, not the limbs torn away—but the very body of the tree sundered from top to bottom, nature must feel the parting agonies, must at times, be ready to sink under the consciousness of her dissolution. All this must be to those who have interests to be smitten, friendships to be broken, and hearts to feel.

Yes, dear friend, our hearts have bled. The wound inflicted has been deep. We have felt that the stroke was full of anguish, that it went to our very souls. We will not deny that this is all true. We will not please ourselves with the delusion that the deep, deep wound which the hand of God has inflicted, can ever cease to bleed. But, O my friend! 'is there not balm in Gilead? is there not a physician there?' Is not that physician our Savior; wise to discern, prudent to manage, strong to save? Has not the kind hand which smote so deeply, accompanied the stroke with many softening, mitigating circumstances? Oh yes; I trust we both feel that it is so. It is God who has afflicted us, the infinitely wise, compassionate, and faithful Jehovah, the Lord our God. And does it not argue great lack of confidence in him, if we sink into despondency when he chastises us? Does it not show, either that we think we could manage things better than he can, or that there is something which we have not cordially submitted to his disposal?

And now, O God, you are the potter, and we the clay. O how this quells the murmurings of self-will; how it settles the restlessness of the troubled spirit; how it plucks the sting from the rod of affliction! God knows best! Precious truth! It is an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast, which keeps it from shipwreck, amid all the storms and tempests of the troubled sea of life. Oh, for a firm, unwavering faith! This is all that is needed. With this we may say, "Cheerful I tread the desert through."

By faith, we may rejoice when our beloved Christian friends are taken from the stormy ocean to the peaceful haven--from the weary wilderness to the happy home--from the field of conflict to the crown of victory; and trace with holy courage, our way through the same difficulties to the same glorious reward.

But, ah! this, a firm unwavering faith, is too often lacking. We miss our dear friend. The heart which sympathized in all our pleasures and pains, has ceased to beat; the ear which was always open to listen to our afflictions and wishes, is closed; the kind voice of affection and unselfish love, is hushed; the arm which supported us, is withdrawn. It is a chilling thought. Cherished alone, we feel its freezing, benumbing influence fastening upon all the springs of comfort and hope, and turning every stream of joy into one wilderness of cold and motionless despair.

But, my dear friend, we must not view our trials thus. We must think much and often of the blessedness of those whose removal we lament, of the perfection of the divine government, of the certainty of the promise, that 'all things shall work together for good to those who love God,' of the rapid approach of that hour which will unite us eternally to those in Christ whom we love, of the danger of creature-comforts, and of the suffering life on earth of our glorious High-priest and head, and his assurance that it is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. Oh, my dear friend, if we are Christians, there is a glorious prospect before us—as much of the good things of this life as an infinitely wise and kind Father sees to be best for us, and hereafter an eternity of unmingled and ineffable bliss!