Encouragements to Patient Waiting
by John MacDuff, 1864
May the effort "to speak a word to him that is weary" be attended with the Divine blessing; and may many of God's tried and suffering ones realize in their hours of weakness, pain, and distress—the soothing, elevating, and strengthening power which lies in Christ.
If, through the blessing of the Eternal Spirit, this volume shall convey to any child of affliction, one gleam of soothing and hope, it will impart additional sweetness to the dealings of our Heavenly Father, to whom all glory shall be ascribed, even to Him "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
May grace be imparted to us to improve the various dealings of our Heavenly Father—that our hearts may be purified, our affections raised to the things which are above, and our earthly will brought into conformity with the will of God. May we be kept by faith ever looking up to Christ—dwelling in Him and He in us, so that "beholding, with open face, as in a glass the glory of the Lord—we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
THE CHASTENING ROD
"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty."—Job 5:17
Happiness! How little does the word mean when used in its ordinary sense! We generally esteem those happy—who enjoy uninterrupted health, and are apt to imagine that all happiness is gone when they are laid on a bed of sickness. But it is not so! To many of God's children, the time of sore trial has been a time of peace and joy—a time to which they have looked back with the deepest gratitude. Not that sickness is in itself desirable—but it is precious. In the buoyancy of health—when our sky is clear—our sun shining brilliantly—and our hearts are full of hope—oh, how prone are we to forget our true character of "strangers and pilgrims" here on earth! How insidiously does the world entwine itself around our heart-strings! And how slowly do we advance in our heavenward journey! But when the sky is darkened, and the heavy clouds are rolling overhead—when we are laid prostrate—weak and helpless—then is it that we are brought to realize the frailty of our nature, and to become conscious of the truth that this world is not our rest—because it is polluted!
In the midst of our heedlessness—God summons us to an audience. He who knows the secrets of all hearts, has seen that within us which must be corrected. He has discovered us wandering—and He would bring us back. He has watched us paying our homage to the creature—and He would remind us of our duty to Him—the Creator. He has noticed the gradual yielding of the heart's affections to things "seen and temporal"—and He would have us give more earnest heed to the things "unseen and eternal."
"Happy is the man whom God corrects." Yes, assuredly, because it is a proof that He cares for us. We are not left to wander on without a father's care, but when our steps are fast nearing dangerous ground—His hand of love is outstretched; when we are likely to stumble on the dark mountains—He points to the path of safety; when the siren voice is alluring us further and further away—He summons us back, and Himself condescends to become our Guide. But He will not commune with us in the midst of our heedlessness and folly. He must first draw us aside—away from the scenes in which we foolishly delighted, away from the companions who were making us as worldly as themselves—away even from our daily occupation—He would have us be alone with Him!
We are laid on a sick-bed—health vanishes like a dream, friends begin to look anxious—and we are made to pass through days and nights of weariness and pain. All nature wears a gloom around us. The sun still shines—but, for us, he is draped in sadness; the flowers still bloom—but we cannot enjoy their fragrance; the seasons change—but they seem ever tending towards dreary winter.
This is the trial-time of sickness. There is much to be endured—much to be struggled against. Hard thoughts enter into the soul—tempting, sinful, unholy thoughts—which would lead us to question God's goodness and mercy—as if He took delight in the sufferings and sorrows of His children.
At such a time, there is little peace or comfort—and often those who wish to advise and comfort, come too soon. We cannot, as yet, feel that "all is well;"—we are not, as yet, happy in being corrected. They would have us at once "be of good cheer," but it may not be.
God does not intend that we should be happy yet. We must be brought to solemn thought—to heart-searching—to earnest, importunate prayer. The love of the world must be weakened; the cords which knit our heart-strings must be snapped asunder; the longings for earth's giddy joys must be driven from the soul—before we can have the "happiness" of a corrected child! But when again we turn "with our whole heart to the Lord," feeling not only that it is a "Father's hand" which has been laid on us—but that that "Father" desires by this correction to draw us more closely to Himself—then does He impart His promised peace; then does He give strength to bear meekly the burden laid upon us; and then, above all, is the blessed assurance realized, "Fear not, I am still with you—I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you."
Oh! who shall say that the "chastening time" is not a precious one—when such is the blessed result? Who will for a moment doubt the happiness of the tried one, when thus "the light of his Father's countenance has been lifted up," and the Lord has "strengthened him upon the bed of languishing?"
Fellow-sufferers! we may not have realized this blessed condition as ours; we may be still under the cloud—as yet the struggle may be still going on. Let us not give way to despair. Let us hope on, let us pray for grace to see God's hand in our sickness, to acknowledge that "in faithfulness, He has afflicted us," and to learn those lessons He designs to teach us. Let us wait on the Lord. He will not long delay His coming. In some blessed way He will answer us. If He withholds the blessing of health—He will give the more precious one of His own presence. If He sees fit to continue our pain and suffering—He will impart strength equal to bear them. If He prolongs the time of bodily weakness—He will convey to the soul spiritual nourishment, and "strengthen us with all might in the inner man."
Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, to whom belong the issues of life and death—look down with compassion upon Your frail and afflicted servant. Oh, enable me to acknowledge the mercy of Your dispensations, and, without murmuring or doubting—to accept all things as coming from You. Give me strength against all my temptations, and patience under all my sufferings. In the midst of all my fears and anxieties, I would give You thanks for Your sparing mercy. I have grievously sinned, O Lord, and merit Your hot displeasure. But I would cast myself wholly upon Your mercy in Christ Jesus. Oh, hear me in the day of trouble. Send help from Your sanctuary, and strengthen me from Zion. Give me grace, O Lord, in remembrance of Your past loving-kindness—so to trust in Your goodness, to submit to Your wisdom, and meekly to bear what You think fit to lay upon me—that I may be brought to say at the last, "It was good for me that I was afflicted!" Grant this measure of grace unto Your servant for Your Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
VAIN IS THE HELP OF MAN
"Do not put your trust in mortal men, in whom there is no help."—Psalm 146:3
In one sense, we are very dependent on each other. How does the infant cling to the arm of its mother! and how do we in sickness trust to the care and kindness of a faithful attendant! In every relation of life, we are comforted, upheld, sustained by those around us—and especially is this the case in the family of Christ. Every member feels it is his solemn duty to support the weak—to gladden the sorrowful—to console the mourner. If he does not, he has not the mind of Christ—he has not been drinking in the spirit of Him who came "to bind up the broken-hearted, and to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded spirit."
The help we are sometimes privileged to give one another, is very precious. The kindly look—how often has it chased sadness from the brow, even as the bright ray of sunshine chases the dark cloud from the heavens! The word of sympathy—how often has it sounded in the secret chambers of the soul—awakening gladness, where all was silence and gloom! And who shall tell how often God's sweet promises, whispered gently by the sick-bed, have calmed and tranquilized the troubled soul, even as of old, the words of Jesus, "Peace, be still," soothed the tempestuous billows—so that "immediately there was a great calm."
But in another and higher sense, it is true that "vain is the help of man!" We can only effectually help each other—when we are "instruments in God's hand." He makes use of us as His servants, and when we feel and realize our responsibility as such, then our feeble efforts are blessed, and we become "sons of consolation." Apart from this, of what avail is it that the physician prescribes; or that the minister visits the chamber of sickness? Health will not return at the bidding of the one—nor comfort flow from the exhortations of the other. It matters not that there is the exercise of the highest skill, and the utterance of the most thrilling eloquence. Still the burden of disease will bear down the body—and the load of anxiety oppress the spirit. But when the Divine blessing is given, and the Spirit pours forth His promised influence—all is changed. The pulse beats again with health—the soul is freed from its agitations and alarms!
Shall I, then, "trust in the son of man?" No, rather, shall I trust in Him who alone "has the issues of life and death!" My heart may be filled with gratitude and love to those who have been the "instruments in God's hand," and they may become dear to me—even as my own flesh; but I will not "put my trust" in them—I will look higher far—to Him who has promised to watch over me with a Father's care—and whose power nothing can withstand. I will look to Him who is seated as my Advocate and Elder Brother at the Father's right hand, and who has promised to 'undertake for me,' and to plead, in my behalf, the merits of His own most precious blood. I will look to Him who alone can carry home the truth to my heart, even the Comforting Spirit—at whose bidding, doubt and fear must vanish, and hope and joy take possession of my soul.
Yes, suffering child! it is ever well to look beyond the creature—to realize the fact that only one Arm is all-powerful—only one Heart is all-loving—only one Ear is always open—only one Eye is never closed—and that to Him, and Him alone, "the secrets and sorrows, the wants and desires of the heart," are known. Just as far as we trace God's hand in what our fellow-creatures do in our behalf, earthly love and sympathy and kindness will be helpful and comforting to us. When we forget or overlook this—we will fail to derive any benefit, or any lasting comfort from their efforts.
Besides, there are needs of the soul, and extremities of suffering and trial—when human help is utterly unavailing. It cannot come close enough to us. It cannot reach the seat of anguish. There are inner depths in our souls, of which we are at times painfully conscious, where only one Voice can be heard. God sometimes permits anxiety, fear, anguish—that we may be driven to Him by finding, short of Him, "no help in man." He would have us make Him our confidence, our refuge, our strength. He would have us know Him as our Father and friend—not know about Him—but know Him. It is this for which we are training. It is this which God is teaching us during our earthly sojourn—by disappointments and sorrows—by sickness and trial and bodily infirmities—by dangers without and fears within, by sore and agonizing extremities where human help cannot reach us—by one and all, He is drawing us to Himself and bidding us put all our trust in Him, "to acquaint ourselves with Him and be at peace."
And, surely, it is a comforting and blessed thought, that "He cares for us"—that all our concerns are important in His sight. Our fellow-men may refuse their sympathy—He never will. They may be distant from us in the hour of need—He is "a present help in the time of trouble." They may be occupied and engrossed with self—His ear "is ever open to our cry." They may become wearied of helping us—He is ever "touched by our infirmities," and ever ready to heal our woes. Let us, then, with feelings of increasing love and gratitude, as we meditate on the care of our heavenly Father, reveal to Him all our wants and weaknesses, all our sorrows and anxieties, all our sins and shortcomings; assured that, of His infinite mercy, He will bestow upon us pardon, peace, help, hope, and joy.
Heavenly Father, I would draw near unto You with humble confidence, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. I thank You for all Your past goodness, for Your watchful providence, Your unceasing care. I bless You for the gracious offers of mercy which You have given me, and I pray that You would enable me to place all my confidence in Him whom You have sent to seek and save the lost. Oh, may His precious blood wash out the dark stain of sin from my soul. Blessed Savior, make me Yours in heart and soul. Oh, give me Your Spirit. Purify my nature and impress Your image on my heart.
Help me, O Lord, in this time of sickness, to look up to You as my only help. Keep me from all repining thoughts, and in remembrance of Your past loving-kindness, help me now to trust in Your goodness and to submit to Your will. Make me patient, humble, and resigned, and enable me to bring forth more fruit to Your glory. Strengthen me ever, to show the power of Your grace—in my humility, gentleness, love, and gratitude, to all who help my infirmities and show kindness to me. May I ever regard them as instruments in Your hands, and able to bring me comfort according to Your pleasure. Give me, O God, a simple, entire dependence upon You—and enable me in all things to commit my way unto You, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
THE CRY OF DISTRESS
"In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears!"—2 Samuel 22:7
It is related of King Asa, that an alarming and painful disease came upon him—he was afflicted with a grievous bodily calamity; and his illness continued to increase, "until his disease was exceedingly great." Yet, although on a former occasion he had gathered the people and had "entered into a solemn covenant with them to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart, and with all their soul"—we are told that, when sickness came upon him, he forgot his promise; and this is the melancholy declaration of Scripture, "Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians."
What a sad contrast between this sinful forgetfulness—and the heartfelt urgency of the royal psalmist! What wonder that the next thing recorded of the one is his death, and by the other, that "He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears!" Asa's cry of distress, being made only to man—brought no relief; the psalmist's prayer to the Most High God—was heard and answered.
Which of these examples have we followed? When pain and suffering have laid hold upon us, to whom, in our extremity, have we made our appeal? Has it been to feeble, impotent man, whose every effort is powerless without God's blessing? or has it been to Him who, in His holy temple, hearkens to the cry of the humblest, the weakest, of His children?
Alas! have we not to acknowledge that many a time in our distress—we have looked for help only to men? We have made our appeal to them, believing that they could deliver us, and we have wondered that the sickness was not removed—the disease not cured.
Asa's sin was not his having applied to the physicians—but his having neglected, first of all, "to seek the Lord." We have been guilty, not in having had recourse to means—but in trusting solely to their efficacy.
Whatever is our danger or disease, we can only hope for deliverance by immediately crying to our God for help. For is not this the end He has in view? He does not visit us with sore calamity, only to scare and frighten us away from Him—but that our danger may drive us to Him. He permits terror to lay hold upon us—that we may take refuge in His arms. He allows our faith to fail—that we may cling more confidingly to His almighty arm. He delays the removal of disease—that we may become more importunate in prayer—that we may become more patient, resigned, and submissive to His will. When these ends are accomplished—He speaks the word, He dispels our fears, He grants our desires, He answers our prayers.
"The cry of distress." Oh! who but a doubting, faithless one would ever imagine that the God of love would be indifferent when it came "into His ears?" He, our Father, our covenant-God—He "who has not spared His own Son—but delivered Him up to the death for us," shall He refuse to hear our cry when danger or calamity threatens to overwhelm us? Away with such doubts! "The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me," was the assurance of the Savior to His disciples; and still the same words are true regarding all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in love, that He lays His hand upon us—in love that He seems to deny our prayers—in love that He delays to send "help out of Zion." The Father of mercies is evermore compassionately intent upon the sufferings of His dear children—according to the depth and poignancy of their afflictions.
Our "cry of distress" He has indeed heard—but He delays to answer it, that we may learn to persevere in asking—that the passionate fervency of unchastened prayer may be deepened into the strong breath of humble supplication—that patience may have her perfect work—that we may still "wait upon the Lord, who hides His face"—that we may grow to trust His love, to know what He is to us, yes, what He is to all who wait upon Him. Oh! it is not that His ear is heavy, it is not that the tenderness of His sympathy is blunted—it is a part of His plan of faithfulness and wisdom. He is training His children—training them for the greatest dignity and the highest happiness.
And He best knows how to do it. We might rather choose comfort, health, an immediate answer to all our prayers; but we must be taught that holiness is of more importance than comfort; that fellowship with God more precious than health; and that "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." We must be brought to an entire and willing surrender of the soul to Him, that, in His own way, and by His own methods—He may cleanse it, may strengthen it, may renew it, may dwell in it, make it His eternally!
Suffering child of God! does your heart fail you? have you raised "the cry of distress," and received no answer, and are you beginning to doubt the love, the faithfulness of God? Oh, trust in Him still! He has heard you—your cry did enter into His ears. Cast yourself in the full assurance of faith upon Him—and all shall be well. It is He himself, who has stirred up your soul in the hour of extremity to call upon Him; and He has stirred you up to call—because He means to grant your desire, and this is His way of granting it. He has let this danger threaten you—-that you may draw nearer to Him—that you may open to Him your grief, your anxiety, your difficulties—that you may show Him your need—that you may plead with Him by His covenant of tears—and, flying from all others, and even from yourself—hide in His bosom.
Oh! you do not love yourself better than He loves you! You can not shrink from pain more than He dislikes your bearing it. And if He permits it still to continue, it is that a greater good may result to you in bearing it—that your heart may receive and retain deeper and sharper impressions of the likeness of your Lord. Oh, then, count the season of suffering a precious, blessed season, though it be dim and overcast—a season of promise and springing freshness—a token of His nearness, and of His purpose to cleanse you for His own—"Blessed are you who weep now."
He who is greatly tried, if he is learning obedience after the example of his Lord, is not far from the kingdom of God. Our heavenly Father is perfecting His own work—tracing the divine lineaments with His wise and gentle hand. He who perfected His own Son through sufferings, has brought many sons to glory by the same rough road, even by "the way of the wilderness and of the flood." He is bringing you home to Himself. Do not, then, shrink because the path is broken and solitary—because at times the cry of distress, "Lord, help me," is not answered by a word—for the way is short, and the end blessed, and your every footstep is marked by an eye of love—your every supplication "enters into the ears" of the Lord God Almighty. He knows your every prayer for guidance, deliverance, and help—your every effort to bear patiently and contentedly what He has laid upon you, and to profit by the visitation—to hear the rod, and Him who appointed it—to yield yourself always meekly, as the redeemed of Christ, to the hand of God, as of a loving Father. All these things, which man can never know, are known and valued by Him.
Still hope, still struggle on, still feel assured that you are not under a harsh rod of vindictive infliction—but under the watchful care of a "Father in heaven," who mingles for you joy and sorrow, as He sees best for you, and who will "neither fail you nor forsake you."
O merciful God, who sees all my weakness, and the troubles I labor under—have regard unto the prayer of Your servant, who now implores Your comfort, Your direction, and Your help. Grant me grace neither to grieve nor repine under this, Your chastisement. May I be enabled to regard my troubles as an exercise of my faith, and patience, and humility—and may I improve all my afflictions to the good of my soul, and to Your glory. You alone know what is best for me. Let me never dispute Your goodness or wisdom—but ever trust Your heart, even when I cannot trace Your hand. Oh, help me, good Lord, that I may cheerfully suffer and obediently do Your will, and choose what You chose, and observe the ways of Your providence, and revere Your judgments, and wait for Your mercy, and delight in Your dispensations, and expect that all things shall work together for good to those who love You. Grant this, O Father, through Jesus Christ our blessed Savior. Amen.
"The joy of our heart has ceased!"—Lamentations 5:15
The retrospect of the past, in its power to excite joy or grief, depends very much on our present condition. So long as we are prosperous—we can look back with feelings of delight; so long as we are healthy—we can think of the years that have gone by with pleasure; so long as there are no missing children in the family circle—we can recall the days of childhood with joyful emotion. And it is the same with our spiritual nature—so long as we have the inward consciousness that the light of God's countenance is shining upon us—we are glad and joyous; so long as we have peace, calmness, and rest of soul—we can think of other days without a tear.
But let events change—and how changed are we! When prosperity departs—then what pain do we often experience in recalling scenes which can no more return! When disease lays us prostrate—then how sadly do we think of the time of health! And when inward soul-trouble comes upon us, when we are sick at heart—then how do we cry with the patriarch, "Oh that it were with me as in months past!"
Reader, has not some such feeling been experienced by you in the time of sickness and trial? Perhaps it has been your lot to be summoned to the endurance of trial when your sky seemed brightest, when hope filled your bosom, and the pathway of life was fair and pleasant. Suddenly the sky became overcast—health declined, the rose-color faded from the cheek, the canker-worm gnawed at the vitals, and weakness and weariness took the place of strength and vigor! No longer able to mingle in the crowd, destitute even of strength to discharge accustomed duty—oh, have not past joys—the recollection of days of health, of innocent enjoyment with friends you dearly loved, of scenes in which without one sigh of weariness you were accustomed to be a part—have not these things come upon you with painful intensity during days and nights of languor, suffering, and wakefulness?
We have all felt this—all of us, at least, who know what is meant by failing strength, by increasing debility, by helpless prostration, by long-continued sickness. At such times we must pray more earnestly for grace—grace to keep us from repining—grace to enable us to see that God still designs kindly—grace to realize what might have been lost to us by unbroken health—but gained by us in the time of sickness—grace to be grateful that we ever had joys in the past while we only merited sorrows—grace to extract all the good which is treasured up for us by our heavenly Father, in that which to a careless eye seems only evil.
For let us remember that what we count joy—is not really so; and the blessed lot—is not to live on in the world unchastened and unchecked, undisturbed by sorrow or suffering, having our good things in this life, left to our own ways. No, the blessed life it is to lie low (well is it for us if it be of our own accord—yet anyhow to lie low!) under the Savior's cross. Though for a time the cross lies heavy upon us—it is not so heavy as sin; though it wounds us—they are "the wounds of a Friend;" though it opens the floodgates of grief—it is that we may be partakers of heavenly joy; though it seems to rob us of some things which we counted precious—it is that we may obtain others infinitely more valuable, as enduring as eternity itself.
And if sickness becomes the means of drawing us more closely to Christ—if the discipline we are now undergoing (albeit it separates us from what we counted our joys) is intended to work for good, to clear our hearts from dross, to enable us to see Him as once we saw Him not, amid the shadows of this busy life of trifles, and to admit us to the high and holy privilege of hearing His voice sounding closer to us than it ever did before—oh, shall we murmur or complain that these "past joys" are no longer ours? Shall we not cease from repining or impatience when we think of His present gracious purpose regarding us, and say, "Lord, do with me as You desire! Carry on Your own work, and make me submissive to Your will."
Be this your prayer, suffering Christian—and sickness will be the means of awakening within your heart songs of "joy" which will gladden every remaining step of your pilgrimage here, and sound throughout the ages of a blessed eternity. "Past joys" will then seem small in comparison with "present joys." Gradually you will see the unfolding of the plan of Providence, and be amazed to find that "all things"—joy and sorrow, ease and pain, health and sickness—were working together for your good; that the great end which your Father had chiefly in view in all your afflictions—was the glory of His name, in your spiritual health and recovery, in your being brought to the knowledge of Himself, in your being made a chosen vessel full of His power and of the riches of His grace.
Had your day continued all sunshine, your earthly joys ever increasing, and your health, ease, and worldly comfort suffering no break—you would soon have forgotten God—soon have wandered far from the Savior—soon have become unmindful of your character and destiny.
Oh! then, was it not in mercy that the dark shadow crossed your path—that the painful visitation came from God—that the hand of love arrested you—and that you were called to become the tenant of the sick-room and the sick-bed, with their weariness and their pain—their days of languor, and their nights of restlessness?
You are brought there by Him "who does not afflict willingly." You are brought into His own school, there to learn to read His own handwriting; to learn Heaven's holy alphabet—to see that 'earthly sorrow' is the heavenly name for joy; and bodily pain is His means for spiritual improvement; and the present wounding of the heart, is for your heart's healing and eternal cure. You are brought there that, by the power of His Holy Spirit, He may mold your heart as He will, may purify, and enlighten, and soften, and strengthen, and deepen it—by His presence in the cloud and mystery of sorrow.
Oh, then, do not think so much of "past joys" as of securing, in this hour of sickness, the peace, the comfort, the joy of a "present Savior." With Him by your side, you will be able to "rejoice in tribulation;" you will bid it welcome; you will cherish it as a heavenly visitant—a messenger sent from above with healing to your soul. You will find "the rainbow in the cloud"—the Savior's light arising out of darkness, His form upon the troubled waters; and if He hushes them not, He will say to your soul, "Fear not—for I am with you." He will make it more joyful for you to lie down in trouble and anguish, while He is with you—than ever any of the joys of this world were, while He was less present with you, or wherein you forgot, and turned aside from Him.
Suffering, in itself, were it a punishment for sin—would be oppressive and hopeless—but through God's mercy in Christ, it is His healing medicine, to burn out our wounds, and purify us for His presence. Every throb of pain, every pang of soul-agony, is a messenger from God, testifying, if we will regard it, of His fatherly care: tempering our cup with pain and sorrow, as He sees needful for us; loosening our hold of this life; leading heavenwards, where there shall be no pain; humbling us, as being creatures who require it, and deserve far more—teaching us to look into ourselves, to see for what reason in us, this medicine has been sent.
Yes, every sorrow we meet with, is a billow on this world's tumultuous sea, which we must cross—to bring us nearer to our home. Every removed earthly enjoyment—is a weight removed from off us, which was crushing down our spirits, when they should have been soaring upwards heavenwards—homewards—Godwards.
So walking on earth—you may be in heaven; you may be a partaker of that "joy with which a stranger cannot intermeddle," of that "peace which passes all understanding;" you may live beside the throne of grace, drawing closer the ties which no privation, nor suffering, nor vicissitude can dissolve; you may connect "a time of need" with the best and brightest manifestations of mercy and grace to your soul!
The remembrance of "past joys" will not then be dangerous or painful to you. Your "present joy" will be better far—the joy of near and sweet communion with your God and Savior; the joy of so hearkening to His voice of love—that pain and sorrow are utterly forgotten; the joy of being so "alone with God," that every murmuring is hushed, every disquietude removed; the joy of having such a manifestation of the Redeemer's glory to your soul—as will shed a calm and blissful radiance around every prospect, and proves the pledge of that better heritage where "there is fullness of joy for evermore."
Oh, then, look earnestly to Him—try to realize His presence—hearken for His voice of love; and instead of murmuring because past joys cannot be recalled—pray that "present joy" may be imparted—that the Savior may hold communion with you, and pour into your heart that "joy which no man can take from you!"
Gracious and merciful Father! You do not willingly afflict; but You rebuke and chasten those whom You love—look down upon me, Your unworthy servant, and have mercy upon me for Christ's sake! I acknowledge both the justice and the mercy of Your dealings with me. Oh, keep me from murmuring because past joys are no longer mine. Give me to feel that You know the discipline I need—and that earthly joy cannot impart heavenly peace. Although You have visited me with sickness, and laid Your chastening hand upon me—oh grant that I may still have inward joy and comfort. May I have grace to surrender all things into Your hands, referring the disposal of them to You—and that heartily and fully.
Even in the darkest night of sorrow may I cast anchor in You, and repose on You when I see no light, remembering that this world is not my hope, nor the place of my rest—but the place of my trial and conflict; and that my true home is above. Good Lord and Father, of Your infinite mercy You have called me to eternal glory—save me, then, I pray You, from ever being so ungrateful as to repine against You, and so to drown precious heavenly blessings, in any little trouble that befalls me.
Give me more deep thoughts of the joys of the world to come; lift my eyes to that state where Your saints now rejoice before You; direct my steps to it, and lead me towards it, cheerful and unwearied, by an assured hope that the joyful day will at length come, when, as Christ's disciple, I too shall be admitted into the fullest bliss. Oh, give me grace to cast myself wholly on Your mercy, and neither to despise Your chastenings, nor faint under them; but, with resignation to Your blessed will, and acknowledgment of Your paternal love—to speak good of Your name, now and ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"May Your will be done."—Luke 11:2
Such is part of the prayer which our Savior taught His disciples. It is familiar to us all. We have lisped it at a mother's knee; we have given utterance to it in the house of prayer; and in the secrecy of our closets we have offered it up at the throne of the heavenly grace. And yet, how seldom have we fully realized its import—and given our willing, heartfelt response to the petition! The truth is, we can only fathom its deep meaning, and attain the power of saying "Amen" from the heart, by degrees. And the place where our heavenly Father most often imparts the power is the chamber of sickness. There we feel the intense reality of the spiritual struggle—the battlings of the human will against the Divine—the wrestlings between doubt—and trust; between earth—and heaven; between things seen and temporal—and things unseen and eternal.
It is for the very purpose of teaching us submission—that trials, and sickness, and sorrows come upon us. In health and prosperity—our great desire is self-pleasure, or looking for a state of rest and satisfaction here—instead of taking up the cross of labor in duty, and submission to the will of God, with a renunciation of all worldly schemes of happiness, and patience for death to put us in possession of it. And God, who seeks our well-being, who desires to bring our will into entire conformity with His own—withdraws us from the world, that by the painful necessity of sickness, suffering, crosses—He may break the strong chain which binds us to the world, may crucify our wills, may lead us to look ever to Him, and to trust in His promised faithfulness and unerring wisdom!
God knows that without holiness—we can have no true happiness; that our hearts can find no true rest—until they are drawn upwards, and centered in Him. And therefore He appoints for us a continual process of purification and refining—until the dross of selfishness, impatience, murmuring, and self-pleasing—is removed from our hearts; and we are brought to say, as we never could before, "Father, may Your will be done!" For this end—we are summoned to enter the furnace of sharp affliction; for this end—is long-continued suffering permitted; for this end—we have sometimes days, and nights, and months, and years of weariness, and anguish, and bitter disappointment.
Tried one! do you feel it a difficult thing, in the midst of pain, and weakness, and bodily infirmity, to say, "May Your will be done." Oh! deem it not strange—saints now in glory have been vexed and troubled by the same thought; often have they grieved and lamented because they were conscious of fretfulness and impatience under the afflictive hand of God. While it is the very secret, the mystery of solid peace within—still it is the hardest and most difficult of all lessons—to resign everything to God's will, to be disposed of at His pleasure, without one resisting one opposing thought.
But if you are learning, if you are striving to endure with patience, if you are making constant efforts, be they ever so feeble, to cherish a meek and submissive spirit—fear not. All shall yet be well; more grace will be given you. The heavier the trial—the larger will be the measure of strength.
Remember the example of your blessed Lord. He went through far more than you can be called to suffer. His sorrows were not merited—as yours have been. He was all pure; suffering could find in Him no more to cleanse—than sin could find to fasten upon. Yet whose sorrow was like unto His? Who ever passed through such a fiery ordeal? And why was it? That He "might learn obedience by the things that He suffered." He was made "perfect" by sufferings; and of this perfection, after the measure of a creature and the proportions of our humanity, are the saints made to partake; they are purified—that they may be perfect. And therefore the sorrows of the holiest minds—are the highest approaches to the mind of Christ, and are full of a meaning which few can comprehend. Oh, then, strive to follow the Savior's steps! Be not dispirited, do not be afraid. Keep a sincere heart—and you will be carried through. He who perfected His own Son through sufferings—will bring you to glory by the same path!
Remember, too, that you are not your own—but His. You have given yourself up to Him. Why, then, complain that He is doing with you as He pleases? The great law of sacrifice is embracing you, and must have its perfect work. Let it be your prayer, then, that your will being crucified, you may offer up yourself to be disposed of as He sees best, whether for joy or sorrow, blessing or chastisement—to be, to go, to do, to suffer—even as He wills, even as He ordains; even as Christ endured, "who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God."
Oh, shrink not from any fellowship with your Lord in suffering—who for you "endured the cross, despising the shame," and is even now preparing for you joys which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive!" Try to say, it may be with trembling, faltering lips, "O my Savior, let me be silent like You—and never open my mouth in complaining, whatever be the bitter cup You give me to drink; for it can only be a cup of blessing to Your redeemed child, for whom You have borne the curse, and exhausted the cup of wrath and indignation!"
Be comforted, too, by the thought that submission is pleasing in your Father's sight. The sooner you gain the submissive spirit of a child—the sooner will the cross, the trial, the suffering, be removed. Not that you are to try to bear with patience—in order to be freed from chastisement; but because you will be doing "that which is pleasing to Him;" and when you do, He will enable you to "rejoice with exceeding joy."
And oh, suffering child! will not this help us to be more patient and submissive—the thought that "yet in a little while, and He who shall come will come, and will not tarry." Then will He give rest to the weary, and consolation to the sorrowful. Their peace shall be as a river, ever flowing; they shall have entered into "the joy of their Lord." No more sin, nor any more guilt, no more penitence, no more trial, no infirmity to depress us, no false affection to mislead us, no temper to irritate us, no prejudice to blind us, no sloth, no pride, no envy, no strife—but the light of God's countenance, and a pure river of water of life, as clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God. That is our home. Here on earth, we are but on our pilgrimage—our path tangled and thorny, our rest broken and disturbed, our spiritual vision dim and obscured.
No more, child of God—your very sufferings on earth, so soon to be over, so small compared with your deservings, so short in duration compared with eternity, "shall work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" Oh! surely this consideration will also help to increase your patience under suffering. Your glory is to superabound—as your afflictions have abounded. Your eternal refreshings will be measured out to you—by the cup of trial you have drunk. God has beaten and hammered you—only to make you a vessel unto honor! All sorrow and sighing shall then flee away, and everlasting joy be upon your head.
Why then complain—because God designs to make you very glorious? Does He injure you in thus rendering you fit for a higher and nobler place in heaven? Impatience and fretfulness can free you from no other weight but one—and that is "an exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Suffering may seem long and weary, and, for the present, grievous; yet it is but a little moment, a twinkling of an eye—when compared with the everlasting inheritance of the saints in glory, when the days of your mourning shall be ended.
Oh, fear not, trembling believer! Your Father knows the weight and duration of your sorrows and trials. He sees the end from the beginning—and the happy outcome out of all your afflictions which He has in store for you. Trust Him, submit to Him! No sorrow has been mingled in your cup, no thorn has been scattered on your path, no grief has oppressed your spirit—but what "is common to the whole family of God." The Shepherd is leading you by a difficult path—but in the right way to His own blessed fold. Leave all to Him—to His faithfulness, His love, His power, His watchful, sleepless care!
As you advance, still trying more and more to submit to your Father's will; in every fresh trouble—imploring fresh grace; in every onset of the evil heart—to resist God's pleasure; crying to Him for help—your prayer will be answered. Mercies you do not dream of now—will be strewn around your footsteps! Powers which until now have lain as sleeping shadows within you—will awake to life—powers of faith, of hope, of love, and of that perfect patience and submission which will enable you to lift your streaming eyes to heaven, and say, "Lord, I am Yours! Do with me what You will—send me what You desire; only abide with me." Then let the shadows of evening fall—let your path be dark and desolate—let your burden be heavy, your cross painful—in the surrounding stillness you will hear God's voice cheering you onward!
One, too, mightier than the angels will make His presence felt; and as you place your trembling hand in His, and cry, "Lord, guide me—for I cannot see," there will descend a stream of light upon your darkening path, and peace so perfect, that, with songs of praise and thanksgiving, you will pursue your way, willing to wait, willing to endure, willing to do all things and to suffer all things, for His dear sake—who is leading you through the valley of the shadow of death—to the fountains of living waters—to the land of everlasting joy!
O You who are the God of patience and consolation—strengthen me in the inner man, that I may bear Your yoke and burden without murmuring. May I heartily love You, entirely confide in You, and absolutely resign both soul and body to Your wise disposal. Lord, I am sensible that I am far from exercising that unreserved submission to Your gracious will, which I ought to exercise. Help me, I beseech You, so to trust in Your infinite goodness and unerring wisdom, that I may be able to say, from my very heart, "May Your will be done!" Oh, teach me to be grateful for the manifold comforts allotted me; and support me graciously, that my soul be not cast down and disturbed within me. Assist me to nourish penitent, believing, and serious thoughts and affections, and such meekness and patience as my Divine Master manifested while He was a sufferer on earth. Give me a deep sense of my sinfulness—that I may ever be humbled before You, and may feel Your great mercy and forbearance towards me!
Grant that all Your dispensations may be sanctified by Your Holy Spirit, and be instrumental in preparing me for that happy state where peace, and purity, and love are perfected—where there is no more sin, no strife, no sorrow—where the former things are passed away, and You make all things new. Hear, gracious Lord, accept, and answer, and bless Your servant, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
YOU ARE MY GOD
"My soul follows hard after you."—Psalm 63:8
And it is the desire of our heavenly Father that it should. To this He brings all His dear children by one way or other—that they "follow hard after Him." Sometimes He visits them with sore chastisement—and then, with tear-dimmed eyes and bleeding hearts, they cry to Him for mercy, and He wipes their tears away, and gently binds up their wounds, so that they love Him more than ever, and "follow after Him."
Sometimes He permits a dark cloud to overshadow them—they become timid and fearful, they cannot realize His presence, and faith, hope, and love begin to languish. Then do they lift up their hearts, exclaiming, "Lord, send help. Oh, give light, comfort, security!" and soon a friendly hand is outstretched, and a loving voice whispers, "Fear not! I am with you still;" and with a firm, unfaltering step they "follow after Him."
Sometimes they become surrounded with difficulties and dangers—every step of their pathway is trodden with pain; they look around—but can discover no way of escape, until, in answer to the urgent prayer, "Lord, help me!" they are conducted to a quiet resting-spot, and then, permitted by their heavenly Guide to enter an easier path, "they follow hard after Him."
Or it may be that weary months are appointed them, months of sickness and pain, when prayer seems unheard, longing desire unheeded, and the most urgent entreaties appear utterly unavailing. The disease may even take such deep root that the appalling thought comes home, "this sickness is life-long!" Death itself would almost be regarded as a relief—but it comes not. No! the discipline is needed, severe though it is. But the suffering Christian will not be forsaken, for an eye of love rests upon him; the heart will not utterly fail, for One will yet strengthen it on the bed of languishing; the soul will not perish, for the Refiner is even now purifying it from its dross! Let "patience have her perfect work"—and then mark the change. Where all was once fretfulness, impatience, despondency—there is now submission, calmness, hope. And why?
Because the Comforter has come! He has revealed the truth, that pardon is more precious than health; that God's love is more precious than any earthly good; that salvation is more precious than years of unalloyed worldly happiness and unbroken health! Who shall wonder that the soul thus comforted should desire "to abide under the shadow of the Almighty"—to have Him ever near—to bask in the sunshine of His favor—to hold fast the everlasting Arm! And knowing, from bitter experience, how impossible it is to tread life's stormy path without such a companion—how soon the heart would fail, and doubt arise, and temptation beset, and despondency return—that this should be its language, "O Lord, my soul follows hard after You!"
Reader, what is your state? Are you under the chastening hand of God, pleading hard that He would send relief? Do you know what it is to groan underneath a burden which seems too heavy for you to bear? Oh, be comforted! Turn the eye of faith heavenward, and, if the burden is not removed, you will be abundantly strengthened to carry it. Still pray on; the Lord's time is coming.
Believe it, Christian, your trial has been sent in tender love! God has appointed it not only to bring you to believe in His love; but also to a growing enjoyment of it—that you may long ardently for its possession, and "follow hard after Him." He would have you nearer to Himself, and more like Himself—holy, as He is holy, not in degree—but in likeness. He would teach you, by His nearness—more entire submission to His will. He would improve your love to Him, which He will do—by manifesting His love to you. You will yet find the suffering-time—to be a blessed time—a time of holy freedom with your God and Savior—a time of heavenly refreshment from Him, such as you never enjoyed when as yet you were unvisited by trial, and distant from the cross. Oh, do not think that He is indifferent to your pains and anguish, to your prayers and tears, to your longings for help and deliverance. By the very permanence of your griefs—He designs to increase your desires after Him. He would have your prayers yet more urgent, your submission yet more entire, your aspirations yet more heavenly!
He sees you and understands you better than you do yourself; as He made you, He knows what is in you—all your peculiar feelings and thoughts, your dispositions and likings, your strengths and your weaknesses. He knows what must be rooted out—and what engrafted; what banished—and what nourished; what destroyed—and what sustained. And He is working out His own gracious purpose even now—interesting Himself in all your fears and anxieties, noting your very countenance, whether smiling—or in tears; noting your voice, the beating of your heart, and your very breathing. Oh, cling to the assurance that He loves you—that you are one for whom the Savior offered up His last prayer and sealed it with His precious blood! Oh, if He has given His own Son for you—how shall He not with Him, also freely give you all things!
Remember, too, that the great Intercessor—your Redeemer, Elder Brother, High Priest, and Mediator—is pleading for you within the veil. Who is so well fitted as He—to sympathize with and strengthen you? He has sorrowed Himself—groaned beneath the pressure of an anguish in which there was none to share, and for your sake drained the very dregs of the cup of anguish.
Oh, make known to Him your case! Go to Him in your weakness and weariness—oppressed by disease, weighed down by care—and be sure you go to One who has Himself felt oppression and weariness—One who will pity you; who forgets not the anguish He endured while on earth; who remembers what human weakness is; who will look upon your beating heart, upon your pale cheek, upon your anxious brow—and whose very pleadings will seem to echo within your soul, "O my Father, have compassion on this poor suppliant! I once wept. I once was sorrowful. I once endured pain and anguish. Now, Father, even now, have pity, as You once, in the days of my flesh, had pity on me!"
Yes, Jesus is ever the same. His heart is unchanged—unchangeable. He has passed into the heavens—but He is still the God-man, the God incarnate, and still feels in perfect sympathy and brotherhood with His people.
Then, whatever is your cross, whatever your trouble, whatever your anguish—bring it to Jesus! The Father may reject you—but His own Son, He will not. Your sins may cry aloud for vengeance—the blood of the slain Lamb will plead louder for mercy! You have no merit to entitle you to ask anything—but the Victim of the great atoning sacrifice is still before the throne. You may dread to enter the holy of holies—the great High Priest still and forever offers the eternal sacrifice. He is piteous and faithful. Oh, "follow hard after Him," for He loves you still, and He bears upon the palms of His hands, upon His jeweled bosom, and upon His swelling heart—the names, and needs, and prayers of His ransomed ones!
O Lord, my heavenly Father, I bow down before You to bless You for all Your mercies, and especially for not having dealt with me according to my many sins. Pardon, I beseech You, for Your Son Jesus Christ's sake—all the offences of my past life, and enable me to believe in Him to the salvation of my soul. Increase my longing after conformity to my Divine Redeemer, and may the remembrance of His marvelous love, and grace, and mercy—incline my heart to follow hard after Him. Blessed Jesus! Your followers have the assurance of Your own gracious declaration, that whatever they shall ask in Your name—they will receive it. O Savior of the world! I humbly ask of You more love, more grace, more faith and trust in You. Help me to cling to You. In the darkest hour—may I realize Your presence; in the time of greatest danger—may I hear Your voice; and when my faith begins to fail—oh let Your strengthening arm uphold me! Remember, O Lord, the word unto Your servant in which You have caused me to hope, and answer me according to the multitude of Your mercies. Amen.
"You write bitter things against me."—Job 13:26
Sickness is often a painful remembrancer. The, past, which seemed forgotten, comes back with its train of omissions and commissions—promises and vows, which never were fulfilled; privileges and warnings which passed by unimproved; and solemn knockings at the chamber of the soul which made only a slight and momentary impression. Have we never realized this? Have not our hearts trembled at the revived record of other days?
But oh, what is our recollection—when compared with the omniscience of God! He has seen and recorded thoughts and words and deeds from our very childhood. To Him all hearts are open, and from Him no secrets are hidden. He has watched our every movement, and there has not been within us, a secret purpose, a sinful desire, or an unholy thought—which has escaped His notice. How often has He warned us when we were treading the path of sin—warned us by His providence and by His grace—warned us by His word and ministers—warned us by blighted hopes and shattered plans—warned us by threatening to snap asunder the frail cord of life, and terminate forever the possibility of a return to Him!
Well may our hearts fail us when we consider what "bitter things" God has written against us. "When I called—you did not answer." "They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof." "They hearkened not—but hardened their neck." Oh, how often these "bitter things" have been written against us! And every year has added to their number and aggravation, for every year we owed it to the mercy and forbearance of God that He did not cut us off in the midst of our sins!
Blessed be God, as dark as the record has been—stained with the blackest ingratitude, and foul and polluted as it must have appeared to "Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity"—we are not abandoned to despair! No! there is hope—hope in the crucified Savior, hope in His precious blood, hope in His all-sufficient atonement, hope in His all-prevailing intercession. Lamb of God! we would turn to You! By Your agony and bloody sweat, by Your cross and passion, by Your precious death and burial, by Your glorious resurrection and ascension—we beseech You to have mercy upon us!
Yes, fellow-sufferers, let our ground of hope be in Christ, the Arbitrator between God and us—the Mediator who for our sakes was nailed to the accursed tree—the mighty Intercessor who pleads for us at the Father's right hand. "Bitter things" have been written against us, and we have no words, no merits of our own to plead; we are "poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked;" "nothing in our hands we bring—simply to the cross we cling." But there, we cannot perish. As deep as is the mountain of our guilt—deeper, far deeper is that ocean of infinite love in which God has promised to bury it forever, and to remember it no more against us! O mercy unspeakable!
These "bitter things" let us mourn over, let us nourish at their recollection, that "godly sorrow which works repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of;" let us grieve because we ever sinned against a God so gracious, merciful, and compassionate—against a Savior so loving, tender, and sympathizing—against a Holy Spirit so patient, and gentle, and forbearing. Let us pray for grace to serve our God with more fidelity, that in everything we may seek to please Him, that our inmost hearts may be given up to Him, and that we may present "our bodies and spirits as living sacrifices unto Him, which is our reasonable service."
And in our present season of sickness and suffering—let us resolve to take cheerfully whatever God may see fit to appoint. Pain, and distress and sorrow—are what we have justly merited—but "the Lord is very piteous and of tender mercy." He may have compassion upon us, and send relief. Having cast all our care on him—let us believe that He cares for us; that He has, and can have, no other object in His dealings towards us, but simply and solely that of making us holy and happy forever. Not that pain and sorrow have of themselves the power to make us so; they naturally irritate and vex the spirit; but, by God's blessing, suffering is made the means of carrying on His purifying process within us.
Under the leading of His grace, sorrow draws us to Him who can alone renew and sanctify the heart; it will bring us to Him who is the true and only Purifier—who will bend our wills to His will—so that we shall love what He loves, and choose what He chooses—and make us such as He would have us to be. Then will we wait patiently for Him, and seek His purifying Spirit, and cling to the cross of Jesus; and we will not desire to escape any of God's corrections or judgments—feeling that by this we would only be escaping one great means of preparing us for future blessedness. And, whatever our lot on earth may be, is it not better than we deserve? Amid all our troubles, have we not much to be thankful for? There are sadder hearts than ours, heavier burdens, and more painful agonies.
Besides, God means to draw us to Himself—and He will do it in His own way. He made us for eternity, and His aim in all He does—is to bring us happily into it. Hence the necessity of pain, sickness, crosses—to break the strong chain which binds us to the world, and to induce us to take part with God in His grand design. He will draw us, and securely lead us to Himself—in a way contrary to all our natural will, until He has divested us thereof, and consumed and made it thoroughly subject unto the Divine will. For this is His design—that we should cease to regard our own wishes or dislikes; that it should become a small matter whether He gives or takes away, whether we have health or sickness, joy or sorrow—if only we may receive and apprehend God himself; that whether things please or displease us, we may leave all things to take their course, and cleave to Him. The "poor in spirit" are those who humbly receive from day to day—what God sends them; who are thankful for what they have, and think it far more than they deserve!
Reader, endeavor then to be an example of patience and thankfulness. If a murmuring word, or repining thought, arises in your mind, look by faith upon your dying Savior, and ask your own heart, "Was not His suffering more painful than the bed on which I lie? and He endured it that the 'bitter things' recorded against me might be blotted out forever!" This, believe it, is the only true foundation of peace of soul and contentment of mind—that our peace is made with God by Jesus Christ His only Son, who has taken our sins upon Himself, and borne the punishment of them—and who in exchange has given us His righteousness, by which we are made righteous before God.
Oh, then, feel assured that God loves you too dearly to send anything that would really harm you! The Savior has pleaded for you—is now pleading for you; and what you will receive must be a "blessing." It may not seem so to you; it may appear a punishment, as if those "bitter things" had roused the anger of God against you; but it is not so. You are "chastened by the Lord—that you may not be condemned with the world." Trials are sent in tenderest love. Receive them, then, meekly from your Father's gracious hands. Pray that He would hallow them to you—that He would by them work out His own blessed purpose in you, and impress daily more and more—the likeness of the ever-blessed Savior! Banish the first risings of doubt, as if God were unkind or unmindful of you. He knows every throb of your brow, each deeply-drawn breath, each beating of the fevered pulse, each sinking of the aching head.
Heavenly Father, give me grace at all times to trust Your love, and to receive thankfully what You send. Lord, I am not worthy of the least of Your mercies. I have sinned, and done very wickedly. My transgressions are more than can be numbered, and the remembrance of them is very grievous to me. But You, O God, are rich in mercy. For the sake of Your dear Son, my Savior Jesus Christ—forgive my iniquities, and remember them no more against me forever. Oh, increase my love of holiness! Let the mind that was in Christ—be also in me. Transform me by Your Holy Spirit into His blessed image, so that I may love what You love, and choose what You chose, and make it my food and drink to do Your holy will. Grant that I may ever bear with patience the discipline I am called to undergo, assured that You will never leave me nor forsake me, and that all things will be ordered for my happiness and well-being throughout eternity.
Give me grace, O God, to glorify You in time, that I may enjoy You for evermore. And all I ask is for the sake of Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen.
"After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, battered by the waves—for the wind was contrary."—Matthew 14:23-24
The narrative of which these words form a part, has often been a source of great comfort to the tried and suffering believer. Every little incident is of priceless value, as it brings more and more fully home to the heart, the tender sympathy of Jesus—His sleepless care—His ready help—His almighty power. We are told that, at the close of a busy and anxious day, when our Lord had miraculously fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish—when the people, astonished at His power, had resolved to make Him their king—He "constrained His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side" of the sea of Galilee, while He Himself retired to a mountain to pray. Suddenly a violent tempest arose. The terrified disciples plied their oars—but in vain. Their little bark was "in the midst of the sea, battered by the waves"—the plaything of the storm, "for the wind was contrary." Darkness gathered around them, and, worse than all, they were alone; for "Jesus had not come unto them."
Fit representation of the believer still! How often has he to encounter, and that, too, at his Master's bidding—the stormy gales of trouble? The ocean of life, how suddenly is it lashed into fury, and, despite all our efforts—our feeble bark is driven to and fro! It has been thus with Christ's disciples in every age. He has promised to deliver them out of the storm—but not to secure them from encountering it. "The same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world" since time began. The saints in glory all toiled, amid similar billows, in life's stormy sea. Though never shipwrecked, they were all tempest-tossed. Think of their bitter disappointments, their grievous losses, their perplexing cares, their fearful sufferings, their painful trials, their cruel mockings and scourgings, their buffetings and imprisonments and deaths—as they are recorded for our instruction in the Book of God! The Elder Brother Himself did not escape. He was made like unto His brethren, in all points tempted like we are. What a dreadful night—what a fearful tempest was that in which He was constrained in the bitterness of His anguished soul to cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"
While the trembling disciples were battling with the waves on the lonely sea—the Savior was alone with His Father, pleading for them on the mount. He had not forgotten them. His all-seeing eye followed them in the gloom of night, and amid the furious waves. And just so does He plead for you, tempest-tossed believer. Do not think that, because the storm continues boisterous, that He intercedes in vain. The Father hears Him always. Your not sinking proves that His advocacy prevails. He does not pray that your day may never be stormy—but, in answer to His intercession, you may be confident that "as your day—so shall your strength be." His eye of love rests upon you. There cannot be a night so dark—in which He cannot trace your course. As on that lonely mountain-height, He "saw the disciples straining at the oars," so in the heights of glory He sees you also, storm-driven Christian. Every secret anxiety, every heart-buried grief—is watched from His throne on high! He knows all your difficulties, sorrows, and temptations. You shall not perish by any oversight of His. When He sees that the fitting season has arrived, He will appear for your deliverance.
He foresaw the toil and danger of His disciples on the Sea of Galilee. He purposely sent them away that they might be tempest-tossed. He who could have prevented their sufferings by His power—permitted them in His wisdom, that He might glorify His mercy in their deliverance, and confirm their faith by the outcome of their distresses. Even so, Christian, He permits your sorrows. Every night of pain and sickness, every wave of trouble that rolls over you—comes at His command! He knows that they are necessary, and He has told you to expect them. "In the world you shall have tribulation." The experience of believers of all ages testifies that,
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown!"
Your afflictions may continue long, and appear overwhelmingly great. How did all things seem to conspire against the fearful disciples! The night was sullen and dark—their Master was absent, the sea was boisterous—the winds were high and contrary. Had their Master been with them, however wildly the elements might rage—they would have felt secure. Had their Master been absent, still if the sea had been quiet or the wind favorable, the passage might have been endured. Now, both season, and sea, and wind, and their Master's absence combined to render them miserable. And thus sometimes, the providence of God appoints that no glimpse of comfort shall appear to gladden the trembling heart—troubles surround us on every side—we are beaten back by opposing doubts and fears; and eagerly as we look out through the dark gloom, no ray of comfort darts across it—all is thick, impenetrable darkness. Oh, how often do our hearts fail within us, and we begin to cry, "Lord, why have You forsaken me? Why do these storms beat upon me? Why do You not hearken to my cry—and come to my help?"
"Hearken to your cry," O child of God! He has heard it already. Yes, amid the songs of angels and the anthems of adoring multitudes, your feeble voice has reached the courts of heaven. He who loves you with more than a brother's love, is even now watching you—noting your sorrows, caring for your griefs, sympathizing in all your pains and sufferings.
He will assuredly "come to your help." He delays for the wisest and best reasons. His present intercession has gained much for you. It has enabled you to struggle on until now—it has given you strength to resist despair—it has kept you praying, wrestling, entreating—and soon it will accomplish more, far more. Take it as the pledge that Jesus loves you, when, though the storm has continued to rage, and the calm has been delayed—the waves have not been allowed to overwhelm you. His time—is the best time. Yet a little while—and the hour of deliverance will arrive. Yet a little while—and you will have rest, and peace, and quiet. You will find that it was good for you to have been afflicted—that your faith was strengthened by trial; that your progress heavenward, instead of being retarded—was hastened by the storm; that the winds you dreaded—were wafting you onward in your voyage; and that the waves which seemed to threaten you with death—were bearing you to the haven of eternal calm!
Oh, then, whatever your present state is—whatever the cares, and troubles, and griefs which burden your spirit, whatever the darkness which has been permitted to enwrap you—strive ever to feel that He who has for a season seemed to leave you all alone on a stormy sea—He who has spoken to the tempest, and allowed the waves to rear their foaming crests—is even now pleading for you on the mount—even now watching you, until the hour arrive when He shall say, "Peace, be still;" and drawing near to you, shall whisper these consoling words, "It is I—do not be afraid!"
Heavenly Father, give me grace to trust in You at all times. You know what is best for Your sinful creatures, and Your wisdom designs good to them by affliction. Teach me to acknowledge the mercy of Your dispensations, and the advantages of a bed of sickness. Make me to rejoice in the means which You have employed for strengthening my faith, increasing my love of prayer, and bringing me to a sense of my own utter helplessness. Oh, grant that in the midst of my distress, I may be able to feel assured that my Savior is interceding for me, and that in His own good time He will appear for my help and deliverance. Allow me not to give way to fear and despondency, or to fall into despair. Give me patience under my sufferings, and a hearty resignation to Your will. Mercifully hear me, O my Father, and give me that peace which You have promised to those whose hearts are set on You; for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was once a man of sorrows, and is still touched with a feeling of our infirmities; to whom, as our merciful High Priest, be glory forever. Amen.
Do Not Be Afraid
"When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! It is I—do not be afraid!"—Matthew 14:26, 27
During a long and tempestuous night, the disciples had to struggle against the stormy billows. Doubtless they felt weary, oppressed, well-near hopeless; but even then it was that deliverance was given. After having been driven all night long—not so much by storms and waves as by their own anxious, troubled thoughts—in the fourth watch (which was near to the morning) Jesus came to them; and so strange and unexpected was the sight, that, instead of joy, their first emotion was terror—"they cried out for fear," they did not recognize their Deliverer—but imagined that they saw a ghost. Yet He had purposely delayed His coming, that He might exercise their patience—that He might teach them to wait upon Divine Providence in cases of extremity—that their devotions might be more whetted by delay—and that they might more gladly welcome their deliverance.
For the selfsame purpose Jesus often delays His coming to His disciples still. He permits sorrow upon sorrow to come upon them. He leaves them in pain, and sickness, and anguish until they are, as it were—in the depth of extremity. It is the fourth watch with them; but the storm still rages, the darkness continues, and their Protector, their Friend, is not near! Oh, how often in such a dreary hour, has Jesus come to His disciples—come to them amid the gloom, walking in majesty upon the stormy wave—come to them that He might say as of old on the Sea of Galilee, "It is I—do not be afraid!"
Yes, Christian, could we ask those blessed ones who are now hymning His praises above, "When was it that the Savior was felt most precious by you?" "Oh," they would answer, "It was in the dreary night of our suffering—when we lay helpless, hopeless; it was in the hour of extremity—when there seemed no prospect of deliverance; it was in the hour of sore distress—when our hearts were torn with anguish, and our prayers had become intensely urgent, and we felt that if He did not help us, 'vain was the help of man;' it was even then, that the blessed Jesus revealed Himself, calmed our fears, and bade us to take courage!"
Or ask, if you will, that patient sufferer, at whose calmness you have often wondered, and whose language is ever that of child-like submission and acquiescence to the will of God—ask the same question, and you will be told, "Never did I feel my Lord so dear, never did I realize His love, His power, His grace, so fully—as on my bed of languishing, when He came to me in the night-watches, and permitted me to unbosom myself to Him, and rest my weary head upon His breast! Oh, it was then that He promised to be ever near me, to strengthen me under suffering, to give me patience to endure my Father's will, and to make His 'grace sufficient' for me. I know that He sends me trial—that He has commissioned this sickness—that He mingles the bitter cup which I have to drink—and I know also that these things are needed for my soul's welfare. Shall I not then welcome what is sent me in love—when I know and have the assurance that in every hour when my suffering is greatest, my pain most agonizing, my trouble most grievous and burdensome—that Jesus will come to my help—come to encourage and strengthen me—come to show me what He has suffered for my sake—to tell me that the sorrows which oppress my soul weighed more heavily on His—that the foes I have to battle with more fiercely assailed Him—that I but taste the bitter cup, while He had to drain it—that there fall on me only a few drops of the mighty tempest which spent its rage on Him—and that as He 'learned obedience by the things He suffered,' so His grace will enable me to do it also."
Thus have God's children found that suffering times were blessed times—that they never had such nearness to their Father, such holy freedom with Him, and such heavenly comforts from Him—as under affliction; it only took away what checked the current of His love, His peace, His joy in their hearts. The afflictive cross, be it what it may—pain, sickness, calamity, loss of friends, fortune, fame—is the greatest blessing on this side heaven—because by it the Father keeps the children in the closest communion that they have with Him on earth; by it He purges them, makes them fruitful, and partakers of His holiness; by it He crucifies the life of sense, deadens them to the world, and mortifies their lusts and passions; and by it, as the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day. They receive new life, new strength, new comfort, new peace—they become more and more conformed to Jesus, both in suffering and by suffering; they tread the steps of those who have "entered into rest," and come up "from the wilderness leaning on the arm of the Beloved." Christian, take comfort when you think of the mighty cloud of witnesses who would thus testify to your Savior's constant care and unchanging love.
Think on what He has already done for you. He groaned, bled, and died for you! You were lost and on your way to Hell—but He found you! You were His enemy—but He reconciled you! You were a captive of the devil—but He freed you! You were blind to your desperate condition—but He cured you! You were dead in sin—but He quickened you!
Oh! when you reflect how He has watched over you, since you have received the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus—how He has preserved you from dangers, supported you in seasons of temptation, sustained you in times of trial, nourished you in days of sickness, comforted you in the hours of despondency—you cannot surely imagine that He will now desert you—you cannot believe that He will so mar the work of His own hands—the labor of His own love—as to cast you off, and leave you to perish! If He sought you when His enemy—will He not take care of you when His child? If the enemy was loved—how much more the friend?
Will He refuse to answer the prayers He himself has prompted—to fulfill the hopes He himself has inspired—to honor the confidence He himself has encouraged—and to complete the work He himself has begun? Oh no! Learn to have more confidence in your Savior; more reliance upon Him who has said, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you!" more dependence upon Him who poured out His precious blood to reconcile you to God.
Your suffering may now be great, your days and nights may be full of anxiety and restlessness—the star of hope may even be obscured by the mists of darkness which surround you; yet, take courage! You are meeting the storm which the Savior Himself has permitted to rage—you are battling with elements which He can in a moment control—you are passing through a night through which has already passed the Man of Sorrows—and soon He will come to you!
That voice which never speaks in vain, will command the storm to cease. Your best, your dearest Friend—the "Consolation of Israel"—will say to you, "Take courage! I know how you have borne and suffered during these weary hours. I know every trial through which you have passed, and which the world has never known—sorrows which could not, and ought not, to be communicated, but to Me alone. I know your every prayer for guidance—your every effort to bear well and patiently what I have laid upon you, and to profit by the visitation. From the calm shores of the land of everlasting life—I have watched you, my trembling disciple, toiling through the waves of this troublesome world—and now I have come to you upon the billows, that I may be near you in the time of extremest peril! Behold, I am with you in the ship! Fear not! Those who follow me shall never walk in darkness—your footsteps shall not slip! My mercy shall hold you up—when dangers encompass you—and though the sunshine of this world's joys is dim for you, in My light shall you see light."
Oh, then, afflicted one, be not cast down, neither be dismayed. Do not faint under your sorrows—but strive to wear out your three watches of tribulation with undaunted patience and holy resolution. Let songs of praise arise from the ark in which you are securely borne along amid the raging storm, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging! Though all your waves and your billows are gone over me—yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the day time, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. O Lord God Almighty, who is a strong Lord like unto you? You rule the raging of the sea—when the waves arise, you still them. Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Let these strains mingle with the roaring of the storm, and the dashing of the angry billows—and soon the ear of faith will hear, louder than the loud wind, those accents which have so often calmed the fears, and stilled the apprehensions of Christ's trembling disciples—"O afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed—but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you. Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name—you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"
Be not far from me, O Lord—for trouble is near. Fearfulness and trembling have taken hold upon me; let Your strength come in to support me. The sorrows of death compass me. Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Help me, O Lord, for You are my hope. Appear for me when all human help fails. Make haste to help me. Give me patience to bear all my sufferings, and quietly to wait Your time for relief. You take pleasure in those who hope in Your mercy. Oh, increase my faith; sustain my hope in You. Forsake me not when my strength fails. If You, Lord, will be pleased to support me—then nothing will be too heavy for me. Oh, make Your strength perfect in my weakness. You who delight in mercy—save me for Your mercy's sake. Oh, turn unto me and have mercy upon me, for the sake of Your well-beloved Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
IF NEED BE
"Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness."—1 Peter 1:6
Of all things, the most difficult is to realize truly "the need be" for our own personal trials. We see it readily in the case of another—although our judgment is often very erroneous. We will quickly discover how cold and indifferent he had become—how the world had been gaining the mastery over him—how his time and talents were being spent far too much in caring for seen and temporal things.
But when it comes to our own turn—when we are compelled, as it were, to open up some pages in the "book of the heart," and find there many charges against us—we are seldom at a loss to find excuses. "True, we have not been as diligent as we used to be—but then, how many necessary cares have taken hold upon us. True, we have been less fervent in prayer, less frequently in our closet—but we have been regular in attending the house of God, we have not failed in the external duties of religion. And then, our trials are so much heavier than those of others, who are careless, indifferent, avowed worldlings."
In short, we inwardly think that our lot is a very hard one—that our cross is the most painful—our suffering the most agonizing—our path the most thorny. And all this arises from the fact that we have not discovered the "need be."
How could we? At the best, our spiritual eyesight is weak and dim. We cannot know the real state of our souls—or see them as He does, whose searching scrutiny detects the slightest symptom of disease. We fancy all is well—when we are sick, wounded, ready to die. We imagine that all is right with our heart—when faith is weak, love is cold, hope is almost obscured. Only gradually, after having been long in the school of trial—do we begin to realize that the Physician must probe the wound within us, and apply severe remedies, and cause pain and anguish—in order to cure the malady which is preying upon us! Only after we have passed through the trying ordeal, and feel that the pulse is beating more regularly, and the blood is coursing through the system with a healthier flow—only then can we rightly comprehend our former weakness, and thank God that in tender love He cared for us—not hesitating to inflict pain, not withdrawing His hand, not sparing the rod—that He might do us good in the end.
Christian, just reflect for a little on some of the "needs be" for affliction and trial. Only a few can we here discover—in eternity we may hope they will all be revealed to us; but now "we see through a glass darkly."
"If need be," affliction will be sent for the purpose of bringing us to realize whether our religion is genuine or not. We perhaps thought ourselves Christians, and that we were founded on the Rock; and now an affliction comes, and we shake like aspen leaves! Could this be—if we were really standing on the Rock? We thought fondly that God was the chosen portion of our souls, and that though all earthly joys were taken from us, we had enough when we had Him; and yet, when He crosses some desire of our hearts, or removes some of His own gifts—we seem as if we had lost our all, and speedily grow sad and disconsolate! And thus we learn the fact, that our comfort did not before, as we supposed, flow from the Eternal Fountain—but had been drawn from perishing cisterns; and therefore, now that they are broken, we die of thirst. This is an important discovery to us, and it was to make this discovery to us, that God sent the affliction.
"If need be," pain and suffering will be our lot until we both discern and acknowledge God's hand in the painful visitation. We are very backward to do this. We say, indeed, when it comes, "It is the work of God;" but we do not half believe what we say—we have no deep or lively impression of its truth. We hear, also, people perpetually lamenting, uttering passionate expressions of grief, at visitations which, they say, have come upon them unlooked-for, and stunned them by their suddenness. Friends are removed, riches pass away, health rapidly declines, and they say, "Had we taken this step or that, had we adopted this precaution or that—it would not have been so with us." They "labor to push God out of their concerns," and they must be brought to feel that "affliction comes not forth of the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground," but that God is the Author of it, that He owns Himself as such, and would have His children feel that He is chastising them, and that He means to do them good thereby.
And, reader, it is when we come to know and realize this—that we begin to reap the benefit of affliction. So long as we attribute it only to second causes, there will be no submission, no gratitude, no praise. It is when the discovery has been made, that God is at the root of our sufferings—that He is desolating our comforts, robbing us of our joys with His own hand—when every grief and pang, every sorrow and anxiety, are felt to be His work—when we cannot banish Him from our thoughts, nor disconnect Him with one of our troubles, nor even wish to do either—it is then that the soul begins to bethink itself, and the heart to soften, and our proud, rebellious, stubborn spirit to give way. Then the knee bends—and the heartfelt prayer goes up—and the blessing comes down.
Then for the first time, we are quieted and subdued. "I was silent," said David; "I opened not my mouth, because You are the one who has done this!" "It is the Lord," said Eli; and then that tried, afflicted parent could add, "let Him do what seems good to Him!" And this conviction will carry us yet further. Only let us see that a Father's hand has mingled our cup of bitterness—and we will soon do more than say, "Shall I not drink it?" The Comforter will come, even when our heart is almost broken, and inspire the trembling utterance—"I came naked from my mother's womb—and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had—and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!"
"If need be," sickness and trial will be sent again and again—until we learn to sit loose to the world, and have our chief joy in God. How often have we risen from a sick bed—and returned to our folly! how often have we had trial—and very soon become as giddy and thoughtless as ever! But if we are God's children, He will not allow it so to be. He will again mingle the bitter cup for us to drink, again withdraw some blessing, and lead our thoughts heavenward, deepen our repentance, bring us to humility at His footstool. Oh, how thankful should we be that God will not allow us to injure ourselves!—that He will send pain, sickness, weariness, distress, languor, agony of mind and body, to rouse us from our lethargy and carelessness—to show us that the life we have been wasting is an priceless thing—that our souls are precious in His sight—and that He desires our eternal well-being and salvation!
There are few to whom God has not spoken by sickness, trial, and affliction; but there are myriads who, when His hand has been lifted off of them—have rushed madly back to the world and the world's fleeting pleasures! And oh, surely, sadder far than the sight of any sorrow is it to see people so infatuated, becoming, after sorrow—more heedless than before! Oh, let it be our prayer that, when God has laid us low—there we may have grace to lie, humble, according as God has humbled us—to lie low at the foot of His cross, trusting that, by the virtue of that cross, He will raise us up again, and cause us to rejoice in Him.
It is well to be where God wills; and so, whatever it is—sorrow bringing sin to remembrance, or agony for past sin, or dread of judgment—let us not disregard it or drive it away from us—but to take it calmly home to our bosoms, and treasure it there, jealously watching lest we lose one drop of its wholesome bitterness; not anxious to escape sorrow—but anxious only not to lose its fruits—anxious to have it so impressed on our hearts, that, when God raises us up, we may walk softly before Him all our days, and turn our backs forever on those pleasures which would lead us to forget that we are "strangers and pilgrims" here on earth.
And, finally, (as including many other gracious designs,) "if need be," affliction and trial will be sent—to increase our longings after an absent Savior—to intensify our desires for heavenly bliss—and to bring us to nourish the feeling of the apostle, "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better."
Willing to remain as long as God needs our service here—we should yet long to join the "general assembly and church of the first-born, who are written in heaven." Patient and submissive under the hand of God, we may, nevertheless, ardently long for the hour when we shall be freed from the body of sin and death!
Affliction is a school, under the blessing of God, to ripen us for an exceeding and eternal weight of glory! And vain as is the common imagination that those who are tried here—are saved from all sorrow hereafter, be they united to Christ or not—it is yet a true doctrine, that, as there are degrees of glory, so the most severely-afflicted ones, who are also believers in Jesus, will shine the brightest in that glory—not so much because of their suffering, as of the grace wrought to purification in their souls, by the Spirit of God, through the agency of suffering.
Take courage, then, child of tribulation; if united to Jesus by a living faith—you are training, through your very afflictions, for superior glory! The clouds that now darken your horizon—will soon disappear before the brightness of the sun; and your spirit of heaviness—shall be exchanged for the garments of joy! Be resting on Jesus for all your strength, hope, and deliverance. Ask of Him in every fresh trial, and under every circumstance of the trial, "Lord, what would You have me to do?" Beg of Him increasing submission and thankfulness of spirit. Pray that He may be pleased to lighten your affliction; but beg Him not to withhold chastisement—"if need be."
Be assured, if you are of Christ's flock—that all shall be well with you. You will enter a land where there is no pain, no suffering; sorrow and sighing shall cease, and God shall wipe away all tears from all eyes. Yet a little more toil, a little more labor, a little more endurance—and your probationary state will finish, and that Savior, whom you are now delighting to serve, "will come again, and receive you unto Himself, that where He is, there you may be also."
Almighty and most merciful Father, our only refuge and strength, who, though unseen by our bodily eyes—is continually about our bed and about our path, and sees all our ways—who is the Author of all the various comforts which we here enjoy, and to whom we look for all future blessing—I desire humbly to bow down before You.
Oh, give me to feel the necessity for trial, distress, and suffering! Let me not repine under them. Help me to realize Your mercy in thus caring for me—in not allowing me to perish utterly—in not casting me off forever from Your fatherly care, as You might justly have done. Oh, fill me with a lively sense of Your goodness, loving-kindness, and long-suffering!
Pardon, O God, my sinfulness, my hardness of heart, my coldness, my waywardness. Oh, apply by Your Spirit, the blood of sprinkling. Unite me more closely to my dear Savior. Be pleased, O Lord, to guide, help, and deliver me. I am very weak, and unable to keep myself. I am prone to murmur, repine, and forget my high calling; but I implore the aid of Your Holy Spirit to uphold, strengthen, and sanctify me. And, O Lord God, if at any time sin prevails against me—bring me back to Jesus, my Advocate with You, that through repentance and faith in Him, I may be forgiven and restored. Keep me, O God, by Your mighty power, through faith, unto salvation—for the sake of Him who has loved me, and who knows all my infirmities, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"I am afraid of all my sorrows."—Job 9:28
When trial after trial comes upon us, or when our prayers seem unanswered, and our days and nights of sickness are multiplied—then we are prone, not merely to get discouraged—but to be ever conjuring up phantoms of coming evil. We do not look for a bright light. We sit down gloomily amid the darkness, terrified to move—expecting some fresh sorrow—dwelling only on some new imaginary grief, which we fancy is impending over us. We will not even admit the entrance of hope—our hearts are shut against it; and instead of drawing nearer and nearer to God, the longer He chastens us—we give ourselves up to sinful despondency, and stand at a distance from Him. We will not perhaps acknowledge to our own hearts, far less to any earthly friend—but our feelings are somewhat of this nature—"Why should I hope? I have met with nothing but disappointment! Why should I expect relief? My burden continues to press upon me with increasing weight! Why should I still entreat an answer to my prayers? They have all been rejected, and remain unheard."
Ah, if we have ever cherished such sentiments as these, if they are even now taking possession of us—let us beware! This may be the very reason why God does not withdraw His chastening hand—the very reason why His comforts have not delighted our souls—the very reason why we are left to suffer, to agonize, to fear, to despair. Let us reflect what God's purpose is: it is to draw us to Him—and not to drive us away from Him. He would have us come to Him in sorrow—and not leave Him until we have won our suit. He would have us cling to the assurance of His love—even though it bears the semblance of the 'flame-breath of the furnace'. He would have us believe that He hears us—even though He delays long to answer, and seems to disregard our petitions.
This is His design; but if we balk at it, if we refuse to learn the lesson He desires to teach us—then He will send 'heavier sorrows' to effect His purpose! Nothing but our whole hearts, our entire confidence, our complete submission, our willing acquiescence in all that He appoints—will satisfy Him. He will not accept half-confidence, half-reliance, half-desires—but He will continue to deal with us. He will send messenger after messenger, trial upon trial, and sorrow upon sorrow—until we have been brought low, brought in penitence to His footstool—brought, it may be, faint, bleeding, wounded—to say, in the language of heartfelt submission, "Lord, I am Yours, do with me as You please! I desire to yield myself entirely to You—to do or suffer, according to Your pleasure." O blessed result of continued trial—when thus the believer comes to will what God wills, to choose what God chooses—to have this much of the mind that was in Christ!
But the ordeal which is passed through before all this is accomplished is painful and trying. We are sure, from the declaration of Holy Scripture, that "whom the Lord loves—He chastens," and that in some way or other, every one who believes in Christ Jesus, will be brought to submission, trust, and acquiescence in the will of God. But we do not know the various steps in this process; we do not know the path of "tribulation" through which multitudes have gone to glory, the months and years they first spent in sadness, pain, and suffering—before they could say, "May Your will be done!" We do not know the hard, stern, and inflexible discipline they had to undergo, before they realized true, hearty submission. We do not know the pangs and sorrows they brought upon themselves, before they were permitted to taste the "joys of His salvation."
But knowing that trial is meant to draw us to God—that fretfulness and murmuring, or a gloomy foreboding of coming ills—tends to frustrate His gracious purpose; and that the sooner we yield ourselves up to Him, in heart and soul, in will, affection, and desire—the sooner will we be able to "rejoice in Him;"—knowing this, oh, let it be our earnest prayer that now, even now, we may receive grace to say, "Not as I will—but as You will," and yield ourselves meekly—as the redeemed of Christ, to the hand of God, as of a loving Father.
It may be that He will accept our submission and quiet waiting upon Him—and release us from the rough discipline of still sharper affliction. Not that we should desire to be freed from it, merely because it is painful—but because we have learned God's lesson, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, been enabled to enter a path in which these "heavier sorrows" are no longer necessary.
Christian, what is your present frame of mind? Have you been brought to submission—or are you sitting sad and disconsolate, brooding over your troubles, vexed with dark forebodings, and refusing to be comforted? Oh, it is not wise to act thus! You are displeasing your Father—you are wounding your Savior—you are grieving the Holy Spirit! I know you will not be utterly forsaken. I know that, although your murmurings and despondency might well provoke God to cast you off forever—He will still have mercy upon you. He will follow you in your wanderings away from Him. He will call upon you to return.
But, ah! think what you are bringing upon yourself by indulging in a fretful, morose, and gloomy temper! You are rendering necessary, another and another stroke of affliction—bringing on yourself more bitter griefs and "heavier sorrows." You are provoking your Father to hide His face still from you, and withhold His comforts, and keep you in the furnace! You think that your present sorrow is as heavy as it can be—that the darkness could not be more appalling and dreadful than it is. Ah, foolish one! what is your sorrow? Perhaps you are the victim of disease—your body is often racked with pain—your nights are spent in wakefulness, and your days in sadness.
But, has God no "heavier sorrow?" Look at your comforts! Kind friends to sympathize with you, and to relieve your needs—the prayers of the faithful, which are continually rising up in behalf of "all who are in affliction or trouble of any kind"—the promises of God, which are "yes and amen in Christ Jesus."
Think, too, of your past blessings—days, months, and years of health—prosperity and peace attending your steps—the sunshine gladdening you—no storm threatening you. And will you now give way to murmuring and despondency, because your God has seen proper and necessary to send trial? He might strip you of every blessing—even as He has removed one! He might give you no rest from pain. He might visit you with pinching poverty—as well as painful sickness. He might with His arrow strike down every loved one whose affection is now so precious to you! And, worse than all—He might "leave you alone!"
Believe it, nothing is gained by struggling, by gloomy forebodings of evil, or by impatience under the trial sent by God. Do you wish God to care for you? Do you desire to be His child, to place your soul in His keeping? Then leave everything to Him—to send joy or sorrow, pain or pleasure, prosperity or adversity, health or sickness! Do not disturb yourself about coming evils. The future, if you are only willing to submit to God—can but bring you only good; it may appear evil—but "He brings good out of evil."
Instead of indulging in gloomy forebodings—instead of thus tempting God to inflict "heavier sorrows"—instead of barring with your own hand—the entrance of peace, comfort, submission, hope—by imagining that now there is no joy for you, no happiness in life, no blessing in the future, no termination to pain—nothing but sorrow and grief and trouble—turn away from all these things, bid them farewell forever, and take a pilgrimage in thought to Gethsemane and Calvary! Gaze upon Him "who left us an example, that we should follow His steps." He knew all the sorrows that awaited Him—the shame, the suffering, the anguish—but He takes the bitter cup, and, with His heart set on the salvation of His people—His heart set on you—the blessed Savior drains it to the very dregs! See Him on Calvary—unpitied by the crowd—deserted by His disciples—forsaken by His Father—the Lamb led to the slaughter—and all for you!
Oh, surely such a contemplation should lead you to cry, "My Savior-God, let me be silent like You—let me never open my mouth in complaining—let me entrust my future to You, and You alone—let me enter into fellowship with You in suffering, and count it all joy that I am permitted to follow You in the path of tribulation, in the humble, obedient, cheerful endurance of trial, and the giving up of my will to my Father's."
Oh, if thus you bow your soul before the cross, comfort will flow in upon you, tranquility will take the place of fear, and forebodings of evil will be exchanged for childish submission. A hand will sustain you under every burden, so that, smiling at yesterday's fears, you shall say, "This is easy, this is light!" Every "lion in the way," as you come upon it—shall be seen to be chained. And whether your trial is removed or not—it will be sanctified: in your growing conformity to the image and mind of Christ, in your progressive advancement in holiness, in your fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Hear the language of one who underwent a painful discipline for many years, and who had learned to take everything cheerfully from her Father's hand—"I want," she says, "to have no will of my own; I want to have all my wishes and inclinations lost in the will of God, so that, if I see His will apparent in anything, I may with pleasure, do or suffer that thing—yes, do or suffer it—as if it were the very thing I liked best, because it is the will of God."
And again it is recorded of another afflicted believer: For thirty-six years the victim of incurable maladies, often undergoing excruciating agony, sometimes blind for a long period, few have experienced the excruciating scourges of which her shattered body was the habitual abode. As she said to a friend, "My nights are very pleasant in general. I feel like David, when he said, I wait for the Lord; my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. And while I am enabled to contemplate the wonders of redeeming grace and love—the hours pass swiftly on, and the morn appears even before I am aware. I experience so much of the Savior's love in supporting me under pain—that I cannot fear its increase. I think that one end to be answered in my long affliction is, encouragement for others to trust in Him."
Reader, pray that such a spirit may be imparted to you—that ever as you move onward in life's journey, you "may cast all your care on Him, who cares for you," assured that He will bring you safely home. Strive to follow the example of one who thus writes of himself—"For a long time I felt myself to be a lost sheep, not knowing on whom to rely; and now, with the deepest consciousness that I have at last attained rest, I exclaim—the Lord is my shepherd! What is there that can harm me? I have reached the harbor, and storms can no more drive my little vessel afloat upon the wide sea. And as I look forward into the future, I can exclaim with David—the Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"
O Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who does not willingly afflict, but rebukes and chastens those whom You love—look down upon me Your unworthy servant, and have mercy upon me, for Christ's sake. Oh, grant me grace to bear with patience—whatever You are pleased to send! Preserve me from all murmuring, fretfulness, and impatience—and enable me without doubting, to accept all things as coming from You. Let my soul be supported by faith, hope, and love, under all the sufferings I may yet endure. Teach me to remember that all sickness, pain, and grief—are the fruit of sin. Whatever offences I have committed against You—oh, mercifully forgive me, and make me heartily sorry for them!
Lord, grant that this affliction may be sanctified to my spiritual and eternal good. Bless the means that are used, and make them effectual—if it is Your good pleasure—for restoring me to health, that I may again praise You in the assembly of Your people.
I acknowledge it to be of Your bounty alone, that I have my being; and I adore Your mercy and patience for preserving me thus long in the land of the living. My many days and years of health and comfort have been Your gift—and my deliverance out of the troubles and dangers with which I have at any time been visited—are owing to You alone. Grant me, O Lord, I beseech You—a due sense of my entire dependence upon You. Inspire me with that true and heavenly wisdom which may help me to discern aright the reasons, and enable me to answer the ends—of all Your dealings with me—that in the dispensation of Your providence I may submit myself entirely to Your good pleasure, and glorify You in the day of visitation.
Do with me what is good in Your sight. Let patience have her perfect work. If this sickness is unto death—oh, prepare me for it, that I may depart, only to be with You! If it is Your will that I recover, may I rise from a sick-bed strong through Your grace—to walk far more closely with You than ever I have yet done, to the end of my life. I offer up every prayer through the merits and intercession of my gracious Redeemer. Amen.
"I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew tired of looking to heaven for help. I am in trouble, Lord. Help me!" Isaiah 38:14
"Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us!"—Psalm 4:6
A time of sickness is not infrequently a time of gloom. We seem to be surrounded with thick darkness. As in the natural world, when dense clouds come between us and the light of the sun, we are more timid and fearful—as in threading our way amid precipices and pitfalls we tremble to find the shadows of evening gathering around us. Just so, when in the dangerous pilgrimage of life—we find ourselves suddenly enwrapped in mist and gloom—our hearts begin to fail, and our fears are awakened at every onward step. We lose for a while the comforting sense of the Divine favor and presence; we are cast down by the pressure of painful doubts and apprehensions; we know not which way to turn for light, and the language of our troubled souls often is, "Has God forgotten to be gracious?" Why has this darkness come upon me? Why am I left so comfortless? Why is that hand withdrawn—which used to guide me? Why that comfort withheld—which used to gladden me? Why that peace destroyed—which used to quiet me? Why do these fears, and doubts, and apprehensions so gather round and beset my soul?
Suffering one, have you not experienced this sadness? Have you not agonized under the appalling thought that your God and Father had forsaken you—that the light was forever withdrawn which was the very joy of your heart? Lying on your sick-bed, have you not passed many a weary, anxious hour trying to discover, "Why are things so bad with me? Why has my health been taken away? Why has trouble been sent upon me? Why, O my God, are You angry with Your child? Why do You leave me to grope my way through such impenetrable darkness?"
Oh! this is the ordeal of sickness, this is part of the "much tribulation." No "strange" thing has happened unto you. Your Father has not left you—neither has He withdrawn the sunshine of His favor. He has only permitted clouds to intervene, dark and mysterious providences to come across the sky, and dangers to threaten you for a season. And He has had the wisest reasons for so doing. He knew how prone His children ever are to forget or undervalue their most precious blessings. He knew how the world, and our daily interaction with it, tend to weaken and destroy our longings for heavenly communion and fellowship. He knew how the uninterrupted continuance of blessing and comfort and peace—is not conducive to the growth and development of the Christian character—but oftentimes leads to listlessness, inactivity, and spiritual pride!
Therefore does He send trial, distress, suffering! Therefore does He remove some valued blessing or comfort! Therefore does He command the clouds to gather and to cast their deepening shadows round His loved one. It is not that He delights in giving pain—or in lessening the peace and comfort of His children. Oh, no! It is that they may long more ardently, for that of which they have been for a season deprived! It is that the darkness may make the sunshine more precious! It is that the fears and doubts may intensify the desire for peace and security! It is that the absence of spiritual joy may reawaken the longing for its return! It is that the dangers and perils which ever and always are exciting the cry for help, may lead the trembling one to distrust self, to feel no security in mere human help—but to look upwards to Him "whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save, whose ear is not heavy that it cannot hear."
"It is in this way that a forgotten God recalls our wandering affections to Himself. He lays waste the 'enthroned creature'—that He may once again enthrone Himself! He breaks the cistern, not that we may be left parched and fainting in the wilderness of life—but go and satisfy our thirsting souls once again from the everlasting spring. He crushes the bruised reed—but He substitutes for it a rock. He puts far away from us 'lover and friend,' with all the unutterable sweetness of their affection and the tenderness of their love; but what does He substitute? Himself, the intense, unfathomable love of His own infinite mind, the presence of Christ, and communion with heaven!"
Precious surely is the time of sickness—if it accomplishes this gracious design—if it brings the soul to a nearer, closer, more intimate and endearing fellowship with its God and Father. Painful it doubtless is to undergo this discipline—yet is it needful. And shall we for a moment compare the brief interval of suffering—with the season of restored joy and peace and gladness? What though health may have declined? What though we may have been withdrawn from the world, and have been robbed of some of its enjoyments? To have again the assurance of the Father's love, of the Savior's intercession, of the Spirit's help and guidance—oh, is not this infinitely more precious? To feel that our spiritual energies have been quickened and renewed—that our faith, and love, and hope, have been strengthened and increased—that our thoughts and feelings, our desires and aspirations, have all become more heavenly and pure—oh, surely it was well for us that we were left for a season amid the darkness—until our cry of distress was heard and answered, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us."
Yes, Christian, these seasons of darkness and trembling are all needed, and it is only when we come to realize how much we have gained by them—that we see how gracious, kind, and good our heavenly Father has been in permitting them; and that we feel assured that they are as much the fruit of His tender love—as His more obvious blessings. Faint not then, suffering one, if even yet you have not realized the full measure of God's love in your trial. Be sure that you are precious in His sight; and although He allows you for a while to tread a dark and dangerous path—yet He is near at hand. Still grope on—albeit with a trembling heart; pray on—albeit with faltering tongue. The darkness will yet be dispersed; the gloom will pass away; your trial hour will come to an end, and you will again rejoice in "the light of your Father's countenance."
Not forever has the hand of love been withdrawn—not forever has the voice of mercy been hushed to silence—not forever has the fountain of heavenly blessing and joy been sealed up—not forever has the sunshine departed, and the misty shadows gathered round you. "Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage." He will strengthen your heart. Yes, He will "lift upon you the light of His countenance," and whisper words of consolation and endearment. He will take you by the hand, and guide you over the slippery places. He will refresh your soul with heavenly manna and living water. He will reveal to you more than you have ever yet known of the beauties of holiness—the attractiveness of spiritual intimacy and communion—the joy of living in sensible fellowship, and in childlike simplicity and trustfulness, with your God and Redeemer.
And at length, when the end of the journey has been reached, when your soul is fitted for a more glorious land—He will send His messenger of love. "Rise up, my child, my faithful one, and come away for, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone"—the clouds are fast receding from the sky, the shadows depart of your mortal life, and the bright effulgent day is dawning, which shall never fade. It is past, it is gone—the dark time of your conflict and trial—the dreary season of sickness, and trouble, and disquietude—the time of the singing of angels is come for you, and the voice of the seraphim is heard in that land. You have wrestled with sin until the breaking of the day; you have toiled all night—but the morning is near. "Arise up then, my child, my faithful one—and come away, let us hasten and be gone; for the dawn is bright on the everlasting hills!"
Oh, sweet and blessed hour for the weary and toil-worn! Who shall describe the happiness awaiting the believer in that world where the "sun shall no more go down, neither shall the moon withdraw itself, and where the days of mourning shall be ended?" True, the 'valley' must be passed through, and it is dark; but there is a song of triumph prepared for that hour. We must bid farewell to time and time's possessions—farewell to the loved ones who have been our companions in life's journey—farewell to home, and friends, and earthly blessings. And such an hour is full of deep solemnity; but, blessed be God, there is a light which can penetrate even the darkness of death's valley—there is a voice whose whispered accents will then fall sweetly on the listening ear, and calm every rising apprehension. "I am with you still!" Your Savior is near; therefore do not dread the darkness and gloom which are gathering around you.
My child, the day breaks, and we must depart; the shadow of death is deepening on your eyelids, and the radiance of earthly suns has passed away from them forever. But fear not, a better light will cheer you, even the light of your Father's countenance—that sun, whose effulgence eternity itself will never diminish or cloud, is about to rise upon you. And though your soul, already trembling on the threshold of a new existence—the glorious splendor of heaven is dawning, before yet the silver cord that binds your mortal life is altogether loosed. Soon shall you bask in the unclouded radiance of your Father's countenance, you shall see the King in His beauty, and have no more need to offer the prayer, "Lord, lift on me the light of Your countenance"—for never again shall a passing cloud fling its dark shadow between you and your God—never again shall you know doubt, or fear, or peril—no evening shadow will ever come—no gloomy night enwrap your spirit; but you shall "have fullness of joy, and pleasures at God's right hand for evermore."
O Lord, heavenly Father, I beseech You look down in pity and compassion upon me, Your afflicted servant! I humbly desire to acknowledge my sins, negligences, and errors—and to plead the all-sufficient merits and the precious blood-shedding of Christ my Savior. Blessed Jesus! Your followers and people have the assurance of Your own gracious declaration, that if they come to You weary and heavy laden—they shall find rest unto their souls. O Savior of the world! I come to You weary and heavy laden with the burden of sin; may I find deliverance in You! May I find access to Your favor by that living way which You have appointed. May my faith fail not in the day of trial! and when clouds and darkness are around my steps, oh, may You be near to help me, and to lift upon me the light of Your countenance!
Grant, O Lord, that I may be kept from all distrust or murmuring, and may I have grace to resign myself into Your hands, with entire submission to Your wise appointments. You, Lord, know the discipline I need—the furnace of trial through which I must pass—until the love of sin is wholly removed, and my heart purified from all iniquity. Help me by Your Holy Spirit to surrender my will to Yours, and to feel assured that Your eye of love is ever watching me. Oh, calm my spirit, and speak peace to me in my anxieties, and enable me to say under every trying dispensation, however grievous, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Give me patience to bear all my sufferings, and quietly to wait Your time for relief. You take pleasure in those who hope in Your mercy; oh, increase my faith, sustain my hope in You! Forsake me not when my strength fails. If You, Lord, will be pleased to support me—then nothing will be too heavy for me. Oh, make Your strength perfect in my weakness! You who delight in mercy—save me for Your mercy's sake. You know my exceeding weakness. Oh, hold me up, that my footsteps slip not! Strengthen me with all Your might, according to Your glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness. Gracious God, restore me to health—if it seems good unto You, in order to Your great ends, and my own interest.
And however You shall determine concerning me in this—yet make my repentance perfect, my passage safe, and my faith strong; that when You shall call my soul from the prison of the body—it may enter into the rest of the sons of God, through Jesus Christ. And to Your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be ascribed all glory and praise, world without end. Amen.
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you—for My strength is made perfect in weakness."—2 Corinthians 12:9
Nothing affords such sweet comfort in a time of sickness and trial as the thought of the "all-sufficiency" of Christ our Redeemer. Be our case ever so trying, our needs ever so numerous, our enemies ever so strong, our fears ever so appalling, our danger ever so imminent—Jesus is "all-sufficient." It is only our weak faith which makes us to become downcast and sad at heart. What is the assurance of Scripture? "He is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good word and work." "All grace!"—"all sufficiency!"—in "all things"—and these to "abound." "Like as a father pities his children—so the Lord pities those who fear Him." Here there is enough surely to afford comfort—"grace," "sufficiency," "pity."
Christian, what is your sorrow—your trial—your temptation? Is it, "I have had a lengthened time of sickness and pain—my strength has failed, and the skill of man has been unavailing. Around me I can see no ray of hope; no symptom of returning health—no indication of the removal of my disease—and my prayers have returned to me unanswered."
Ah, Christian, it is to be feared there is within you a 'spirit of murmuring'. Whose hand is laid upon you? Your Father's! Why has He chastened you? To bring your will fully into conformity with His will. Does not He, "to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hidden," know best when His gracious purpose has been accomplished in you, His child? Is it not a token for good that your days have been prolonged? He waits but to see you bowing submissively before Him—saying from your inmost soul, "Do with me what seems good it Your sight"—and He will either remove the cross from off you, or give you the blessedness of realizing the truth of these words, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
But perhaps you are distressed by doubts and fears that God is angry with you—that in displeasure, not in love—He has laid you low. Oftentimes you are compelled to look backward, and the retrospect is gloomy—a retrospect of ingratitude, forgetfulness, wandering—of warnings unheeded, providences disregarded, mercies received unthankfully; and the thought arises—"For these transgressions I am chastened of the Lord; they are too aggravated, too numerous, to be forgiven."
"Forgiven!" "My grace is sufficient for you." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin." "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
It is well to look backward—well to recall the past; but not in a gloomy, despairing spirit—not as if by present or future suffering we could atone for sin. No, assuredly—but to lead us "to believe on Him who is able to save unto the uttermost"—to "believe, and be saved." All our woe and misery could not atone for any one transgression! It is not by a painful counting up of duties undone, and sins committed, or by a resolving ever so earnestly to be more careful in all these things for the time to come—that we can be saved. Salvation is alone in Christ. To Him we must go—to Him who, by His death, purchased for Himself the heirs of death, that they might become heirs of glory. To Him we must go—who sends sickness and trial to check and restrain us—to make us bethink ourselves—to bring us to Him, the only Savior and Redeemer—that we may be driven from the world, and from ourselves—to Him, and in Him find rest unto our souls.
Christian, look away then from self and sin—so vile and loathsome—to Jesus your Redeemer, Savior, God. He will not cast you off, as guilty as you are; He will not fail to welcome you; but He will say unto you, "Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!" And if at any time you are becoming faint and weary in the pilgrimage of life—oh, turn hopefully, turn without a misgiving to these words, "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
But perhaps this is not your case. You tell us, "I feel and acknowledge the infinity of God's mercy in Christ. For years have I tasted that the Lord is gracious, and He has borne with me amid countless sins and shortcomings; but I have an evil heart of unbelief, against whose suggestions I have continually to struggle, and whose temptings I sometimes feel myself unable to resist. No sooner have I gained a victory over some besetting sin, some evil temper, some worldly desire—than another, equally powerful and seductive, presents itself, and from day to day I am engaged in a conflict, battling with some enemy, resisting some onset of temptation, and hardly able to keep my ground."
Reader, yours is precisely the Christian's experience, just what you were told to expect when you entered the narrow way—and what you may continue to anticipate until you "enter the rest which remains for the people of God." But why be discouraged? He who has sustained you hitherto—will be "with you" still. Your strength has often been fast failing—but you have not been overcome; why then should you dread that defeat awaits you? The very struggles you have maintained—have added to your strength, and given you fresh vigor! The very fear of being vanquished—has been a stimulus to new exertion, and is a sign that you "will finally prevail." Your enemies are strong and mighty—yes—but not stronger than those whom your blessed Savior met and trampled underfoot. He will nerve your arm afresh for the struggle. He will help you not only to maintain your ground—but to gain the victory; and if ever you feel within you the risings of fear, or doubt, or despondency, oh, be cheered by these two precious assurances—"My grace is sufficient for you;" and again, "To him who overcomes—I will grant to sit with Me on my throne!"
Christian, whatever your trial, distress, or sorrow—have faith in the promise of your Savior. All else may fail you—but "His word stands sure." You will have your struggles and conflicts, you will have dark and gloomy days and nights of storm and tempest; but fear not—you will be carried safely through them all. You may be wounded and torn, and, covered with many scars, bearing the marks of many a hard-fought battle—with the dust of a weary journey on your garments—with the sword not resting in its scabbard—but grasped as if for another onset—you may be summoned from the battle-plain—but what then?
Away from conflict, from tumult, and strife—away from sin, temptation, and sorrow—away, in that blessed home of peace and purity, where no fear shall again disturb, no foe again attack, no evil heart again lead astray—you will "rest from all your labors." The trumpet will no more summon to the battle; its last clarion-note will be "Victory!" and amid the glad hosannas of the heavenly multitudes, you will be welcomed as another conqueror—a conqueror through Him whose grace was sufficient for you, and whose strength was made perfect in weakness.
O most gracious Father, who has invited all who feel their need of Your grace to come unto You—have mercy upon me, for I am in trouble! I am deeply sensible that I am far from exercising that unreserved submission to Your will which I ought to exercise. Help me, I beseech You, so to trust in Your infinite goodness and unerring wisdom, that I may be able to say from my very heart, "May Your will be done." Oh, teach me to be grateful for the manifold comforts allotted me; and support me graciously, that my soul be not cast down and disturbed within me. Keep me from all repining thoughts, and make Your grace at all times sufficient for me, and perfect Your strength in my weakness. Let my soul be supported by faith, hope, and patience, under all the sufferings I may yet endure. Bless the means that are used, and make them effectual, if it is Your good pleasure—for restoring me to health, that I may again praise You in the assembly of Your saints. Make me willing to glorify You either by life or by death. Give me a simple dependence upon You, and enable me in all things to commit my way unto You, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
IF THE LORD WILLS
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of Him."—1 John 5:14, 15
There is much to comfort us in these words. When health fails, when prosperity departs, or when our homes become the homes of mourning—we are prone, if we do not watch against the danger—to have our confidence in the power and efficacy of prayer weakened—no, sometimes, for a season, destroyed.
Perhaps we have offered up petitions for health, for plenty, for prosperity in the world—and instead of these things we have had sickness, adversity, and ever-increasing cares and troubles—and we have rashly supposed that our petitions were unheard.
Or, more painful still, perhaps we prayed for the assurance of forgiveness—for a realizing sense of God's love in Christ—for stronger faith—for some precious spiritual blessing or comfort, which we imagined would insure our happiness, peace, joy. But we continued still downcast and sad; faith's grasp was feeble; every wave that dashed against us, seemed as if destined to hurl us against the rocks; and our cry of distress was lost amid the roar of the angry elements—"Has God forgotten to be gracious?" Was it not almost needless to continue praying? Whose case was so urgent, whose danger so imminent, whose need so great—as ours? And yet our petitions had met with no response—our entreaties for help had been unavailing?
Such questions our unbelieving hearts frequently suggest, and they render necessary discipline more severe, trying, and long-continued—until we are brought to honor God by fully and implicitly trusting Him.
Three things ought to be ever kept in view with regard to prayer:
FIRST, the range, the extent to which we may go in our petitions at the throne of grace, although vast and soul-satisfying, has yet a boundary-line. It is inscribed with these words—"According to His will."
We are at best but children—willful, erring children—ignorant of what would prove a blessing or a curse to us—often anxious for those things which would prove hurtful; and slow to believe that a painful cross, a heavy affliction—is really the best thing that God could send us. Our heavenly Father, who has graciously adopted us in Christ, and means to train us to obedience, self-denial, and submission, while, in the fullness of His love, offering the inestimable treasures of His grace—will only bestow upon us, what He knows to be truly and lastingly beneficial to our souls! Therefore His promise of blessing is limited to things which are "according to His will."
But some anxious, trembling one may say, "Surely, to implore the assurance of forgiveness—to entreat the bestowal of pardon through the blood of Christ, to ask for stronger faith, deeper love, livelier hope—to offer such petitions as these—must be according to His will."
Yes, assuredly! Oh that we would never doubt it—after all that God has done to convince us of His willingness to forgive, to pardon freely, and forever! See page after page of Holy Scripture bright with promises, invitations, entreaties! See the loving Savior, anxious to melt hard and stony hearts—weeping over the impenitent—speaking tenderly to the guilty, the polluted, the vile—giving up His precious life to ransom souls from destruction—grasping, in His last hour, a victim from the power of the enemy, to bear it as a trophy of the victory of redeeming love; and who shall dare say there is unwillingness on the part of God to forgive?
Hear these words—"Who is a God like unto You, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us—He will subdue our iniquities; and will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea!" Listen to the Savior's description of His mission—"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." And what was His language of bitter lamentation? "You will not come unto Me—that you may be have life."
Oh, there is no unwillingness on the part of God! But, alas! there is unbelief on ours. We will not take God at His word—we will persist in rearing barriers where there should be none, and in nourishing doubts and fears—when our hearts might be filled with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
God has given us His word—He bids us lay hold on His promises—He invites us to be reconciled—He urges us to accept forgiveness—He condescends to entreat us in accents of winning tenderness, and sets before us His intense concern for our salvation in these words—"God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish—but have everlasting life!"
We ourselves, then, are to blame—if we have not the assurance of forgiveness. We will not trust God. We refuse to credit His Word. Of this we may be sure—that in praying for the grace of assurance, we are doing right. Let us pray on and wrestle with God, until there is within us that which we long for. So also in regard to faith, and love, and hope. If we have them not in their vigor—let us not rest satisfied until they are increased. In asking these things, we are asking what is "according to His will."
In many things, we are not asking "according to His will." And therefore something else is given—perhaps sickness, because it is better for us, in present circumstances than unbroken health—is the answer to our prayer. Perhaps adversity, because, we are trusting too much to our prosperity—is the gift bestowed. Friends are taken from us, and our hearts are wounded and stricken—because we set them as idols on the altar of our affections, where God must reign supreme! Our petitions were not, "according to His will," and He gave us what He saw to be needful.
SECONDLY, we must strive to realize the fact than our prayers have been really heard. When once we have carefully examined the nature of our requests, and been persuaded that, as far as we know, they are "according to His will"—we should simply lay them before the Lord, assured that He not only hears us—but that "we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
Not perhaps the very blessings we asked—not health, plenty, peace, prosperity, freedom from sorrow—at the very time, and in the very way we sought. We must not presume to dictate to God. He hears and answers as a sovereign. But because the highest, choicest blessing which a Christian can desire, and for which he ought to pray most ardently, fervently, and perseveringly, is—to love what God loves, to choose what God chooses, to will what God wills—because this ought ever to be the uppermost petition on his heart—he may be sure that, if he asks it, he will receive it—and all the other blessings he prayed for—up to the extent when their bestowal would hinder the progress of the life of God in the soul.
Christian, rest assured your cry has been heard. Do not be disturbed and cast down because you have not received precisely the blessing which you desired. It was not good for you. You thought it would render you happy—but it would have had no such virtue. That only can make you really happy—which has the stamp of God's approval on it, and which is "according to His will." Take what He has sent, be it sickness, loss of friends, loss of property—take it, as what your heavenly Father saw to be needful; and pray that He would, by His Holy Spirit, sanctify it to you—that it may increase your trust in Him, and render you more submissive to His will.
LASTLY, we must ever strive to cherish the conviction that earnest, persevering prayer is not merely a privilege and duty—but that it is, through our Lord Jesus Christ—prevalent with God, and is accomplishing its purpose.
When we fail to see the blessing come down which we earnestly prayed for, or when something very different is given us, we are apt to yield to unbelief—and as, perhaps, trial after trial happens, we say with one of old, "All these things are against me!"
Christian, does the child, when gazing on an intricate piece of mechanism, understand how wheel fits into wheel, how the one is dependent on the other, and how the very smallest is necessary to accomplish the final result?
Just so, you cannot understand how the various trials and crosses in your life are all working together—combining in conformity with the will of God in carrying on to its accomplishment the sanctification of your nature—until at length you are fitted for a holier, purer dwelling place with your Father and your God.
Remember, "what you know not now—you shall know hereafter," and let this satisfy you. A time will yet come when, if faithful unto death—you will acknowledge with a grateful heart, that your prayers have been fully answered, that everything from God was given in deepest love, and that "with Christ Jesus He freely gave you all things." Despond not, even though sorrow upon sorrow is your portion, and the heavy billows of affliction seem ceaselessly to roll over you. Fix the eye of faith on the painless home of light and love, and be cheered by the thought that, following the Savior close in sorrow here—you shall be privileged to follow Him close in bliss hereafter.
Deem it not a "strange thing" that trial has happened unto you. Strange it would have been if you had only joy—where your Savior had so much sorrow; if you had a quiet resting-place—where He could find no spot whereon to rest His wearied head; if the world had offered you a place of calm and sweet repose—when it denied a shelter to your suffering, mournful Lord!
No, Christian—not here, not here, can you look for repose, or rest, or freedom from trial—but in that blessed home of tranquillity and joy, where the countless ages of eternity, as they roll on, shall never behold the shedding of one single tear, or catch the echo of one faintest sigh!
O God, our heavenly Father, grant me grace to submit to Your holy will. You know what discipline I need. You see, O Lord, how much of evil there is in my heart—what unbelief, and fear, and folly—and You know what is needful to remove them. I would desire, good Lord, humbly to acquiesce in Your doings—believing that You are chastening me for my profit. I would hear Your rod, not merely because I cannot resist it—but because I love and trust You. I would sweetly acquiesce and rest in Your will, as well as bow beneath it, and would say, "Not my will—but may Your will be done." I would take gratefully the blessings You are pleased to send, for I am not worthy of the least of them. And when You deny my petition, and withhold what I ask—oh, strengthen me by Your grace to wait Your pleasure, and still to trust You, assured that the time will come when I shall bless You even for unanswered prayers, for trials, and afflictions, and sorrows—which I would gladly have had removed—but which, blessed be God, were made the means of drawing me nearer to You. Hear me, O Lord, and grant me Your blessing, for my dear Redeemer's sake. Amen.
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
"How will you do in the swelling of Jordan?"—Jeremiah 12:5
No Scripture reader can have failed to notice that the journeyings of the children of Israel—are typical of the Christian's pilgrimage; and that the promised rest in Canaan—is typical of the Christian's eternal home. Their deliverance from Egypt, their march through the desert, their passage over Jordan, their abode in Canaan—are all points of resemblance, tracing out, as it were, the journey from this world of sin and sorrow—to "the rest which remains for the people of God."
In the words before us, one interesting point of history is referred to, which may serve to illustrate an important and solemn stage in the Christian's pilgrimage—that is, the passage over Jordan. Let us meditate for a little on this marvelous event; and may God, by His Holy Spirit, enable us to derive comfort from the thoughts suggested regarding our heavenly home!
The Jordan lay between the Israelites and the promised land. Doubtless, as they stood upon its banks, wistfully gazing across its swelling waves, their hearts were filled with gloom and terror. Three days they rested within sight of the flowing stream; no promise—no assurance of help was given. Dark and cold, the river rolled on its course, and ever as the waves rose and heaved and broke at their feet—the question would arise in many a sinking heart, "How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?" It was only when summoned to cross—only when the time for their departure had come—that Joshua unfolded to them the wondrous way in which the Lord intended to guide and conduct them over. "The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall." Joshua 3:13
As the Jordan lay between the Israelites and Canaan—so death lies between the Christian and his eternal home. DEATH is oftentimes an object of terror even to the holiest and the best. We do not love death; we fear the gloomy passage; our faithless hearts shrink at the prospect of breasting the foaming flood. We would gladly tarry on the banks of the stream, unable to find an answer to the inquiry, "How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?" Christian, be of good courage; the answer will come in God's good time. These fears will then vanish, and, like Israel of old, you will safely and triumphantly cross the rapid, rising flood.
Mark some of the incidents connected with their wondrous passage. The ark of the covenant was with them; upborne on the shoulders of the priests, it went before, and led the march of the advancing multitude. So is it with the Christian—Christ, the Ark of the Covenant, is present in the hour of his departure. At His bidding the dark waters will divide—they will rise up on either side, and hold back every onward-flowing billow; until, at length, the once timid, trembling, fearful believer, stands, with a joyful and triumphant heart, upon Immanuel's blissful shore!
Yes, believer; never has a solitary pilgrim crossed the Jordan—unattended by the presence of Jesus. He watches each disciple with intensest interest. He keeps His eye not only on the busy scenes of life—but also on the secret mysteries of death. "Precious in the sight of the Lord—is the death of his saints." Sweet, comforting thought! Do not fear to go down with Him into the dark river—it may prove boisterous for a season—its waters may be cold and chilling at their approach, the waves may threaten to drown you—but fear not, He will be with you—"He will hold you by your right hand, saying unto you, Fear not!" Whatever weakness you may be called to pass through, He will be "the strength of your heart;" the Almighty Lord will be with you, and strengthen you; you will see His smile—you will hear His voice—you will feel His hand—and His conscious presence will enfold you as you pass!
We are further told that "every one had crossed the Jordan on dry ground." None were left behind—none were swept away by the swelling of Jordan. Neither shall any of God's true Israel be lost in death's devouring flood! Whatever fears may have distressed them—whatever doubts may have gathered round them as they neared the brink of the stream—they shall pass over in safety, because their High Priest is with them, and He has promised to conduct them to the heavenly Canaan.
Sick one, dear to Christ! are you afraid of death? Are you inquiring with an anxious heart, "How shall I do in the swelling of Jordan?" It is not strange to be thus alarmed; others have experienced the same painful feeling. It is only through strong faith in the promises of God, and trust in the infinite merits of our Redeemer, that we can look on death, and overcome those terrors which the most perfect of mortals must feel at putting off mortality.
You need not blame yourself, if you cannot feel joy in leaving this world. Human nature cannot be perfected in this life; it is well if you are resigned to the will of God, without murmuring or repining, when He is pleased to call for you. Death is to the best—a dreadful summons—and human nature turns with dread from the gloomy passage. It is also a mournful thought to be separated from those whom we love most dearly—to leave them amid the sorrows of a sinful world—to leave them struggling with all the difficulties, the hardships, and the dangers that attend a Christian in his journey through the wilderness—and no more to see their faces—no more to hear their voices until they too shall have passed through the river of death.
But surely, Christian, you may be comforted by the thought—that a safe and triumphant passage is insured to the weakest of Christ's followers. "They shall never perish!" This is the assurance of "the faithful Promiser." It is not life, and it is not death, which shall separate you from your Savior-God. Because He lives—you shall live also; where He is—there shall you be also. Fear not the swelling tide! All is in the Lord's hands, and He will divide the foaming billows, and take you dry-shod over; and not a heaving, not an undulation of the cold waters shall chill the warmth, or ruffle the calmness of your bosom. Let this be the language of your soul, "Savior-God, my trust is in You. I will cleave to You closer and closer. As the water deepens, I will plant my foot of faith firmer and firmer upon the Rock—until I find myself in glory!"
Yes, believer, in glory—away from doubts and fears and anxieties—away from besetting sins—away from pain and weariness and toil! Yes, believer, in glory—with Him whom your soul loves—with Him who gave His life's blood to redeem you—with Him who led you on your earthly pilgrimage—with Him who brought you to the brink of Jordan's stream, and gave you faint glimpses of the heavenly Canaan—with Him who, when the billows began to heave and swell on either side, and your heart trembled with fear, whispered these words, "Fear not; I am still with you. When you pass through the waters—I will be with you; and through the floods—they shall not overflow. I will never leave you nor forsake you!"
And then, to this add a kindred reflection—that on the other side of Jordan, you will greet again the loved ones who have already reached the land of rest. You shall find all who 'sleep in Jesus' there. You accompanied them to the edge of the river—saw them enter the swelling tide—heard their shout of victory—and then they vanished from your sight, and you saw them no more. But soon, believer, you too shall pass over, and meet them all again. No more partings—no sad farewells—no sudden rendings of affection's ties; for there the icy hand of death itself is dead! "Now thanks be unto God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Heavenly Father, I beseech You, grant that when the time of my departure shall come, I may be found prepared. May I be enabled to feel that, though my heart and my flesh fail—yet that You are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. O blessed Jesus! who went to prepare a place for Your own people in Your Father's house—You who have strengthened and supported many a dying Christian while amid the swellings of Jordan—support and uphold me. Let not my faith fail—let not my hope waver. Enable me to look forward to the solemn hour of my departure with meek and humble confidence, trusting only in the merits of my gracious Lord and Savior, and relying so much on His promised grace, that the last hours of my life may be those of peace, and hope, and joy. O gracious God, pardon and accept me—for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
"Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit."—John 15:8
In regard to the sphere of Christian duty and usefulness, there is no mistake we more frequently commit, than in supposing, when God is pleased to lay His chastening hand on one of His children—that he "is laid aside," removed from his "post," and, for the time, nearly altogether useless and unprofitable.
We can at once believe in the exertion, the energy, and endurance of the missionary who goes forth to heathen lands—that, amid suffering, privation, and toil, he may disseminate the truth as it is in Jesus, and advance the cause and kingdom of his Redeemer. We give our hearty admiration to the man who devotes himself to some scheme of benevolence—who labors on year after year in furthering the object on which his heart is set. We accord our willing tribute of praise to him who seeks to ameliorate the condition of the poor—to instruct and reclaim the ignorant and wretched dwellers in our lanes and alleys—or to gather in the wandering outcasts on our streets to the house of God, where they may hear of pardon and peace through the precious blood of Christ.
These, and such as these, are held, and worthily held, in admiration. Their names are honored, and become as "household words." But how many of God's dear children are bearing heavier burdens, discharging more painful duties, and displaying more vigorous faith—in the retirement of private life, or in the chamber of sickness and trial. God is "glorified" as well in suffering—as in doing; in the patient endurance—as well as in the vigorous performance of His will.
There is even a stronger testimony given to the power and efficacy of Christ's religion, in the unmurmuring life of some tried and suffering disciple—than in the bold and courageous efforts of him who, against rage and opposition, carries the words of the everlasting gospel from shore to shore—who dreads not the burning sands of the desert, or the frozen mountains of the north—but with ever-increasing energy presses on—that he may plant the Rose of Sharon in the desert wild, and rear the standard of the cross amid savage and heathen tribes. The former may tread his path of suffering unnoticed and uncheered by man—while the latter may be animated to almost superhuman efforts—by the inspiring plaudits of thousands who are watching his progress.
But other eyes are fixed upon the solitary pilgrim, whose every step in his heavenward journey is marked with affliction—who, in the loneliness of the midnight hour, when sleep refuses to seal up his eyelids, "communes with his own heart upon his bed—and is still." Angels, we believe, from the heights of glory, sent to minister to the heirs of salvation, circle around that solitary one, and rejoice in being commissioned to bear glad tidings—tidings of peace, and comfort, and hope, and joy—to that troubled and wearied disciple.
Yes, it is a blessed privilege to be called to labor for Christ; but more blessed is it "not only to believe—but also to suffer for His name's sake." It is a sweet and a joyful thing to be a sharer with Christ in anything. Love delights in likeness and communion, not only in things attractive and pleasant—but in the hardest and harshest things, which have not anything in them desirable, but only that likeness. So that this thought is very sweet to a heart possessed with the Savior's love. What—do sufferings, pains, and sorrows make us more like to Him? Do they give us a greater share with Him in that which He willingly underwent for us, and afford the opportunity of manifesting, as He did—a humble, obedient, cheerful endurance—and the giving up our will to our heavenly Father's?
Every step of 'sanctified suffering' is a step nearer to the crown of glory. It is a lesson learned in that school of obedience, in which, as man, our blessed Lord Himself was perfected. And by every instance of patient endurance, of thankful, rejoicing acquiescence in the severe discipline of our Father's will—we are "bearing" the fruit by which He is glorified.
Suffering child of God! be not disappointed if, with every desire to do great things for your Savior—you seem to be denied the power or the opportunity of doing anything. Remember, "they also serve—who only stand and wait;" and how much more do they serve—who are called upon to endure and to suffer? In your chamber of sickness, upon the bed of pain, you may as greatly glorify your Redeemer—as amid the trials of the mission, or the tortures of the stake. In health you had duties to perform, in sickness you have them still. Can you now say that you firmly trust God's goodness, and believe Him to be a father—while trembling under His rod? Can you still cling to the truths of His holy Word, as strange and mysterious as they appear to be? Can you receive comfort in thoughts of death and heaven, of immortality and the resurrection, of conformity to Christ's sufferings?
It is easy to talk of putting trust in God in the time of health and prosperity, and when our hearts are filled with gladness to extol His goodness and bounty. But can you do so now, when sickness has come, and darkness is gathering around your prospects? Are you struggling against the suggestions of the evil heart of unbelief—resigning yourself to God's will—praying Him to choose for you—endeavoring, like a true and faithful servant, to bear with fortitude and resolution the cross laid upon you—in the same spirit as your Divine Master bore the far heavier cross to which He was nailed, in testimony of His infinite love towards you?
If so, then happy are you. Our heavenly Father is perfecting His own work. His secret purpose is being accomplished, and with His own wise and gentle hand, He who has "began," will bring it to "completion." Shrink not because the path is thorny and solitary; for the way is short—and the end is glorious! He who perfected His own Son through sufferings, has brought many sons to glory by the same rough road, even by the "way in the wilderness," and in His own good time He will conduct you also to "the rest which remains for the people of God."
Fear not the sufferings that may be still in store. He to whom you belong, will give you not only patience to endure—but strength to fulfill the peculiar duties to which you may yet be called. He will give grace amid all the trials through which you have to pass, and victory in the contests you may be summoned to enter. Day by day will you receive the impress of the likeness of the ever-blessed Savior; and in you, God shall be "glorified," yes, and "shall glorify you." He will give you "the peace which passes all understanding"—the blessed assurance of His own unchanging love, and the hope of dwelling forever at His own right hand in glory!
He will also make you useful in the Church. Your trust, and hope, and confidence in God, under the severe stroke of affliction, or the pressure of infirmity, will speak forcibly to those around you. There will be a silent yet powerful eloquence in those very infirmities with which you are struggling, and it may be your blessed privilege to sow the seed of piety, of love to God and Christ, of holiness and happiness, in the hearts of many who, in the great day, shall be to you "a joy and crown of rejoicing."
But, O tried, suffering one! remember that your "sufficiency" for all these things comes from above! The Spirit must sanctify your affliction. He must fulfill in you the work of faith with power. From Him alone, must proceed the grace of patient endurance, of willing acquiescence, of thankful, grateful joy. If you rely on your own efforts—if you think that your "strength of will" can uphold you in severest pain, and keep you from uttering one cry of anguish, and from yielding to fretfulness and repining—so far you may succeed; but you are not assuredly gaining the end which God has in view. The submission, the patience, the humility, the quiet endurance, which your heavenly Father seeks to work in you—are far more important than many imagine.
The "submission" is not merely to pain; it is a submission to what the Lord has seen fit to lay upon us. We must see Him above all, in our sufferings—as the Author of them. We cannot advance one step until we have been brought to the heartfelt confession, "It is the Lord!" His hand must be acknowledged, His power and providence realized, before we can yield any "fruit" to His praise and glory. Oh, then, pray that you may fully realize and see that a Father's hand has mingled your cup of bitterness, and then may you hope to be able from the heart to say, "Shall I not drink it?"
Seek also to be resting on Jesus for all your strength, your hope, your comfort, and deliverance. Believe in Him as your all-sufficient Savior, as your Pattern, and as your Support in every tribulation. Ask of Him in every fresh trial—and under every circumstance of the trial, "Lord, how would You have me to act? What would You have me to do?" Implore of Him increasing submission and quietude of spirit. Endeavor, by earnest and persevering prayer—to obtain that increase of faith which sustains the soul above the afflictions of this poor world, and the wearying contemplation of pain, sorrow, fear, sin, and death. Strive more and more to raise your affections to things above, where your loving Savior dwells, and whence He will before long, return to gather you up with Him to His throne, that you may behold and share His glory!
Seek of Him the Holy Spirit, to intercede within you, and to unite your heart to God's heart. He is a Counselor and Comforter from Christ, to His suffering ones. He is a Guide to lead you into all truth, to reveal to you the whole will of your heavenly Father; and to work mightily the power of God in your soul, quickening you from sin to holiness, and raising you up to all heavenly blessings with Christ.
Thus living, a daily suppliant at Mercy's gate, you will obtain grace equal to your day—grace to honor your Divine Master—grace to manifest the power of a living faith—grace to endure as seeing Him who is invisible—grace to be faithful unto death—and, through the merits of Christ, to receive the crown of life.
Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who does not willingly afflict the children of men—but rebukes and chastens those whom You love—look down upon me, Your unworthy servant, and have mercy upon me, for Christ's sake. Enable me, O God, amid all my pains and sufferings, to recognize Your fatherly hand, and to feel assured that You will make them means of good, and sources of blessing to my soul. I acknowledge, O God, that I have grievously sinned against You, and merit only Your hot displeasure. But for the sake of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a sacrifice for sin, and who now pleads at Your right hand—do, Lord God, have mercy upon me, and forgive all my iniquities.
And grant, heavenly Father, if it pleases You—that both my soul may be healed of the dreadful malady of sin, and my body renewed with health—that I may devote the life You spare, to Your service, and to the good of my fellow-creatures.
Whatever You are pleased to give or withhold, oh, pour upon me the rich gift of Your Holy Spirit. Through His indwelling may I be enabled to bring forth fruit to Your glory. Make me patient, humble, and resigned. Grant that no pain may ever tempt me to murmur, or to doubt Your fatherly goodness. Assist me, O God, to nourish penitent, believing, and serious thoughts and affections, and such meekness and patience as my Divine Master manifested while He was a sufferer on earth. Help me, by Your Holy Spirit, so to meditate on Your mercies in Christ Jesus, that, in the midst of all my weariness and pains—Your comforts may refresh my soul.
O Blessed Jesus, be my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. O merciful Lord, You have said that in all our afflictions, You are afflicted. May I realize Your sympathy with me. May the remembrance of Your sufferings check my every murmur, and soothe my every pain. Lord, enable me, whether in sickness or in health, to glorify Your holy name. Do with me what is good in Your sight. Let patience have her perfect work. If this sickness is unto death—oh, prepare me for it, that I may depart only to be with You! Whether in life or in death—may I still live in Your presence. And to Your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be ascribed all glory and praise, world without end. Amen.
"You have sorrow now—but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy."—John 16:22
These precious words were uttered by our blessed Savior at a most eventful period of His history. It was the night of His betrayal. For the eighth time He had repeated the story of His coming sufferings, with deep and affecting solemnity. He had instituted the memorial of His death and passion; and, slowly and sadly, He drew up the curtain which was to reveal to the sorrowing disciples the things which were soon to come upon them.
Sorrow and anxiety filled the hearts of all in that lonely upper room. He who had "received the sop" had gone out, and was already communing with the Savior's murderers; for it was "their hour, and the power of darkness." But even then, when the tide of anticipated suffering and sorrow was rushing in upon His own soul—when He was hemmed in on every side by the malice of His enemies—and there was now only the brook Kedron between Him and the awful anguish of Gethsemane—our Lord thought not of Himself—but of those trembling followers whom He was so soon to leave in a dark and desolate world—full of sorrows, perplexities, and cares!
He comforts them by many gracious promises, and bids them to take courage. It must needs be that He should now depart. The Holy Spirit, in mysterious silence, awaited the return of Christ to the courts of heaven. "If I do not go away—the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away—I will send Him unto you."
And while predicting their future sufferings, He promises a season of great and permanent joy. "Now, therefore," He says, "you have sorrow"—the season of your suffering is at hand; you shall have sorrow, deep sorrow, during the short period of your not seeing Me; " but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy."
Christian, see in all this the love, the tenderness, the care of Jesus! We might have expected that His own anticipated sorrows would alone, at such a time, have occupied His mind—that the dark vista through which He was to pass would have concentrated His every thought, and served to exclude all efforts to soothe or mitigate the sorrows of others. But no! Fully aware of the tremendous responsibilities of His situation—feeling the weight of the load laid upon Him, the bitterness of the cup given Him to drink—and anticipating, as certain and just at hand—a heavier pressure and a bitterer draught—He still evinced as deep an interest in the anxieties and perplexities, in the fears and sorrows of the disciples—as if He himself had not been a sufferer at all.
He knew how they were troubled, and what anxious, desponding, despairing thoughts were arising in their minds, and He could not but be "touched with a feeling of their infirmities." The weight of anguish which overwhelmed His soul—no being in the wide universe could bear along with Him. He could not have the alleviation of human sympathy. He must tread the winepress alone. He must encounter the enemy, bear his assaults, and overcome alone. They could not enter into His sorrows, nor aid Him in the coming struggle; but He—the generous, self-denying, magnanimous One—could fully enter into theirs. There was room in His large heart for their sorrows—as well as His own. He feels their griefs—as if they were His own, and kindly comforts those who, He knew, were about to desert Him in the hour of His deepest sorrow!
And soon was the gracious promise made good in the experience of the disciples. The Savior did, indeed, come to see them again, and their hearts poured themselves out in one gush, "The Lord has risen indeed!" as if all was summed up in that. Then their only difficulty was that their hearts were too narrow for the greatness of their joy—and this "joy no man could take from them."
Men might do much—they might cast them into dungeons, and beat them with rods, and treat them as the offscouring of all things; but, with all their malice, they could not touch that which was the true treasure of their hearts. The Savior—true, loving, faithful—was ever near to them. They now knew and realized that, whether in the dungeon, or the wilderness, or the desert—they could find Him ever near—and that in His presence they would have all things necessary. And here, therefore, "their joy was fulfilled."
And beyond this, too—in their individual history and experience, as days and years rolled on, and as they entered into closer and more intimate communion with their Lord—revealing to Him their cares and sorrows—drinking in more largely of His grace and spirit—sheltering themselves from the crude blasts of persecution, and the fury of their enemies, in His loving bosom—they entered more and more perfectly into their joy—they came to know Him more intimately than they had ever known Him in the days of His flesh. A still closer relation—a more abiding presence, a more full experience of His strength, His guidance, His comfort, was given to them.
Christian! the same promise is made to you, and may be realized in your experience; for it was given not only to the first apostles—but to all "who would believe on Him through their word."
"I will see you again!" is the assurance of Jesus to every troubled disciple. When the consciousness of guilt and wrong-doing burdens the soul, and causes it to tremble and be afraid—then does the vision of Jesus as the sin-offering, the Lamb of God, the burden-bearer, the all-prevailing Intercessor—impart peace and joy! The Christian is enabled to look at himself, even when he knows his own sinfulness, as accepted with the Father, because he can believe that he is joined by faith to Christ Jesus. He can take up the language of the apostle, "He loved me—and gave Himself for me!" There is the happy, peaceful consciousness that sin is pardoned—that guilt is blotted out—that iniquity is done away! And, filled with a joy with which a stranger cannot understand, the believer starts afresh in the journey of life—having, like Bunyan's pilgrim, dropped his burden at the foot of the cross.
Nor is this all. The sense of pardon and acceptance through the blood and righteousness of Christ—of guilt forever cancelled—of sin freely forgiven—may well fill the heart with joy. But still there remain the seeds of evil, the sources of disquietude, in the best of God's children. All our doings are defiled with imperfection—the very holiest act we perform, has need to be atoned for by the atoning blood of Christ, before it can find acceptance with God.
And it is only the vision of Christ which can remove the burden of self-condemnation and shame which presses on the renewed heart. Oh, how comforting is the thought—that, as weak, sinful, and erring as we are—"Christ is our Righteousness!" Christ has obeyed the law for us—Christ has fulfilled its every tittle of demand, as well as its every tittle of penalty. He has completely obeyed the law for us, and has become "our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
Oh, Christian! cling to this blessed truth! Look ever to Jesus as your Righteousness, as well as atonement, and you will find that, in the exercise of a living faith, it will become to you the element of a joy such as earth can never give nor take away—a joy that is well described as "unspeakable and full of glory." It will impart to you the power of trusting ever to a Savior's faithfulness and grace—not in name, not in outward form—but in a true, inward living with Him; going to Him with that which you can reveal to none other on earth—the hidden mystery of your heart; going to Him in the deep of night, in the early morning; stealing times in the midst of a busy life to lift the burdened heart up to Him; seeing Him in all outward things—in the means of grace, and in His living Word; seeing Him even in crosses, temptations, sicknesses, and sorrows; seeing His sovereign hand, and knowing that He is making all things to work together for your good—that every grief and care is but a necessary instrument in His hand, engraving upon you some feature which is to reflect His glory.
Christian, even this is but a foretaste of those nobler and more exalted joys—those far more glorious blessings reserved for those who are "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Just like the first dawn of day, which is the sure harbinger and pledge of the full, meridian, noontide splendor—so this joy that fills the heart of the true believer is the very pledge of future glory, when all who have believed indeed in Jesus, shall pass into His full presence, never again to lose sight of it—to be that which Peter desired to be, in the burst of his wondering heart, when he said, "It is good for us to be here!"—when there shall be no more temptation to sin, and no more possibility of falling—when we shall be so near to the "Sun of Righteousness," that no cloud shall ever shadow it again—that we shall see Him, and know that we shall see Him forever!
Sick one, dear to Christ! is your heart full of fear and trembling? Instead of joy—are you filled with grief? Oh, look to Christ by the eye of faith! See Him as the portion of your soul—your loving, faithful, and compassionate Redeemer; and "let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Draw near to Him in sweet and close communion, and you will soon find that "in His presence is fullness of joy"—that He can satisfy every desire, and every need, and every aspiration—and raise, and refine, and purify them, even in satisfying them!
Reader, all other joy is transitory—only the joy of the Christian will endure forever. All other is but for a season; and even here, when least expected, the golden cup of worldly delight may be dashed in pieces from the lips. But the Christian's joy is a treasure which none can take away. All outward comforts may fail—friends, prosperity, health, fame—but this promised blessing, this "joy and peace in believing," is beyond the reach of men or demons. When flesh and heart fail—when life departs from the material clay—then the joys of Christians are only increased. Not even that irresistible hand which tears us from all that is earthly, and consigns us, bereft of every human honor, joy, and consolation—to the cheerless grave—even the hand of Death itself cannot deprive us of the pearl of great price. On the contrary, it robs us only of that which we would not wish to keep—and admits us to the full fruition of those pleasures of which the foretaste is so delightful, that the believer desires "to depart and be with Christ, which is far better!"
And what will constitute the joy of believers in glory? Methinks their chief joy will be seeing Christ—and being made more and more "like Him." I know not what nobler, more illustrious idea can be entertained of the glory and happiness of a saint—than that of sinfulness being eradicated both from flesh and spirit, and holiness perfectly ingrained into his nature, his humanity pure and unsullied—made like to Him who was "holy, harmless, undefiled—the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." You may sketch far more gorgeous things, and crowd the vision with imagery more striking and radiant; but the pinnacle of man's nobleness—is resemblance to his Lord! And the pinnacle of his bliss—is unreserved consecration to God. He touches the topmost point of dignity—when delivered from all corruption—for then he rises to the state of his original nature—made "in the image of God." A creature can be glorious—only as he is pure; and happy—only as he is devoted to the service of God.
And thus will it be with the redeemed in heaven. It will not be the robe of light, though it be brighter than the sun; not the palm and the harp that shall inspire them with joy, and render them glorious—though the one shall have grown on the trees of Paradise, and the other been strung by seraphic hands. No! it will be "seeing Christ" without an intervening cloud, and being conscious that the heart is now and forever undivided in His service—that every power and faculty of soul and body are employed in His business, and will be so throughout eternity; and that "reflecting, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, we shall (in a far higher sense than we can yet comprehend) be changed into the same image from glory to glory."
O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need—I fly to You for support. Look upon me, O Lord, with the eyes of Your mercy; give me comfort and sure confidence in You; defend me from the danger of the enemy, and keep me in perpetual peace and safety. Grant that the sense of my present weakness may add strength to my faith, and seriousness to my repentance; that if it shall be Your good pleasure to restore me to my former health, I may lead the remainder of my life in Your fear and to Your glory—or else give me grace so to take Your visitation, that, after this painful life ended, I may dwell with You in life everlasting.
Be pleased, O Lord, to give me a right discerning of the things belonging to my peace. May I share in the joy which the Savior promised as the portion of His disciples—the joy which no man can take from me. O let not pain, or distress, or trial of any kind—sink me into despondency, or render me impatient or fretful! But may I have grace to improve every visitation, so that I may be brought nearer to You, and be more conformed to the image of my blessed Redeemer. Give me to feel that there can be no greater comfort than to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently—adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. Help me ever to bear in mind that my Savior Himself first suffered pain, before joy; that He entered not into His glory, before He was crucified. May I be brought to know that my way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ, and my door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ; that I may rise again from death, and dwell with Him in everlasting life!
O gracious and merciful God, wash and cleanse my soul with the blood of Your Son, and the graces of Your Spirit—that it may be delivered from all the defilements which it has contracted in this present evil world, and be found safe and happy in the hour of death, and in the great day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fit me, O Lord, for living or dying, that it may be unto me Christ to live, and gain to die; and that in all things I may find cause to glorify Your name. If You shall be pleased to release me from my present distress, and to add to me a yet further term of life, oh, that I may live to You, to do You better service, and bring You greater glory! Or if You have determined that this sickness shall be unto death—prepare me, O merciful God, by Your grace—for Your blessed self; and grant me a safe and peaceful passage out of this mortal life to a heavenly and immortal eternity. Carry me safely through the valley of the shadow of death, and let me find a joyful admission into the everlasting kingdom of my Lord.
Let me be Yours in life and death, and for evermore—through the all-sufficient merits and mediation of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, our most prevailing Advocate and Redeemer. Amen.
"I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in!"—Philippians 4:11
How few among us have made this advancement in piety! How ready are we, when anything thwarts our inclinations, disarranges our plans, or hinders our interests—to fret and murmur—to sit down in gloomy despondency, and say with the patriarch, "All these things are against me!" The reason is, because we have not, like the apostle, been "learning." Contentment is not acquired all at once. It is only by a gradual process, that this spirit is fostered in us—only by striving to bear patiently the lesser ills of life—the daily crosses and vexations which come upon us—that we can acquire the power of bearing up, without complaint, under the more trying and oppressive sorrows which, in the providence of God, fall to our lot in life.
Nor is it by trusting to our own strength, that we can attain this happy frame of mind. God gives grace to those who improve what they have already received. The oftener He sees His child putting forth the strength already imparted—the more willing is He to renew that strength. It was so with the apostle. How varied had been his experience! And how strenuously did he seek, under every change of circumstance—to improve and manifest the grace of God which had been given him! Think of what he had to undergo while "learning" the lesson of contentment! In his journeyings and perils—his imprisonments and shipwrecks—his weariness and painfulness—his watchings, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, and nakedness—he must have endured many severe and painful privations. But all the while he was "learning," and all the while realizing more fully that the grace of God was sufficient to enable him to undergo the countless trials which had been allotted. By degrees he had been instructed not to murmur at the allotments of Divine Providence—not to be envious at the prosperity of others—and not to repine when his comforts were removed.
"I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in!" And this, Christian, was no easy lesson! To be able to use the language of Paul, marks a great advancement in the divine life. It is often a trying thing to see the wicked prospering—free from trouble and anxiety, unvisited by misfortune or calamity—and yet, amid our suffering, and sickness, and distress—to cherish a contented spirit—to continue patient and trustful and uncomplaining. Not infrequently, alas, the language of the heart is similar to that of David, "Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth. Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing? For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning!"
Reader, it is the triumph of true religion that it can stand such a shock—that it can so fill the heart with peace, so animate it with hope, and so establish its faith and trust in God—that trials, reverses, sicknesses, and sorrows—only attract the believer nearer to the bosom of his God. And, in truth, it is not strange that they should do so. If I find that my God has comforted me under a small trial—shall I not repair to Him under a heavier one? If He has spoken to me in accents of intenser love while suffering was pressing upon me than at other times—shall I not instantly flee to Him when my troubles return? And if His grace has brought me forth out of one affliction, wiser, better, more earnest, self-denying, humble, and resigned—oh, to whom should I rush with greater eagerness and urgency, when the flood of sorrow is overwhelming me, than to Him who, having "given His own dear Son for me, shall with Him also freely give me all things" needful for my present emergency?
Besides, dear reader, never forget the necessity of trial. Assuredly God does not send trouble or sickness or poverty—merely to fret and annoy His children—to render them unhappy and discontented. No! but forasmuch as our natures are sinful, and must be sanctified—forasmuch as we are willful, and must be brought to obedience—forasmuch as evil must be removed before we can enter the kingdom of heaven—God tries His children, not by a steady course of prosperity, nor by a long-continued and uniform adversity—but by transition from the one to the other. He knows that the grace which might be sufficient for the day of sunshine—will not bear us up amid darkness and tempest. He knows that the virtues which appear in the Christian when all is serene and tranquil—might be crushed and deadened amid reverses and disappointments.
And as it is His purpose to strengthen the Christian character—to develop it more and more, until it is fitted for His own immediate presence—He makes the believer's path one of varied experiences of joy—and sorrow; of health—and sickness; of prosperity—and adversity. But then, new grace is imparted for every new form of trial; and new traits of godly character come into view in these rapid transitions of life. For as the gold or the diamond, unsubjected to the fiery crucible, might have continued to shine with steady beauty and brilliancy—but not with the peculiar beauty effected by the refiner; so, in Christian life, many a beautiful trait of character would have remained undiscovered, throughout unbroken prosperity or long-continued adversity. There might have been always the reality of religion—but not that peculiar manifestation which is produced in the transition from the one to the other. If never tried by sickness and suffering—then never would the Christian learn to say with the apostle, "I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content." And he would therefore fail to produce one of the most precious fruits of religion in the soul—the conviction that God is right in all His ways!
Consider, too, that many of our afflictions are of our own making. We have brought them on ourselves. They are the fruit of our own doings—perhaps of our pride and selfishness, our worldliness, and waywardness, and folly. Why, then, be impatient and discontented under those evils which we ourselves have made? Why murmur and repine—because these trees have borne their natural fruit?
Or, it may be, these apparent evils are beyond our control. We have no power to prevent them. Some, indeed, arise out of the very condition of our nature. And can we reasonably expect that the very nature of things should be altered—so as to secure our ease and comfort?
Reflect, too, that the worst we have to suffer, is far less than we deserve—and less than in justice we could expect. Christian, when you remember for how many years you lived in forgetfulness of God, and yet during the whole of that period were nurtured by His parental care!—when you consider for how long a time you continued in carelessness and indifference, and yet even then were sought and found by the influence of His Holy Spirit, and brought to the knowledge and love of Christ—when you reflect how God has watched over you since you have received the Savior into your heart—how He has preserved you from dangers, secured you in seasons of temptation, supported you in times of trial, nourished you in the days of sickness, comforted you in the hours of despondency—oh, surely you have reason to be content and thankful for the least mercy—and to be patient and submissive under the sorest trial!
Besides, who is it that measures out the changes in your earthly lot? No cross or trial comes to you—but from your heavenly Father's hand—to whom you owe submission and obedience. He has appointed your present lot, and every ingredient in your bitter cup is mingled by His own hand. In whatever state you now are, it is by His guidance that you have been led into it. And did you not promise to trust Him? Go back to the first Ebenezer you erected, when He helped you—when by His Holy Spirit you were enabled to say, "My Lord and my God!" See the inscription—"Lord, I am Yours, to do with me as You desire. Lord, keep me, for I trust in You."
And now, because He has led you for a while in a thorny path—because some of your hopes have been blasted—because everything is not ordered according to your wishes—are you to give way to murmuring and discontent? Are you wiser than your heavenly Guide? Would He lay upon you an unnecessary burden? It may be a heavy one—long and painful sickness—days and nights of weariness and anguish. What then? All was "needed." You are pained, yes—but look not at what you are suffering—but at what you have deserved to suffer. "Why should a living man complain?" Have you received no proofs of God's tender mercy? God always, to His own children, sends His staff—with His rod; His grace—with His affliction; and if you have not realized that support in the time of greatest extremity, it is not because it is lacking to you—but because you have not laid hold upon it, and utilized it.
And yet again, Christian, has not God given the greatest pledge of His love and goodness that the most doubting and craving heart could desire—even His beloved Son, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin—and "how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" His own dear Son was given to the death for us. Can we then for a moment doubt that He will order all things for our real good? And when we think of the Savior's sufferings for our sakes—how patiently, how uncomplainingly, He bore His unparalleled sorrows—oh, surely we ought to strive to imitate His example! Surely we have reason to be contented to be conformed and subject to the will of the Captain of our salvation! As He was made perfect through suffering, so must we, that if we suffer with Him, we may be glorified with Him. If, then, a murmuring word or repining thought should arise in our minds, let us look by faith upon our dying Savior, and ask our own hearts, "Was not His cup more painful than mine?" And let the remembrance of His sufferings cause us to "count it all joy" to have an opportunity of honoring God by our patience and contentment with whatever is meted out for us.
Let us also strive to be contented with our earthly condition, when we consider that, if changes and vicissitudes do come upon us, if they are as necessary as the most valued of our blessings; that God has also furnished daily helps—that we may bear them patiently and contentedly. He has given us divine and heavenly consolations in His blessed Word. He has promised the assurance of His love and goodness, and the light of His countenance, to carry us with comfort and dependence upon Him, amid them all. He has set before us bright examples of patience in various trying conditions of life—where we can trace the design and meaning of the visitation—its blessed results in drawing the believer closer to his God—and its final outcome in filling the soul with a perfect and unbroken peace.
And, above all, contentment ought to mark the Christian when he looks to the future. He is told that this world is not his home—but his place of trial and preparation for a better state. This world is but his pilgrimage state—his journey, and such a journey as must be accompanied with many vicissitudes—a place of warfare—a stormy sea, through which he must pass before he can reach the haven of rest. His country, his home, his place of rest and happiness—lies beyond death's rising flood, where there shall be no trouble, nor fears, nor dangers—but eternal and unchangeable comfort—fullness of pure and uninterrupted pleasures—and that for evermore!
What, then, though troubles rise around on every side; child of God, pray for grace to be able to say, "In whatever state I here am, may I be content." You have heaven and everlasting joy in reserve for you—and these light afflictions are only for a season. Then all shall be well—no more disappointments and sorrows, no more dark and stormy days—but the unclouded vision—the enjoyment of the presence of your God—a joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Allow God to deal with you as He thinks best; and though He causes grief—yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Submit yourself willingly to the sovereign hand of your heavenly Father—to assign you prosperity—or to visit with adversity; to bestow health—or to send sickness; and then, although sudden passions of impatience and discontent may sometimes, like clouds, arise and trouble you for a while—yet this faith in God, and this hope of future blessedness, rooted in the heart, will, like the sun in yonder heavens, scatter and dispel them all, and cause the mild light of patience and contentment to shine through.
Trust Him for the future—as you have proved His faithfulness in the past. Be assured, in regard to everything that may yet happen you—that all is wisely ordered! You know not, indeed, what the future may bring for you; but be assured that, though the furnace of trial is needed—it cannot sever you from Christ your Savior; it cannot change your Father's love; it cannot weary out His care. Believe that, in the unknown and uncertain future, there shall not be one storm without His bidding—one pang without His presence; and stay your mind on the assurance that "all things shall work together for good—to those who love God."
Heavenly Father, God of consolation, who knows our frame, and how little we can endure, even though we deserve so much chastisement—be pleased to remember me in mercy! O, either lighten my sufferings—or increase my spiritual strength! And if You do not see fit entirely to remove my burden, oh, enable me to bear what You are pleased to lay upon me. Preserve me from all murmuring. Give me, O Lord, the grace of contentment—and let no repining thoughts take possession of my soul.
Although You have made me acquainted with grief, and my sickness has become my inseparable companion—yet, O blessed Lord, grant that I may not think it long to wait Your time—when You are pleased to wait so long for the return of sinners, and are ever piteous and of tender mercy! Oh, make me so sensible of Your kindness and love, that I may be not only contented—but thankful under Your hand!
Teach me, O gracious Father, to see Your love, as well as your justice, in all Your dealings—that I may humble myself under Your mighty hand, and confess that it is good for me to be afflicted.
Give me grace, O Lord, patiently to wait for You—in an assured expectation that I shall one day see cause to number my afflictions, as among my richest mercies. Teach and help me to glorify You in the time of my visitation—to honor You by a humble submission to Your will—a patient bearing of Your rod—and a faithful reformation of my heart and life—so that You may return to me with the visitations of Your love, and show me the joy of Your salvation, for Your mercy's sake in Christ Jesus. Amen.