It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to us, as a heavenly messenger, bringing us something from God. In its earthly aspect it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual out-working it yields blessing. Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world's greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world's greatest sorrow. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife is deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, "My Father is the husbandman."
Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result."
There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.
There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering.
--- Dr. Miller. "I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way; But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.
"I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne'er a word said she; But, oh, the things I learned from her When sorrow walked with me."
"Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40.)
Many and Martha could not understand what their Lord was doing. Both of them said to Him, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Back of it all, we seem to read their thought: "Lord, we do not understand why you have stayed away so long. We do not understand how you could let death come to the man whom you loved. We do not understand how you could let sorrow and suffering ravage our lives when your presence might have stayed it all. Why did you not come? It is too late now, for already he has been dead four days!"
And to it all Jesus had but one great truth: "You may not understand; but I tell you if you believe, you will see."
Abraham could not understand why God should ask the sacrifice of the boy; but he trusted. And he saw the glory of God in his restoration to his love. Moses could not understand why God should keep him forty years in the wilderness, but he trusted; and he saw when God called him to lead forth Israel from bondage.
Joseph could not understand the cruelty of his brethren, the false witness of a perfidious woman, and the long years of an unjust imprisonment; but he trusted, and he saw at last the glory of God in it all.
Jacob could not understand the strange providence which permitted the same Joseph to be torn from his father's love, but he saw the glory of God when he looked into the face of that same Joseph as the viceroy of a great king, and the preserver of his own life and the lives of a great nation.
And so, perhaps in your life. You say, "I do not understand why God let my dear one be taken. I do not understand why affliction has been permitted to smite me. I do not understand the devious paths by which the Lord is leading me. I do not understand why plans and purposes that seemed good to my eyes should be baffled. I do not understand why blessings I so much need are so long delayed.
Friend, you do not have to understand all God's ways with you. God does not expect you to understand them. You do not expect your child to understand, only believe. Some day you will see the glory of God in the things which you do not understand. --- J. H. McC.
"If we could push ajar the gates of life, And stand within, and all God's working see, We might interpret all this doubt and strife, And for each mystery could find a key.
"But not today. Then be content, poor heart; God's plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold. We must not tear the close-shut leaves apart- Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.
"And if, through patient toil, we reach the land Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest, When we shall clearly know and understand, I think that we shall say, ˉGod knew best.'"
"I count all thing but loose for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord." (Phil. 3:8.)
This is the happy season of ripening cornfields, of the merry song of the reapers, of the secured and garnered grain. But let me hearken to the sermon of the field. This is its solemn word to me. You must die in order to live. You must refuse to consult your own ease and well-being. You must be crucified, not only in desires and habits which are sinful, but in many more which appear innocent and right.
If you would save others, you cannot save yourself. If you would bear much fruit, you must be buried in darkness and solitude.
My heart fails me as I listen. But, when Jesus asks it, let me tell myself that it is my high dignity to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings; and thus I am in the best of company. And let me tell myself again that it is all meant to make me a vessel meet for His use. His own Calvary has blossomed into fertility; and so shall mine.
Plenty out of pain, life out of death: is it not the law of the Kingdom? --- In the Hour of Silence.
Do we call it dying when the bud bursts into flower? --- Selected
"And the Lord said?Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not." (Luke 22:31,32.)
Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack. Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal! --- C. H. Spurgeon.
Paul said, "I have kept the faith," but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn't touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things? this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had "fought a good fight," he had "finished his course," he had "kept the faith." What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven't his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.