TO BEAR SORROW.
the savings of your life have suddenly disappeared. Instead of helping others,
you must be helped; or you must leave the warm nest where you have been
sheltered from life's storms to go alone into an unfriendly world; or you are
suddenly called to assume the burden of some other life, taking no rest for
yourself till you have steered it through dark and difficult seas into the
haven. Your health, or sight, or nervous energy is failing; you carry in
yourself the sentence of death; and the anguish of anticipating the future is
almost unbearable. In other cases there is the sense of recent loss through
death, like the gap in the forest glade, where the woodsman has lately been
such times life seems almost unsupportable. Will every day be as long as this?
Will the slow moving hours ever again quicken their pace? Will life ever array
itself in another garb than the torn autumn remnants of past summer glory? Hath
God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Is
His mercy clean gone forever?
road has been trodden by myriads. When you think of the desolating wars which
have swept through every country and devastated every land; of the expeditions
of the Nimrods, the Nebuchadnezzars, the Timours, the Napoleons of history; of
the merciless slave trade, which has never ceased to decimate Africa; and of all
the tyranny, the oppression, the wrong which the weak and defenceless have
suffered at the hands of their fellows; of the unutterable sorrows of women and
children surely you must see that by far the larger number of our race have
passed through the same bitter griefs as those which rend your heart.
Christ Himself trod this difficult path, leaving traces of His blood on its
flints; and apostles, prophets, confessors, and martyrs have passed by the same
way. It is comforting to know that others have traversed the same dark valley,
and that the great multitudes which stand before the Lamb, wearing palms of
victory, came out of great tribulation. Where they were we are; and, by God's
grace, where they are we shall be.
not talk about punishment. You may talk of chastisement or correction, for
our Father deals with us as with sons; or you may speak of reaping the results
of mistakes and sins dropped as seeds into life's furrows in former years; or
you may have to bear the consequences of the sins and mistakes of others; but do
not speak of punishment. Surely all the guilt and penalty of sin were laid on
Jesus, and He put them away forever. His were the stripes and the chastisement
of our peace. If God punishes us for our sins, it would seem that the sufferings
of Christ were incomplete; and if He once began to punish us, life would be too
short for the infliction of all that we deserve. Besides, how could we explain
the anomalies of life, and the heavy sufferings of the saints as compared with
the gay life of the ungodly? Surely, if our sufferings were penal, there would
be a reversal of these lots.
is a refiner's crucible. It may be caused by the neglect or cruelty of
another, by circumstances over which the sufferer has no control, or as the
direct result of some dark hour in the long past; but inasmuch as God has
permitted it to come, it must be accepted as His appointment, and considered as
the furnace by which He is searching, testing, probing, and purifying the soul.
Suffering searches us as fire does metals. We think we are fully for God, until
we are exposed to the cleansing fire of pain. Then we discover, as job did, how
much dross there is in us, and how little real patience, resignation, and faith.
Nothing so detaches us from the things of this world, the life of sense, the
birdlime of earthly affections. There is probably no other way by which the
power of the self life can be arrested, that the life of Jesus may be manifested
in our mortal flesh.
God always keeps the discipline of sorrow in His own hands. Our Lord said,
"My Father is the husbandman." His hand holds the pruning knife. His
eye watches the crucible. His gentle touch is on the pulse while the operation
is in progress. He will not allow even the devil to have his own way with us. As
in the case of Job, so always. The moments are carefully allotted. The severity
of the test is exactly determined by the reserves of grace and strength which
are lying unrecognised within, but will be sought for and used beneath the
severe pressure of pain. He holds the winds in His fist, and the waters in the
hollow of His hand. He dare not risk the loss of that which has cost Him the
blood of His son. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tried
above that you are able."
sorrow the comforter is near. "Very present in time of trouble."
He sits by the crucible, as a Refiner of silver, regulating the heat, marking
every change, waiting patiently for the scum to float away, and His own face to
be mirrored in clear, translucent metal. No earthly friend may tread the
winepress with you, but the Saviour is there, His garments stained with the
blood of the grapes of your sorrow. Dare to repeat it often, though you do not
feel it, and though Satan insists that God has left you, "Thou art with
me." Mention His name again and again, "Jesus, JESUS, Thou art with
me." So you will become conscious that He is there.
friends come to console you they talk of time's healing touch, as though the
best balm for sorrow were to forget; or in their well meant kindness they
suggest travel, diversion, amusement, and show their inability to appreciate the
black night that hangs over your soul. So you turn from them sick at heart, and
prepared to say, as Job of his, "Miserable comforters are ye all." But
all the while Jesus is nearer than they are, understanding how they wear you,
knowing each throb of pain, touched by fellow feeling, silent in a love too full
to speak, waiting to comfort from hour to hour as a mother her weary, and
sure to study the art of this Divine comfort, that you may be able to comfort
them that are in any affliction with the comfort with which you yourself have
been comforted of God (2 Cor. 1: 4). There can be no doubt that some trials are
permitted to come to us, as to our Lord, for no other reason than that by means
of them we should become able to give sympathy and succour to others. And we
should watch with all care each symptom of the pain, and each prescription of
the Great Physician, since in all probability at some future time we shall be
called to minister to those passing through similar experiences. Thus we learn
by the things which we suffer, and, being made perfect, become authors of
priceless and eternal help to souls in agony.
not shut yourself up with your sorrow. A friend, in the first anguish of
bereavement, wrote, saying that he must give up the Christian ministries in
which he had delighted; and I replied immediately, urging him not to do so,
because there is no solace for heart pain like ministry. The temptation of great
suffering is toward isolation, withdrawal from the life of men, sitting alone,
and keeping silence. Do not yield to it. Break through the icy chains of
reserve, if they have already gathered. Arise, anoint your head and wash your
face; go forth to your duty, with willing though chastened steps.
of every kind, in its activities or its introspection, is a hurtful thing, and
shuts out the help and love of God. Sorrow is apt to be selfish. The soul,
occupied with its own griefs, and refusing to be comforted, becomes presently a
Dead Sea, full of brine and salt, over which the birds do not fly, and beside
which no green thing grows. And thus we miss the very lesson that God would
teach us. His constant war is against the self life, and every pain He inflicts
is to lesson its hold upon us. But we may thwart His purpose and extract poison
from His gifts, as men get opium and alcohol from innocent plants.
Hindoo woman, the beautiful Eastern legend tells us, lost her only child. Wild
with grief, she implored a prophet to give back her little one to her love. He
looked at her for a long while tenderly, and said:
my daughter, bring me a handful of rice from a house into which Death has never
entered, and I will do as thou desirest."
woman at once began her search. She went from dwelling to dwelling, and had no
difficulty in obtaining what the prophet specified; but when they had granted
it, she inquired:
you all here around the hearth father, mother, children none missing?"
people invariably shook their heads, with sighs and looks of sadness. Far and
wide as she wandered, there was always some vacant seat by the hearth. And
gradually, as she passed on, the legend says, the waves of her grief subsided
before the spectacle of sorrow everywhere; and her heart, ceasing to be occupied
with its own selfish pang, flowing out in strong yearnings of sympathy with the
universal suffering, tears of anguish softened into tears of pity, passion
melted away in compassion, she forget herself in the general interest, and found
redemption in redeeming.
not chide yourself for feeling strongly. Tears are natural. Jesus wept. A
thunderstorm without rain is fraught with peril; the pattering raindrops cool
the air and relieve the overcharged atmosphere. The swollen brooks indicate that
the snows are melting on the hills and spring is near. "Daughters of
Jerusalem," said our Lord, "weep for yourselves and your
bear sorrow with dry eyes and stolid heart may befit a Stoic, but not a
Christian. We have no need to rebuke fond nature crying for its mate, its lost
joy, the touch of the vanished hand, the sound of the voice that is still,
provided only that the will is resigned. This is the one consideration for those
who suffer. Is the will right? If it isn't, God Himself cannot comfort. If it
is, then the path will inevitably lead from the valley of the shadow of death to
the banqueting table and the overflowing cup.
say: "I can not feel resigned. It is bad enough to have my grief to bear,
but I have this added trouble, that I can not feel resigned."
invariable reply is: "You probably never can feel resignation, but you can
Lord Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, has shown us how to suffer. He chose
His Father's will. Though Judas, prompted by Satan, was the instrument for
mixing the cup and placing it to the Saviour's lips, He looked right beyond him
to the Father, who permitted him to work his cruel way, and said: "The cup
that My Father giveth Me to drink, shall I not drink it?" And He said
repeatedly, "If this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will
be done." He gave up His own way and will, saying, "I will Thy will, 0
My Father. Thy will, and not Mine, be done."
all sufferers who read these lines go apart and dare to say the same words:
"Thy will, and not mine. Thy will be done in the earth of my life, as in
the heaven of Thy purpose. I choose Thy will." Say this thoughtfully and
deliberately, not because you can feel it, but because you will it; not because
the way of the cross is pleasant, but because it must be right. Say it
repeatedly, whenever the surge of pain sweeps through you, whenever the wound
begins to bleed afresh. "Not my will, but Thine be done." Dare to say
Yes to God. "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight."
so you will be led to feel that all is right and well. A great calm will settle
down on your heart, a peace that passeth understanding, a sense of rest, which
is not inconsistent with suffering, but walks in the midst of it as the three
young men in the fiery furnace, to whom the burning coals must have been like
the dewy grass of a forest glade.
doctor told us my little child was dying. I felt like a stone. But in a moment I
seemed to give up my hold on her. She appeared no longer mine, but God's."
sure to learn God's lessons. Each sorrow carries at its heart a germ of
holy truth, which if you get and sow in the soil of your heart will bear
harvests of fruit, as seed corns from mummy cases fruit in English soil. God has
a meaning in each blow of His chisel, each incision of His knife. He knows the
way that He takes. But His object is not always clear to us.
suffering and sorrow God touches the minor chords, develops the passive virtues,
and opens to view the treasures of darkness, the constellations of promise, the
rainbow of hope, the silver light of the covenant. What is character without
sympathy, submission, patience, trust, and hope that grips the unseen as an
anchor? But these graces are only possible through sorrow. Sorrow is a garden,
the trees of which are laden with the peaceable fruits of righteousness; do not
leave it without bringing them with you. Sorrow is a mine, the walls of which
glisten with precious stones; be sure and do not retrace your steps into
daylight without some specimens. Sorrow is a school. You are sent to sit on its
hard benches and learn from its black lettered pages lessons which will make you
wise forever; do not trifle away your chance of graduating there. Miss Havergal
used to talk of "turned lessons ! "
on the afterward. God will not always be causing grief. He traverses the dull
brown acres with His plough, seaming the yielding earth that He may be able to
cast in the precious grain. Believe that in days of sorrow He is sowing light
for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Look forward to the
reaping. Anticipate the joy which is set before you, and shall flood your heart
with minstrel notes when patience has had her perfect work.
will live to recognize the wisdom of God's choice for you. You will one day see
that the thing you wanted was only second best. You will be surprised to
remember that you once nearly broke your heart and spilt the wine of your life
for what would never have satisfied you if you had caught it, as the child the
butterfly or soap bubble. You will meet again your beloved. You will have again
your love. You will become possessed of a depth of character, a breadth of
sympathy, a fund of patience, an ability to understand and help others, which,
as you lay them at Christ's feet for Him to use, will make you glad that you
were afflicted. You will see God's plan and purpose; you will reap His harvest;
you will behold His face, and be satisfied. Each wound will have its pearl; each
carcass will contain a swarm of bees; each foe, like Midian to Gideon, will
yield its goodly spoil.
way of the cross, rightly borne, is the only way to the everlasting light. The
path that threads the Garden of Gethsemane, and climbs over the hill of Calvary,
alone conducts to the visions of the Easter morning and the glories of the
Ascension mount. If we will not drink of His cup, or be baptized with His
baptism, or fill up that which is behind of His sufferings, we cannot expect to
share in the joys of His espousals and the ecstasy of His triumph. But if these
conditions are fulfilled, we shall not miss one note in the everlasting song,
one element in the bliss that is possible to men.
that somehow suffering rightly borne enriches and helps mankind. The death of Hallam was the birthday of Tennyson's "In
Memoriam." The cloud of insanity that brooded over Cowper gave us the hymn,
"God moves in a mysterious way." Milton's blunders taught him to sing
of "Holy light, offspring of heaven's first born." Rist used to say,
"The cross has pressed many songs out of me." And it is probable that
none rightly suffer anywhere without contributing something to the alleviation
of human grief, to the triumph of good over evil, of love over hate, and of
light over darkness.
you believe this, could you not bear to suffer? Is not the chief misery of all
suffering its loneliness, and perhaps its apparent aimlessness? Then dare to
believe that no man dieth to himself. Fall into the ground, bravely and
cheerfully, to die. If you refuse this, you will abide alone; but if you yield
to it, you will bear fruit which will sweeten the lot and strengthen the life of
others who perhaps will never know your name, or stop to thank you for your