By J.R. Miller
"You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore!"
It is a wonderfully sweet song that sings all through this Psalm. It begins with fleeing to God for refuge, and ends with standing at God's right hand in glory at last! One strain of this song is enough for our present meditation. "You will show me the path of life."
The word is singular--"me". Does the great God actually give thought to an individual life! We may believe that He directs the career of certain great men, whose lives are very important in the world; but does He show His common people the way? He feeds the sparrows. He clothes the lilies. He calls the stars by their names. Then the Bible is full of illustrations of God's interest in individuals. The Shepherd Psalm has it: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." "He leads me . . ." Then we have it here. "You will show me the path."
The first thing, if we would have divine guidance, is to realize our need of it. Some people do not. They think they can find the way themselves. They never pray, "Show me the way!"
Here is an experience from Switzerland: Two men, one a military officer from Zurich, undertook the ascent of one of the Alps. They started off without guides, ropes, or any other appliances for safety. Their conduct attracted attention, as they were foolhardy, and the progress of the tourists was watched by many at the hotel, through binoculars. Soon they were seen to be in trouble, wandering aimlessly over the ice. In a little while one of the men disappeared, and not long afterwards the other one was lost to sight. A search party went out and it was discovered that the first man had suddenly fallen into a crevice, hundreds of feet deep. A guide was lowered and brought up his dead body. The other had a severe fall--but, more fortunate than his companion, he fell into the snow and was able to crawl out and make his way to the hospice, where he was found in an unconscious state.
It is foolhardy to try to climb the Alps without a guide. It is far more perilous to try to go through this world without a guide. Many people do. Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him--but there was one who would not follow, and he perished, "the son of perdition". He "went to his own place." If we would find the way--we must be conscious of our need of guidance and must walk obediently in the path the Guide marks out for us.
If we would have God show us the path--we must accept His guidance and trust it Sometimes we grow impatient of God's leading because He seems to take us only along mundane ways and gives us only commonplace things to do. We think we could do more good and make more of our life--if we could get out into a wider sphere and have grander things to do. Some people even chafe and fret, and spoil the lowly work that is given them to do, in their discontent with it, and their desire for some larger place and some more conspicuous work. The youth of Jesus teaches us that the truest and divinest life is the one that in its place, high or low--does best the will of God.
The life of the carpenter's apprentice--is as holy as the ministry of a radiant angel close to God's throne. God's will for us is always sacred. When we say, "You will show me the path of life," we are not to expect that God will show us some other place to live and work--than that in which we are now living and working. Most likely He will leave us just where we are, only calling us to do our work better than ever before, to do it in a new way, with a new spirit, with a new warmth of heart.
The work of the present--is always the duty to which God calls us. The way to be ready for the call to a wider field and to a more important work--is to more than fill the place in which we are now serving, and to do our present duty a little better than we are required to do it. After eighteen years of work in His lowly place as carpenter's apprentice and carpenter, Jesus was led away to the wider field and the greater work. When we have done all the will of God where we are now--He will show us the path to something higher.
Again, the path which will be shown to us--may not always be an easy one. It is the path of life--but the way of life ofttimes leads through pain. The baby begins its life in a cry, and in some form or other we suffer unto the end. The old belief was that all pain was because of a person's particular sin. If a man suffered greatly, his neighbor thought he must be a wicked man. There is some trouble which is the fruit of sin. We cannot do wrong--and escape suffering. The suffering is the revolt of your soul against the wrongdoing. It is the mercy of God trying to save you. But there is another kind of suffering, which tells of spiritual growth. The best things in Christian character, grow out of pain and affliction.
Sometimes there is inscrutable mystery in the trial through which good people are led. A few years ago a happy young couple came from the marriage altar. They were full of hope and joy. Their home was bright with love. A year later a baby came. It was welcomed by the young parents with great gladness. They gave the little one to God. From the beginning, however, the child was a sufferer. All its short years it has been sick. The young parents have done all that self-sacrificing love could do, all that money could do, in the hope that the little one would recover. The best physicians have been consulted and have exhausted their skill in vain efforts to cure the child. But at three and a half years, when other children are so bright, so beautiful, such centers of gladness and happiness in their homes--this little one is like a baby still in her helplessness, not seeing the faces that bend over her in passionate love, not responding to the caresses and tendernesses which are lavished upon her. The child was taken recently to one of the best physicians in the land. After careful examination, the doctor's decision was that the case was absolutely hopeless. Until that moment, the mother had still hoped that her child might some time be cured. Now she understood that however long the little one may stay with her--she will never be any better.
"What shall I do?" was the mother's question the other evening when her pastor listened to the story of the visit to the great doctor. "What can we do? What ought we to do?" she asked. What comfort can the minister give to such mothers and fathers as these?
Yes, it is hard to look upon the child's condition, so pathetic, so pitiful, and to remember the great doctor's words: "Absolutely hopeless. She never will be any better." Is there any comfort! Can this mother say, "You will show me the path of life"? Is this experience of suffering, part of that path? Does God know about the long struggle? Has He heard the countless prayers that have gone up from this home for the baby's recovery? Does He know what the doctor said the other day? Yes, He knows all. Has He, then, no power to do anything? Yes, He has all power. Why, then, has He not cured this child? Why does He allow the agony to continue in the heart of the mother?
We may not try to answer. We do not know God's reasons. Yet this we know--It is all right! God is love--God is never unkind. What good can possibly come from this child's condition and from its continuation year after year? We do not know. But God knows.
Perhaps it is for the sake of the mother and father, who are being led through these years of anguish, disappointment, and bitter sorrow, and will be cleansed and transfigured. Many people are sufferers--for others' sakes. At least we know that these young parents are receiving a wonderful training in unselfishness, in gentleness, in patience, in trust. Perhaps all this sore experience in their child is to make them holier. The disciples asked the Master whose sin it was--the blind man's or his parents', that he was born blind. Neither! "No one's sin," Jesus replied, "but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." This blindness gave Jesus the opportunity to do a work of mercy. May it not be that this child's condition finds its justification in the ministry of love it has called out in the mother and the father? It has been a wonderful training and education for them. They are being prepared for a blessed service to other suffering ones. Perhaps in the next life, they will learn that they owe to their feeble, blind child's long and painful suffering much of what they shall then wear of the beauty of the likeness of Christ.
In one of the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are certain rooms devoted to the spinning of the finest and most delicate lace patterns. These rooms are altogether dark,except for the light from one very small window, which falls directly upon the pattern. There is only one spinner in the room, and he sits where the narrow stream of light falls upon the threads that he is weaving. "Thus," we are told by our guide, "do we secure our choicest products. Lace is always more delicately and beautifully woven when the worker himself is in the dark and only his pattern is in the light."
May it not be the same with us in our weaving? Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if only we are faithful, fail not, and faint not--we shall some day know that the most exquisite work of our life was done in those very days. If you are in darkness because of some strange, mysterious providence, let nothing make you afraid. Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting, not even asking why, bearing your pain and learning to sing while you suffer. God is watching--and He will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears!
Notice, again, that it is "the path of life" which God will show us. He never shows us any other path. God's paths are all right paths, paths of holiness. If you are prompted to go in some evil way--you may be sure it is not God that is leading. He leads you as far as He can--away from the evil. He leads in the path of life. It may be steep and rough--but the end will be so blessed, so glorious, that in its joy--you will forget the briars and thorns on the way!
"You will show me the path of life." There are days when you do not know what to do. You have perplexities, doubts, uncertainties. You lie awake half the night wondering what you ought to do. Something has gone wrong in your affairs, in your relations with a friend, in your home life. Or one near to you is suffering and you need help--but do not know what to do. Your days are full of questions. Do you know that there is One who is infinitely wise, never makes a mistake, nor misleads anyone, who wants to show you the way, no matter what the experience is? Instead of vexing yourself, just go to Him and say, "Show me the path!" and He will.
There is something else. It is told of Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, that he was one night going to prayer in a distant church, barefoot, over the snow and ice, and his servant, Podavivus, following him, imitating his master's devotion, waxed numb and faint. "Follow me," said the king, "and set your feet in the prints of mine." The master's words encouraged the servant and he followed on.
That is what our Master says when we grow weary in the hard way, when the thorns pierce our feet, or when the path grows rough or steep. "Follow me. Put your feet into my shoe-prints. It is but a little way home!"
"You will show me the path of life." There is a path on which our Master wants us to walk. He has it all down among His purposes--where He wants us to go, what He wants us to do, the people He wants us to help. The path leads at last to the door of the Father's house! Would it not be a sad thing if you should miss the way? Well, you will surely miss it and get lost in the dreadful tangles unless you ask Christ to show you the path. Like a little child, look up into the face of the Master and say, "Show me the path of life!" and He will.