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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life

By J.R. Miller

      The problem of Christian living--is not to miss the struggle, suffering, or hardship--but to pass through life without being hurt by any of its experiences. One of the requirements of pure religion is "to keep one's self unspotted from the world." This does not mean that we are to keep ourselves out of the world's life, to flee away and hide in refuges and retreats, where the evil of the world will not touch us--but to stay where our duty is, to meet life as it comes to us, to face the battles with sin, the struggles and temptations which belong to our peculiar place--and yet not be hurt, not contract any stain, not carry away wounds and scars.

      In everything in life, Jesus Christ is our highest example. He solved this problem of living for us. He met hard and painful experiences--but never was harmed by any of them. He endured temptation, being tempted in all points like as we are--yet always without sin. He passed through the sorest testings that anyone ever endured--but kept himself unspotted.

      Without cause, men hated him, conspired against him, persecuted him, sought to kill him. The natural effect upon any man of such enmity, hatred, bitterness, and injustice--is to make him grow suspicious, cynical, cold, resentful, revengeful. But Jesus was not affected in this way. He was beyond all such effects. He could not be insulted--his nobility of character lifted him above the possibility of this. He was pained, but not harmed, by men's cruel words. He never became suspicious. His love never grew less gentle, less magnanimous, less kindly. Through all his years of opposition, hatred, plotting, treachery, and wrong--he came with an unspotted heart. He passed on to the end, unharmed in his own life. He was as patient, gentle, loving, and childlike the day he went to his cross, as he was the day the Spirit descended upon him like a dove.

      The little spring by the seaside pours out its sweet waters through the salt sands. The tides roll over it and their brackish floods bury it for hours. But again it appears, and its waters are as sweet and pure as ever. So it was with the heart of Jesus Christ. The world's enmity left no embittering in him. He loved amen at the last--as he had never loved them before.

      This is the problem for every Christian life. It is possible to pass through this world's sorest temptations, and not to be injured by them. It is possible for us, however, to be hurt, most sorely hurt, by such experiences. Sin always works injury. It is something one never altogether gets over. It may be forgiven. God loves to forgive unto the uttermost--but its marks and scars remain. When the bloom of the fruit has been touched, it never can be restored; when the rose has been crushed, it never can be made lovely again. So sin's hurt is irremediable. The secret we must learn--is to pass through life with garments unsoiled.

      There are special ways in which we may be harmed by the experiences of life. Nothing is more common than sorrow. Into every life it comes at one time or another. It comes sometimes as bereavement, taking away one who is dear, whose continued existence seems necessary to our happiness. Again it comes as a grief that hangs no death-crape on the door, wears no mourning clothes, and does not break into the outward appearance--but which stays as a secret sorrow, without human sympathy or comfort. We usually suppose that sorrow brings always a blessing, that it always helps those who endure it, enriching the life, sweetening it, making it more beautiful. But this is not in every case true. Sorrow often harms people's lives. It does not always sweeten--sometimes it sours the spirit. It does not always soften--sometimes it hardens the heart. It does not always give peace and calmness--sometimes it makes one irritable, fretful, selfish, exacting. When we pass through sorrow, we need to be exceedingly careful lest we shall be hurt by it. We need the great Physician then--he alone can heal wounded hearts so as to leave no scar.

      There is a story of an Indian child who one day brought in a hurt bird from the field. The old chief asked the child where she had found the bird. "Among the wheat," was the answer. "Take it back," he said, "and lay it down just where you found it. If you keep it, it will die--but if you give it back to God, he can make it well again." It is with hurt hearts--as it is with hurt birds. They belong to God, and only he can heal them. Human hands are clumsy and unskillful in comforting. If you have sorrow--let God be your heart's healer. No human hands can help, save those that God has trained into something of his own gentleness. When God comforts, there are no hurts remaining in the life--he is so gentle, so skillful.

      Another common experience in life is the wounding of love. Somebody does you a wrong, speaks unkindly of you, injures you in some way. It is natural for you to be angry, to say bitter words in return, to cherish resentful and unforgiving feelings against the person. You are in danger now of being hurt by the experience. The only safety in such a case lies in love--keeping love in your heart. Love says, "Forgive." Nothing else can save your life from being seriously hurt. If you grow resentful and bitter, and refuse to forgive, you have inflicted upon yourself an injury which never can be undone.

      The truth is, that no one in the universe can really do actual harm to you--but yourself. Others may treat you unjustly. They may take your hard-earned money from you and refuse to return it; they may borrow and not repay. They may wrong you in some grievous way. They may falsely accuse you, and thus dim the whiteness of your name. They may injure you in your body, break your bones, kill you--but in none of these wrongs or injuries, can they really touch you, yourself--the being that lives within you.

      Paul speaks of the outward man suffering decay, while the inward man is renewed day by day. Enemies may tear your flesh in pieces--but they cannot harm you. You will emerge with a broken and torn body--but with the spirit of a little child, if you have kept yourself in love, in peace, in purity, through all the hard experiences.

      But if in responding wrong, you have let yourself grow bitter, if you have become angry, if you have allowed vindictiveness to enter your heart, if you have refused to forgive--do you not see that you have hurt yourself, and have done grievous and irreparable harm to your own life?

      A man told the story of a great wrong which had been done to him by another, a wrong involving base treachery. It had been years before--but it was known that his noble life had been nobler ever since the wrong had been done, that he had been sweeter in spirit, that he had been richer in helpfulness and service, and that he had been in every way a better man, a greater blessing to others. When asked how it came that that great tragedy had not hurt his life, had not made him bitter--he said that he had kept love in his heart through it all. That was the secret, and that is the only secret of coming through life's wrongs, injustices, cruelties, and keeping one's self unspotted from the world, unhurt by its lack of love, by its cruelty.

      One wrote to a friend, telling how hard she had found it not to grow bitter toward a person who for years had made life very hard for her father. There is much injustice in the world. It is easy to grow bitter; yes--but think of the hurt the bitterness would bring upon your own life. Yet if you patiently endure the wrong and keep yourself unspotted, your heart unhardened, the experience has not made your life less beautiful. Get the blessing that is promised in the Beatitude, for those who are persecuted.

      Another of these perils in life comes from care. Perhaps no other mood is more common, than worrying. Nearly everybody worries. A score of reasons against anxiety could be given--but one of the most serious of all--is the harm it does the life. It hurts it deeply and irreparably. It writes fear and fret on the face, and blots out the freshness and the beauty. Worry makes you old before your time. It takes the zest out of your life. It quenches your joy. It makes all the world less bright for you. It destroys faith in God and robs you of the sweetness of your trust. It withers, wrinkles, and blotches your soul. You do not know how seriously and ruinously you are hurting your life, spoiling it, wasting its substance, destroying it--if you are letting worry into your heart and allowing it to do its harmful work in your life.

      "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to keep one's self unspotted from the world." That is the problem of Christian life--whatever the life may have of hardness, of wrong, of injustice, of struggle, of sorrow--to keep the heart pure and sweet, at peace, filled with love through it all.

      The lesson is hard, you say. Yes--but not half so hard in the end, as to have your life scarred, bruised, blotted, its possibilities of love atrophied, its gentleness petrified. There are people no more than middle-aged, who are incapable of any sweet joy, incapable of loving deeply, richly, ardently, incapable of enthusiasm in living and doing good, because they have become a prey to worry, or have let themselves be hardened by bitter feelings.

      Life is too sacred, too holy, with too many possibilities of beauty and happiness, to be so mistreated, so perverted, so irremediably injured. How, then, can we keep our hearts unspotted from the evil of the world? The lesson is particularly for the young. Perhaps the old never can now learn it well--it is too late--but the young can do it, if they begin now, living with Christ, in his love, in his joy, in his companionship, in his obedience. God can keep your life hidden in the secret of his presence.

      Scientists tell us of the charmed life of frail things. The tiny flower that grows on the mountain crag is safer than the mountain itself. It bends and yields and remains unbroken, unbruised, in the wildest storms. Its frailness--is its strength and its security. How frail our lives are, in comparison with the great mountains and the mighty rocks! Yet we have a charmed existence. Our very weakness is our safety.

      The superintendent of a hospital in Mexico, a hospital chiefly for workers on a new railroad, writes of her amazement over the way some people are brought in hurt from accidents, with scarcely a trace of life remaining, and yet how life persists in them. She tells of one man with both arms torn away at the shoulders, of both legs broken in two or three places, head cut and torn, body bruised--yet living and recovering. How frail we are--and yet what persistent life we have!

      God loves us and will shelter us from harm and will keep us from being destroyed, if only we will let our lives he in his hands, trusting and obeying him. "We prevail by yielding, we succumb to conquer, like those sea flowers which continue to bloom amid the surf, where the rocks crumble." We have seen flowers growing sweet and fresh in the early spring days under the great snowdrifts. So God hides and protects the gentle lives of those who trust in him, in the very snow banks of trouble and trial which surround them. The least and feeblest of us can keep ourselves unspotted in the sorest perils--if we hide away under the shelter of the divine love.

      One secret of coming through suffering and struggle unharmed, is to learn that we must endure for the sake of others. It helps us to be strong--when we know that others will be affected by our victory or defeat; helped when we endure nobly, harmed if we prove unfaithful. It makes us strong to be true and pure and noble and worthy--when we know others will be influenced by the way we stand the test. We dare not fail--when others are depending on us.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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