By J.R. Miller
We ought to make our days symphonies. Someone says, "There is no day born but comes like a stroke of music into the world, and sings itself all the way through." That is God's thought for each one of our days. He would not have us mar the music by any discords of our own. He wants us to live sweetly all the day--without discontent, without insubmission, without complaining, without unlovingness or uncharitableness. Each one of us is playing in God's orchestra, or singing in God's choir, and we ought not to strike a wrong chord or sing a discordant note all the day. We need the divine blessing in the morning, to start the music in our hearts. It is always a pitiful mistake to begin any day without heaven's blessing.
The program for the day, should always open with a prayer. In one of the Hebrew Psalms, we have a suggestion of the way we should begin each morning. The first petition of this old liturgy is, "Cause me to hear your lovingkindness in the morning." This is a prayer that the first voice to break upon our ears at the opening of the day shall be the voice of God. It is also a request that the first voice we hear in the morning shall be a cheerful one--a voice of hope, of joy, of loving kindness.
It is sad when the first sounds a child hears when wakening in the morning--are sounds of anger, ill temper, blame, or complaining. A gentle-hearted mother takes pains, that her child never shall be frightened or shocked by harsh or bitter words. She seeks to keep the atmosphere of her home, her baby's growing place, sweet and genial. It is a great thing when the voice of God's loving kindness falls upon our ears the first of all voices when we wake. It makes us stronger for the day to have God's "Good morning" as our earliest greeting. It starts our thoughts in right channels to open our Bible and hear God's word of command and Christ's "Peace be unto you," before any news of the day, or any earthly calls or greetings, break upon our ears. If the first thoughts of the morning are cheerful, heartening, encouraging, then the day is brighter, sweeter, to its close.
It will be a great thing for us if we will take a new thought from God each morning, and let it be our guide, and inspire us for the day. We may be allowing our minds to run in unwholesome ways--ways of discontent, of envy, of baseness, or forgetfulness, of selfishness in some form or other. We may travel in these tracks persistently. If we are ever gong to reach a beautiful and joyous Christian life, we must have these thought tracks vacated, fenced across, abandoned. The way to do this is to listen to God's voice every morning, as we read his Word--and let it start our minds in new and better paths.
The next item in this program for a day is the seeking of divine guidance. "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk." We cannot find the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems a very short one--but, short as it is, it is tangled and obscure, and we cannot find it ourselves. An impenetrable mist covers the field of the sunniest day, as well as that of a moonless and starless night. When clouds are hanging over you, you ask guidance. You pray when you are in trouble--but in happy times and when all things are going well with you, it does not seem to you that you need help and guidance. Yet you really know no more of the way through the bright days--than through the dark nights. When one is walking in a forest and sees a little path turn away from the main road, he does not know where that path will take him if he follows it. Just so--we don't know what the plan we are considering, the business venture we are entering upon, the friendship we are just forming--will mean to us in the next ten, twenty, fifty years. We need divine guidance every inch of the way. Our steps, unguided, though now starting among flowers may lead us into bogs, thorns, and darkness. We need every morning to pray this prayer, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk."
Then, God will always find some way to direct us. He guides us by his Word. He guides us through our conscience. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." He guides us also through the counsel and influence of human friends. He guides us by his providence. Sometimes this guidance is very strange. One said the other day, in great distress, "A year ago I was in trouble, and I prayed to God most earnestly to help me. Instead of this, he has let the trouble grow worse through all the year." But God is not yet through answering this prayer. His guidance has not reached its conclusion. This deepening of the mystery, this increasing of the pain, this extending of the trouble--have you thought that that is part of God's way of answering your prayer and helping you?
If Joseph, the morning he left home to go to find his brothers, prayed, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk today," he would have wondered, on his way to Egypt as a captive, whether that was really the answer to his morning prayer. It certainly did not seem that it could be. He would probably have wondered why God had not heard his request. But as years went on, Joseph learned that there had been no mistake in that guidance. If he had escaped from the caravan on the way, he would only have spoiled one of God's thoughts of love for him. When we pray in the morning that God will show us the way--we may take the guidance with implicit confidence.
Another item in this program for a day, is defense, "Deliver me, O Jehovah, from my enemies; I flee to you to hide me." The day is full of dangers. We do not know it. We see no danger. We go out, not dreaming of any possible peril. All seems fair and safe--yet everywhere there are enemies and dangers. How can we be sure of protection? We can commit our lives into the care of God. We have no promise that prayer will remove the dangers out of the path--that is not the way God usually makes our days safe for us. Prayer brings divine blessing down into our lives, so that we shall not be hurt by enemies. The problem of Christian life--is not to get an easy way--but to pass over the hardest way, and through its worst perils, unhurt. To omit prayer, is to face the world's dangers unprotected. To pray is to commit ourselves to the keeping of Almighty God.
The next item of this program for a day--is the acceptance of God's plan for our life. "Teach me to do your will." No truth means more, if it is properly understood, than that God thought about us before we were born, and had a distinct divine purpose in our creation. We read of John the Baptist that he was a man sent from God. His mission in the world was down among God's long plans, as part of the Messianic prophecy. But John was not exceptional among men in the regard. Our life and work may not be as important as his--but God had a plan for us, too, before we were born. Each one of us was made to attain a certain character to fill a certain place, and to do certain work. The noblest use we can make of our life--is to fill out God's plan for us. If we fail in this, no matter how great we may seem to be, we are not so great as we would have been--if we had fulfilled God's thought for us. Browning, who puts so many great Scriptural truths so forcefully, writes:
"Before suns and moons could wax and wane,
Before stars were thunder girt, or piled
The heavens, God thought on me, his child;
Ordained a life for me, arranged
To the minutest."
Our morning prayer is, "Teach me to do your will." If God has a plan for our life, he will not hide it from us so that we cannot learn what it is. Nor would he have a will for us, for the doing of which he holds us responsible, if it were impossible for us to do that will. How, then, does he make his will known to us? It is the work of all life. We chafe at sorrow--but in sorrow God is leading us to accept his way. We murmur when we have to suffer--but pain is God's school in which he teaches us the lessons we cannot learn in any other way. We begin at the foot of the class, and patiently pass upward, not easily, ofttimes painfully.
A good woman who has had a long experience of trouble, said that she was losing her faith in God. "If God is my Father," she said, "why has he permitted me to suffer so at the hands of one who had sworn to love, honor, and cherish me until death?" Her question cannot be answered. We may not presume to give God's reasons for allowing his child to endure such wrong year after year. But we may say with confidence that in all our experiences of pain and suffering, of loss and disappointment, of sickness and privation, the Master is teaching us to do his will. We should never lose faith. We should keep love and trust in our hearts, whatever may come.
The last item in the program for a day is a prayer for help. "Quicken me, O Jehovah, for your name's sake." To quicken is to give new life, to strengthen. That is just what we need if we would learn to be beautiful in our Christian life. This is also just what God has promised to do for us. He knows our weakness, and would give us strength. The tasks he sets for us, he would help us to do. He wishes us to attain loveliness of disposition, until he own sweetness of spirit is ours, and he will help us to attain it. The beauty we long to have in our life--he will help us to fashion. He will take even our failures and make them into realizations, for the things we try, with love for Christ, to do and cannot--he will work out for us. When we have done our best, and nothing seems to come of our effort, and we sit penitent and weary beside our work, he will come and finish it himself. What we really try to do is what he sees in our life and work. Our intentions, though we seem unable to carry them out, he will fulfill. Let us not be afraid. We have a most gentle and patient teacher. If only we sincerely try to do his will and learn the lessons he sets for us--he will bring us through at last to glory, with honor.
"I asked for strength; for with the noontide heat
I fainted, while the reapers, singing sweet,
Went forward with the ripe sheaves I could not bear.
Then came the Master, with his blood stained feet
And lifted me with sympathetic care.
Then on his arm I leaned until all was done,
And I stood with the rest, at set of sun,
My task complete."