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The Lesson of Love: Chapter 3 - To SUFFER and Love On

By J.R. Miller

      "Then Jesus said to his disciples--If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24

      A Christian is not called to an easy, comfortable, self-indulgent life--but to self-denial, sacrifice, and cross-bearing. When two of his disciples asked for the first places in his kingdom, the Master said to them: "You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?" Speaking of suffering wrongfully. Peter says, "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called"--that is, you were called to suffer wrongfully. He is writing to servants or slaves. Ofttimes they would find their position very hard. Their masters would be severe, sometimes cruel. They are exhorted, however, to submit quietly, not only to the good and gentle--but also to the harsh.

      None of us are slaves--but many of us have to work under others, and the others are not always "good and gentle." The problem in many lives, is how to maintain the Christian spirit, how to be Christlike in one's place--under others who are unreasonable, exacting, unjust, or unkind. The New Testament teaching is that we are to do our work well, to manifest the patient, gentle spirit of Christ, whatever our hardships and wrongs may be. In back of the human masters, stands another Master, and it is for him we are really working. He is the one we are to seek to please in all that we do. This changes the character of all service. Our Master would not be pleased if we did our work negligently, if we skimped it, or if we showed bitterness even under harsh and unjust treatment.

      The example of Christ in suffering is the copy set for us. "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps." What does this example teach us? For one thing, Christ endured his suffering quietly and patiently. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." Most of our Lord's sufferings were at the hands of men. He was a friend of men, and sought always to do them good. But his kindness, met only unkindness in return. Those he sought to save, rejected him. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."

      We all know the story of Christ's wonderful love. He never ceased doing good, and men never ceased persecuting him. At last they nailed him to a cross--but really they were crucifying him, driving nails into his hands and feet and heart--all the three years of his public ministry! Yet his love was never chilled by the enmity and cruelty of men. He never had a bitter thought in his heart. Even on the cross, when human hate had done its worst, he loved on as tenderly, as patiently, as sweetly--as if he had been receiving only love from the world all the years.

      This is part of the lesson set for us--and it is a lesson not easy to learn. It is hard to receive injury from others--and always to return kindness for it. Especially is it hard to suffer wrongfully--and keep one's heart sweet and loving through it all. Yet that is the lesson, and we find right here one of life's most serious problems.

      We cannot avoid suffering at the hands of others. In the truest and most congenial friendships, there sometimes are things which occasion pain. Even in the sweetest home, there is frequent need of mutual forbearance and forgiveness. Then there are many who have to suffer continually, ofttimes cruelly and bitterly, at the hands of others. Here then is the problem--to keep love in the heart through all unkindness, ingratitude, and injustice; never to allow bitterness to creep in; never to give way to any feeling of resentment; always to be forgiving, loving, ready to help. It was thus, that Christ went through his life to the very end, praying for his enemies even on his cross, and giving his life to save those who were driving him out of his own world!

      We should remember that no one can really hurt our life--but ourselves. Men may rob us of our money. They may injure us in many ways. They may cut our bodies to pieces. But they cannot touch our real life. All the wrongs they can inflict upon us, will do us no actual injury. But if we give way to anger, if we let bitterness creep into our hearts, if we grow unforgiving or resentful, we have hurt ourselves. If on the other hand, we keep love in our hearts under all the human wrong we suffer--we have won the victory over every wrong.

      Another of Christ's steps in his suffering, is shown in the words, "when he suffered, threatened not--but committed himself to him who judges righteously." He could have avenged himself on his enemies. He could have smitten them down, when they wronged him so sorely. "Do you think," he said to his disciples, who wished to interfere to save him from his enemies, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" But he did not do it. He did nothing to check the wicked plots of his enemies. He lifted no finger to resist their malignant assaults.

      "But these were terrible wrongs against him!" you say. "Why did he submit to them so quietly? Is there no justice in the world? Must wicked men be allowed to go on forever in their wickedness and cruelty?" Here is the explanation: "He committed himself to him who judges righteously," that is, into the hands of his Father.

      This means two things. It means that he committed the sins of his enemies, with their deservings of wrath and their power to harm, to God, who is just and judges righteously. He himself would not take any revenge--he left the matter to his Father. Paul teaches us to do the same with those who wrong us or sin against us: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." We are not the judge of any man. It is not our place to punish a man's sins against us. Commit that to God--he is just.

      The other thing meant is that Jesus committed himself, his own life, to God, with all his hurts and injuries, and all the grievous wrongs which had been done to him. His Father was able to take all these cruelties and all his Son's untold sufferings, and not only prevent their harming him--but use them even for the glorifying of his name. He was able to bring his Son through all the terrible experiences, and out from them, unharmed, with no trace of hurt upon him--and he did. Christ's enemies thought to quench utterly the light of his name in the black shame of the cross. But we know that no ray of brightness was put out--his name never shone so radiantly as it did after he had come again from death.

      It is thus that we should do with our wrongs, when others seek to injure us, when they treat us unkindly or unjustly--we should commit ourselves and our ill-treatment to our Father. He will look after the equities. It is not our duty to avenge ourselves. Then we may also commit our lives to the same divine love--no matter how cruel, how vindictive, how relentless our enemies may be, nor how terrible the hurts they have done to us. He will preserve us from all the hurts of men's malignity. He will bring us safely through all danger and all assaults of evil. "Who is he who will harm you--if you be zealous of that which is good?"

      But someone who has been suffering injury at the hands of others may say: "This terrible wrong against me has broken up my life, blighted my beautiful hopes, ruined all my promise of happiness!" Yes; but God can build beauty yet for you, out of these broken things. Keep your heart sweet with love, and your soul unstained by sin--and then trust your life to your Father. He will bring blessing and good out of all that seems such a pitiful ruin today.

      Could there ever again be such a wreck of all that was beautiful in a life--as there was that Good Friday evening, when a few friends took down the body of Jesus from the cross and laid it away in the grave? But we know what came out of that ruin. It will be the same with everyone who, in time of human betrayal or wrong, commits all with confidence to God.

      The same lesson applies to all suffering--as well as to the enduring of wrong from others. Some people suppose that affliction always does good, blesses the life, enriches the character. But, in fact, affliction ofttimes hurts a life irreparably! If we do not submit ourselves to God in our grief, if we resist and rebel, if we chafe and repine, and go on grieving inconsolably--our affliction hurts our lives. It mars the beauty. It hushes the song. It dims the eye. It robs the heart of its love.

      If, however, we reverently accept our affliction as a messenger from God, sent on a mission of love, bearing gifts and blessings from heaven for us--then we shall get good and not evil, from our pain and loss. We have only to keep our hearts sweet, trustful, songful, without bitterness, without fear--and then leave with God all the outcome of the suffering.

      There is a story of an Indian child who one day came in from the wheat-field with a hurt bird in her hand. Running to the old chief, she said: "See! This is my bird. I found it in the wheat. It is hurt." The old man looked at the wounded bird and replied slowly: "No, it is not your bird, my child--it is God's bird. Take it back and lay it down where you found it. If you keep it, it will die. If you give it back into God's hands, he will heal its hurt and it will live."

      What the old Indian said of hurt birds, is true of hearts hurt by sorrow. No human hand can heal them--the only safe thing to do in time of grief, is to put our lives into God's hands, to commit them to him. His hands are gentle and skillful. They will not break a bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax. We need never be afraid of suffering, "For hereunto were you called." There must be a reason for this in God's thought of us. We know, at least, that we never can reach the best things in life--but by the paths of pain. All the richest blessings of grace, lie beyond lines of suffering which we must pass to get them. Even of Jesus it is said, that he was made perfect through suffering. There were attainments which even he could reach in no other way. All that is worthiest and most Christlike in godly men bears the marks of pain upon it. We must pay the price--if we would get the blessing.

      Then we must suffer ofttimes also, for the sake of others. Christ suffered for men in a way in which no other one ever can suffer. The influence of his unspeakable sorrow is renewing and refining the whole race. Sorrow in any life, softens other hearts. If there is death-crape on a door on any street, the whole neighborhood feels its softening, quieting influence. Everyone who passes that house, comes under the mystic spell. Even the children at their play are moved by the death in another family. We are all woven together into one mystic web of humanity, so that no man can live to himself. We must be willing to suffer--that others may receive blessing from our pain.

      We never can become greatly useful without suffering. We cannot get the power of sympathy, which alone will fit us for being helpful to others in the best ways, but in the school of pain. We never can do anything worthwhile for humanity, without first learning in suffering the lessons we will teach in song and hope.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The LESSON of Love
   Chapter 2 - Things That are LOVELY
   Chapter 3 - To SUFFER and Love On
   Chapter 4 - The Hurt of FLATTERY
   Chapter 5 - "Nor Life"
   Chapter 6 - Having the Mind of Christ
   Chapter 7 - The Second Mile
   Chapter 8 - Losing SELF in Christ
   Chapter 9 - Growing By Abandonment
   Chapter 10 - Leaving Things Undone
   Chapter 11 - Living for the BEST Things
   Chapter 12 - Serving and Following Christ
   Chapter 13 - Citizenship in Heaven
   Chapter 14 - Gladdened to Gladden
   Chapter 15 - The Gentleness of Christ
   Chapter 16 - Would Our Way Be Better?
   Chapter 17 - In the Father's Hands
   Chapter 18 - One Day at a Time
   Chapter 19 - True Friendship's Wishes
   Chapter 20 - Christ in Our Everydays
   Chapter 21 - In Tune With God


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