By J.R. Miller
Gentleness is not weakness. The true man is always strong.
Tourists sometimes find high up on the Alps, on some bald crag, on the edge of the eternal snows, a sweet, lovely flower growing. That is gentleness--the mighty rock, immovable, unchanging, and on it growing the tender, fragrant bloom. Gentleness is essential to complete manliness--but gentleness is beautiful only when combined with strength.
Christ is gentle in dealing with sufferers. Skill in giving comfort is very rare. Many people are sure to speak the wrong word when they sit down beside those who are in pain or trouble. Job's friends were "miserable comforters." They tried to make Job believe that he had displeased God, and that this was why so much evil had come upon him. Many good people think that when they sit beside a sufferer or a mourner, they must talk about the trouble, entering into all its details, and dwelling upon all that makes it painful and hard to endure. But the truest comforter is not the one who seems to sympathize the most deeply, going down into the depths with him who is in grief--but the one who, sympathizing with the sufferer--yet brings cheer and uplift, sets a vision of Christ before the mourning eyes, and sings of peace and hope.
It is thus that Christ deals with pain and sorrow. He does not seek to take away the burden--rather, he would make us brave and strong to bear it.
One writes of an invalid lady who had a little locket in which were five dates written in red ink. "Those are the black-letter, not the red-letter, days of my life," she said to her friend. "The first is the date of mother's death, and O, how I rebelled, though I was only a girl in my teens. The second, three years later, is the date of my father's death, and again I rebelled. The third marks the time of my husband's death, and still I murmured and struggled. The fourth is the date of the death of my only darling, a sweet little fellow of five, and this time I almost cursed my heavenly Father, for now all my loved ones were gone and I was left alone. All the while I was not a Christian--indeed, I had grown bitter and hard. I thought God was punishing me. Now I see that he was not punishing--but educating me by a strange discipline. But I want you to look at the last date," the woman continued. It read "March 3, 1898." She said, "That was the day I gave my heart to the Savior. You notice there were twenty-six years between the first date and the last--twenty-six years of fruitless rebellion. It took me twenty-six years to learn to say, 'Your will be done.'" This is a beautiful illustration of Christ's gentle way of dealing with those who suffer. The gentleness did not appear, however, at first, because the sufferer did not submit to the Master. While the struggle was continued, there was no peace, no joy, no revealing of love. Resistance only made the darkness seem deeper, the trials harder to endure, the cup more bitter. At last the sufferer yielded, and crept into the Master's bosom. Then joy came. Who will say the Master was not gentle in all his dealing with that life those twenty-six years?
Christ is very gentle also with those who have sinned and are trying to begin again. He has no tolerance with sin--but is infinitely patient with the sinner. There is a story of an incorrigible soldier who had been punished so often for so many offences, without avail, that his commanding officer despaired of the man's amendment. Again he was under arrest and the officer spoke hopelessly of him, asking what more could be done to save him from his own undoing. A fellow-officer suggested, "Try forgiving him." The man was brought in and asked what he had to say for himself. He replied: "Nothing, except that I'm very sorry." "Well," said the officer, "we have decided to forgive you." The man stood dazed for a moment, and then burst into tears, saluted, and went out to become the best and bravest soldier in the command. Gentleness had saved him.
That is the way Christ deals with the penitent. He saves by forgiving. He loves unto the uttermost. His grace is inexhaustible. However often we fail, when we come back and ask to try again, he welcomes us and gives us another chance. This is our hope--if he were not thus gentle with us, we would never get to our eternal home.
Christ is very gentle with us also in our serving of him. Those with all the refinements and inspirations of the best Christian culture about them--have little conception of the disadvantages of others who are following Christ without any of this help, in the face of most uncongenial surroundings. What kind of Christians would we be, and how beautifully would we live--if we were in their circumstances?
Christ is infinitely patient with all whose lot is hard. He never exacts more of us than we can do. He is never unreasonable. He knows when the burdens are too heavy for us. Once he, "being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well" in his exhaustion. He sympathizes with those who are weary and helps them.