By J.R. Miller
We often think we could do better--if things were in our hands. We think we could direct our affairs so as to get more happiness and greater good out of life. Sometimes it seems to us that many things go wrong, and that the consequences to us are very calamitous. It must be confessed that there is in the world, a great deal of discontent with the ways of God's Providence. Not many people seem to be quite satisfied with their circumstances, and there are many who think that the divine dealings with them are not in accordance with that love which they are told directs the affairs of all God's children.
We think that things would it be better for us--if we had the direction of our own affairs. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, with blue skies and no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers, without thorns or any rough places.
All this has a very pleasing aspect for us--when we think of it lightly and in a superficial way. Would we not be happier, and would not life mean more to us in blessing and good--if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful? So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world--would be to have the direction of the affairs and the shaping of the experiences of our lives put into our own hands.
We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life--there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today--might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.
Our desires and our real needs are not always the same. We want pleasure, plenty, prosperity--but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.
We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle--but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.
We should always remember that the object of living here is not merely to have present comfort, to get along with the least trouble, to gather the most we can of the world's treasures, to win the brightest fame. We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God's will that belongs to us. We cannot therefore work out our own course, for we do not know what the divine purpose for us is. We cannot choose our own circumstances and experiences, for we do not know the pattern set for our lives.
There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world--and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life--something God wants us to do, some place he wants us to fill. All through our lives we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good.
Our part in all this is the acceptance of God's will for our lives, as that will is made known to us day by day. If we thus acquiesce in the divine way for us--we shall fulfill the divine purpose. It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that his way for us is better than ours, since he is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. It may be painful and hard--but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.
One is called apart from active life--and shut up in a sick-room. It seems to him that his time is being wasted. There are many things that need to be done, and which he might have done, while lying there with folded hands in his darkened room. People to whom his life is a continual blessing, miss him when he comes not. He seems in his illness to be leaving a great blank, where there ought to have been many good deeds and gentle ministries. Besides this loss to others and to the work of the world--sickness is most costly to the sick man himself. Its monetary cost is great. Then its burden of suffering is great. What is there to compensate for all this loss and cost--and to make the long illness really a blessing? Is there anything?
If we were directing the affairs of our own lives--we would not put the sickness in; is it possible that God's way is better than ours would have been?
Of course we may not claim to know all the reasons there are in the divine mind for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God's design for us in these trials is. Without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love and whose wisdom also is infinite.
But we can think of some ways in which it is possible for blessing and good to come out of a sick-room experience. The Master has other work for us, besides what we do in our common occupations. We have other lessons to learn, besides those we get from books and friends and current events, and through life's ordinary experiences. There is a work to be done in us, in our own hearts and lives, which is even more important than anything assigned to us in the scheme of the world's activities. There are lessons which we can learn much better in the quiet, shaded sick-room--than outside, in the glare of the streets and amid the clamor of earth's strifes.
Our shut-in days need never be lost days. Whatever they may cost us in money or in suffering, we need not be poorer when they are over, than if we had been busy all the while at the world's tasks.
Or take sorrow. We would not have it in our plan, if we shaped our own lives. It seems only calamitous. It takes away our brightest joys--and breaks our sweetest happiness. Can we think of any way in which the work of sorrow may leave us better or richer--than if it had not come to us? We well know that there are blessings we never can reach unless we are willing to pass to them through pain and grief. Today it may seem that it would be better if we could miss life's sorrows and have only joys; but when we get 'home' we shall see that the best days of all our years, have been the days we thought the saddest, and found it the hardest to pass through. When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything he has done for us, however he may have broken into our plans and spoiled our pleasant dreams.
It would not be better if we could have our own way. When we thought we were choosing wisely, we would find we had lost a heavenly good for some worldly trinket which we could keep only for a day. When we thought the path we were taking would lead to lasting good, we would discover that it ended only in darkness and sorrow. It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor feeble hands--but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father. "My times are in Your hands!" Psalm 31:15
We need only to accept God's way and go as He leads, and at the end we shall find that in not the smallest matter have we ever been unwisely led, but that at every step we have been brought to some good. We do not know what the future, even the nearest hour of the future, may have for us--but we know that we cannot drift beyond our Father's love and care, and that all that may seem dark or disastrous will reveal joy and blessing at the end.