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The Lesson of Love: Chapter 17 - In the Father's Hands

By J.R. Miller

      "Our Father in heaven." Matthew 6:9

      There is infinite comfort in the truth of the divine Fatherhood. The name 'Father' carries in it a whole theology of joy and peace. If we accept it as a true revealing of the heart of God, we need not go further in our quest after a definition of the divine Being, and an explanation of His relation to us and His interest in us. If God is indeed our Father--that is all we need to know. We require no proof that God loves us--if He is our Father, that suffices. We need not ask for reasons when He seems to be dealing strangely with us--whatever the form of the providences may be, we know that infinite love is the guiding principle and the great motive of all that He does. If He is our Father--we do not need to be disturbed by life's events, however they may break into our plans and seem to work us hurt.

      It was Jesus Christ who revealed this truth of the divine Fatherhood. If he had taught the world nothing else, this alone would have made him the most wonderful Teacher that ever spoke. When he taught us to say "Our Father," he brought God down close to us--and opened the way for us to his heart of infinite love.

      At times, life has its mysterious and painful experiences for all of us. There come days when human reason can find nothing beautiful or good in what we are passing through. Everything seems destructive. We can see no love in the dark enigma. In such hours it gives us immeasurable comfort to be able to say: "It is my Father, and He loves me and is making no mistake!" It was this confidence that sustained Christ himself in his darkest moments on the cross. In the inexplicable mystery of his suffering, when he could not see the face of his Father and felt as if he were even forsaken by him--his faith found assurance in what he knew of the divine love. It was still "My God, my God." The anchor held, and in a few moments more it was light again, and he said: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

      The Master gives us the lesson for ourselves, when he assures us that his Father has in his hands, the care of our lives. "My Father is the gardener," he said to his disciples. The gardener has entire charge of the vines. He understands them and knows how to care for them. He plants them where they will grow the best, looks after their culture, prunes them, and does for them whatever needs to be done. They are not left to grow without intelligent care.

      When Jesus said, "My Father is the gardener," he meant to tell his disciples that the care of their lives is in the hands of God, whose name is love. It is not entrusted to a being of only limited intelligence and only finite power and love. Still less is it 'chance' that directs the events and shapes the circumstances of our days. That is what Atheism would have us believe. "There is no God," it says to us. "Things happen. There is no one at the center of all things who thinks about you. There is no hand but the iron hand of fate working in human affairs. There is no love, no heart, anywhere in the vast spaces, feeling, caring; no mind, planning good. The great machine of the universe grinds on, with resistless, relentless power, and what comes into your life--comes as the result of this inflexible, undirected, loveless grinding."

      There is small comfort in this teaching. It never can give confidence and peace to any heart in the time of trouble. It suggests no comfort when all things appear to be against us.

      But that is not what Jesus Christ teaches. The theory of the universe which he gives us, is that this is our Father's world. Not only did he create it, adorning it with beauty and fitting it to be the home of his children--but he cares for it with constant, tender care. He has not left the world he made, to get along as best it may without any thought from him.

      Referring to the affairs of providence, Jesus says: "My Father works hitherto, and I work." There is no 'chance'--all things are under control of God's infinite wisdom and love. The universe is no mere loveless machine, which grinds out our destiny for us. There is a great Heart of everlasting love at the center of all things. We have nothing to do with the vast machinery--it is ours only to do God's will and fill our little place. We are not required to make all things work out for good. We do not have to bring about the beneficent results. Our part is simply to learn what God's will for us is, what our duty is--and then do that with cheerful heart.

      This is our Father's world, and if we do our own little part faithfully and well, we need give no thought to the outcome. "My Father is the gardener." That is, when we are taken up and transplanted, it is the Father who does it. When the pruning-knife cuts away beautiful things that we so much wanted to keep, the Father does it. It is not 'blind chance' which sometimes uproots our life so ruthlessly. Nor is it cruelty that brings suffering and pain to us. "How can I believe that God loves me, while he is afflicting me so?" people sometimes say. The answer to the question is, "My Father is the gardener!"

      We should never forget, when we are called to suffer, that it is always in love, that our Father causes us pain. The name 'Father' is the key to the meaning of the discipline. We may not understand--we need not understand. It is enough that it is our Father who has the care of our lives.

      We should remember, too, that there are blessings which can come to us only in sorrow, lessons which can be learned only in pain and suffering. Even of Jesus it is said that he was made perfect through suffering. There were qualities in him which could not reach their best, except in the school of pain. There are in all of us possibilities of spiritual loveliness and strength and love and helpfulness, which never can come to their highest development, except in suffering. If we cannot endure suffering, we cannot grow to our best. A gentleman said: "My new gardener came to me he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and we had no grapes for two years. But this is the result," pointing to great clusters of luscious grapes weighing down the vines.

      This is a parable of Christian life. It is not required that we shall pray to be permitted to suffer. But we may pray to reach the highest possibilities of Christlikeness and the largest measure of usefulness of which we are capable. Then when we find ourselves face to face with pain or suffering which we must accept if our prayer is to be answered, we must not shrink from the experience. It is thus, alone, in suffering, that we can be made perfect.

      We should never forget, when we are called to suffer, that it is always in love, that our Father causes us pain. The name 'Father' is the key to the meaning of the discipline. We may not understand--we need not understand. It is enough that it is our Father who has the care of our lives.

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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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