By Hannah Whitall Smith
One of the greatest obstacles to an unwavering experience in the interior life is the difficulty of seeing God in everything. People say, "I can easily submit to things that come from God. But I cannot submit to man which is the source of most of my trials." Or they say, "It is all well enough to talk of trusting. But when I commit a matter to God, man is sure to come in and cause problems. While I have no difficulty in trusting God, I do see serious difficulties in the way of trusting men."
This is no imaginary trouble and is of vital importance. If we cannot deal with this trouble, it really does make the life of faith an impossible and impractical theory. For nearly everything in life comes to us through human means, and most of our trials are the result of somebody's failure, or ignorance, or carelessness, or sin. We know God cannot be the author of these things. Yet, unless He is the agent in the matter, how can we tell Him that we desire His will regarding it?
Besides, what good is there in trusting our affairs to God if man is to be allowed to come in and disarrange them. How is it possible to live by faith, if human agencies, in whom it would be wrong and foolish to trust are to have a prevailing influence in molding our lives?
Moreover, things which have God's hand in them always have a sweetness that consoles while it wounds. On the other hand, trials inflicted by man are full of nothing but bitterness.
Receive All As From God
We must see God in everything, and receive everything directly from His hands. We must be brought to this before we can know an abiding experience of entire abandonment and perfect trust. Our abandonment must be to God, not to man. Our trust must be in Him, or we shall fail at the first trial.
Study these scriptures which tell us that we are not to worry about anything because the Father cares for us.
"One (sparrow). . .shall not fall on the ground without your Father...the very hairs of (our) head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29,30).
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
"We may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what men shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:6).
" If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2).
"He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings and setteth up kings" (Daniel 2:11).
He bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect" (Psalm 33:10).
"Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding'' (Psalm 40:28).
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore (we will not) fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof" (Psalm 46:1,2,3).
"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. . .Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Psalm 91:27,91 1).
"Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:5,6).
To my own mind, these scriptures, and many others like them, settle forever the question regarding the power of "second causes" in the life of the children of God. Second causes must all be under the control of our Father. Not one of them can touch us except with His knowledge and by His permission. No man or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is abiding in Christ without first passing through His encircling presence and receiving the seal of His permission.
A Father's Protection
An earthly parent's care for his helpless child is an example of this, although it is a weak example. If the child is in its father's arms, nothing can touch it without that father's consent, unless he is too weak to prevent it. And even if this should be the case, he first suffers the harm in his own person before he allows it to reach his child. If an earthly parent would care for his little helpless one in this way, how much more will our Heavenly Father care for us, whose love is infinitely greater and whose strength and wisdom can never be baffled! I am afraid there are even some of God's own children who scarcely think that He is equal to themselves in tenderness, and love, and thoughtful care. In their secret thoughts they charge Him with a neglect and indifference of which they would feel themselves incapable. The truth is that His care is infinitely superior to any human care. He, who counts the very hairs of our heads, and suffers not a sparrow to fall without Him, takes note of the minutest matters that can affect the lives of His children. He regulates them all according to His own perfect will.
There are numerous examples of this. Take Joseph, for instance. What could have seemed to be more utterly contrary to the will of God than the action of his brothers in selling him into slavery? And yet Joseph, in speaking of it, said, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good (Genesis 50:20). "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5).
Joseph's brothers undoubtedly sinned, but by the time it had reached Joseph it had become God's will for him, and was in truth. though he did not see it then, the greatest blessing of his whole life. And thus we see how God can make even "the wrath of man (to praise Him)" (Psalm 76:10), and how all things, even the sins of others, will work together for good to those that love God.
I learned this lesson long before I knew the scriptural truth concerning it. I was attending a prayer meeting held in the interests of the life of faith, when a lady rose to speak. I looked at her, wondering who she could be, little thinking she was to bring a message to my soul which would teach me a grand practical lesson. She said she had great difficulty in living the life of faith on account of the second causes that seemed to her to control nearly everything that concerned her. Her perplexity became so great that at last she began to ask God to teach her the truth about it, whether He really was in everything or not. After praying this for a few days, she had what she described as a vision. She thought she was in a perfectly dark place. A body of light came toward her from a distance, which gradually surrounded and enveloped her and everything around her. As it approached, a voice seemed to say, "This is the presence of God! This is the presence of God!" While surrounded with this presence, all the great and awful things in life seemed to pass before her fighting armies, wicked men, raging beasts, storms and pestilences, sin and suffering of every kind.
At first she shrank back in terror. But she soon saw that the presence of God so surrounded and enveloped her and each one of these things, that not a lion could reach out its paw, nor a bullet fly through the air, except as the presence of God moved out of the way to permit it. And she saw that if so thin a film of this glorious Presence were between herself and the most terrible violence, not a hair of her head could be ruffled, nor anything touch her, except as the Presence divided to let the evil through. Then all the small and annoying things of life passed before her. She also saw that she was so enveloped in this presence of God that not a cross look, nor a harsh word, nor petty trial of any kind could affect her unless God's encircling presence moved out of the way to let it.
Her difficulty vanished. Her question was answered forever. God was in everything. She saw that clearly. She saw that her life came to her, day by day and hour by hour, directly from the hand of God. Never again did she find any difficulty in an abiding consent to His will and an unwavering trust in His care.
Joy In Trials
If it were only possible to make every Christian see this truth as plainly! I am convinced it is the only way to a completely restful life. Nothing else will enable a soul to live only in the present moment as we are commanded to do, and to take no thought for the morrow. The Christian will then be able to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life'' (Psalm 23:6). Under God's care we run no risks. I once heard of a poor woman who earned a precarious living by daily labor, but who was a joyous, triumphant Christian. "Ah, Nancy," said a gloomy Christian lady to her one day, who almost disapproved of her constant cheerfulness, and yet envied it.
"Ah, Nancy, it is all well enough to be happy now, but I think the thoughts of your future would sober you. Only suppose, for instance, that you would have a spell of sickness, and be unable to work. Suppose your present employers should move away and no one else would give you anything to do. Suppose " "Stop!" cried Nancy, "I never suppose. The Lord is my Shepherd, and I know I shall not want. And," she added to her gloomy friend, "it is all those 'supposes' that are making you so miserable. You better give them all up and just trust the Lord."
Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will then only be the instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us, and we will even find ourselves inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring.
Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts. Christians often feel free to murmur against men when they would not dare murmur against God. If our Father permits a trial to come, we must accept it with thanks from His dear hand. This does not mean, however, that we must like or enjoy the trial itself, but that we must see God's will in the trial. It is not hard to do this, when we have learned to know that His will is the will of love and is, therefore, always lovely.
A very good illustration of this may be found in the familiar fact of a mother giving medicine to her dearly loved child. The bottle holds the medicine, but the mother gives it; and the bottle is not responsible. But, no matter how full her closet may be of bottles or medicine, the mother will not allow one drop to be given to the child unless she believes it will be good for the child. When she does believe it will be good for her darling, the very depth of her love compels her to force it on the child, no matter how bitter the taste.
The people around us are often the bottles that hold our medicine, but it is our Father's hand of love that pours out the medicine and compels us to drink it. The human bottle is the "second cause" of our trial. The medicine that these human "bottles" hold is prescribed for us and given to us by the Great Physician of our souls, who is seeking to heal all our spiritual diseases.
Will we then rebel against the human bottles? Will we not rather take thankfully from our Father's hand the medicine they contain? We must lose sight of the second cause and say joyfully, "Thy will be done, in everything that comes to us, no matter what its source may be."
Seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart. More than that, it gives a joyfulness that cannot be described.
God is sure to have His own way concerning those who abandon themselves to Him in perfect trust. He will lead them into wonderful green pastures of inward rest and beside blessedly still waters of inward refreshment!
He who sides with God cannot fail to win in every encounter. In all circumstances we can join in the Apostle's shout of victory, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14).