By Hannah Whitall Smith
It has been well said that "earthly cares are a heavenly discipline." However, they are even something better than discipline they are God's chariots, sent to take the soul to its high places of triumph.
They do not look like chariots. Instead, they look like enemies, sufferings, trials, defeats, misunderstandings, disappointments, unkindnesses. They look like misery and wretchedness waiting to roll over us and crush us into the earth. But if could we see them as they really are, we would recognize them as chariots of triumph in which we may ride to those heights of victory for which our souls have been longing and praying. The difficulty is the visible thing. The chariot of God is the invisible. The King of Syria came up against Elisha with horses and chariots that could be seen by every eye, but God had chariots that could be seen by none except the eye of faith. The servant of the Prophet could only see the outward and visible. In 2 Kings 6:15 he cried, "Alas, my Master! how shall we do?'' But Elisha sat calmly within his house without fear, because his eyes were opened to see the invisible. All he asked for his servant was, "Lord, I pray Thee open his eyes that he may see" (2Kings6:17).
This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and for one another, "Lord, open our eyes that we may see." The world all around us, as well as around the Prophet, is full of God's horses and chariots waiting to carry us to places of glorious victory. And when our eyes are opened, we will see in all the events of life, whether great or small, whether joyful or sad, a "chariot" for our souls.
Everything that comes to us becomes a chariot the moment we treat it as such. And on the other hand, even the smallest trials may crush us into misery or despair if we let them. It is up to us to choose which it will be. It does not matter what these events are, but how we take them. We can either lie down under them and let them roll over us and crush us, or we can view them as chariots of God and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.
Whenever we climb into God's chariots the same thing happens to us spiritually that happened to Elijah. We will have a translation, not into the heaven above us as Elijah did, but into the heaven within us. This, after all, is almost a grander translation than his. We will be carried away from the low, earthly, grovelling plane of life, where everything hurts and everything is unhappy, up into the "heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3). There we can ride in triumph over all below.
These "heavenly places" are interior, not exterior. The road that leads to them is interior also. But the chariot that carries the soul over this road is generally some outward loss or trial or disappointment, something that is not joyous, but grievous. However, afterwards it "yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11).
Our "chariot" often looks very unlovely. It may be a nasty relative or friend. It may be the result of human malice or cruelty or neglect. But every chariot sent by God is paved with love, since God is love. And God's love is the sweetest, softest, tenderest thing that was ever found by any soul anywhere.
The Bible tells us that when God went forth for the salvation of His people He "didst ride upon (His) horses and chariots of salvation" (Habakkuk 3:8) and it is the same now. Everything becomes a "chariot of salvation" when God rides upon it. He "maketh the clouds His chariot" (Psalm 104:3), we are told, and rides "on the wings of the wind" (Psalm 18:10). Therefore, the clouds and storms that darken our skies and seem to shut out the shining of the sun of righteousness are really only God's chariots which we may "ride prosperously" (Psalm 4 5 :4) over all the darkness . Have you made the clouds in your life your chariots? Are you "riding prosperously" with God on top of them all?
I knew a lady who had a housekeeper who worked slowly. She was an excellent girl in every other respect, and very valuable in the household. However, her slowness was a constant source of irritation to her employer who was naturally quick and who always became irritated at slowness. This lady would lose her temper with the girl twenty times a day, and twenty times a day would repent of her anger and be determined to conquer it, but in vain. Her life was made miserable by the conflict. One day it occurred to her that she had been praying a long while for patience, and that perhaps this slow housekeeper was the very chariot the Lord had sent to carry her soul over into patience. She immediately accepted it as such, and from that time used the slowness of her housekeeper as a chariot for her soul. The result was a victory of patience that no one was ever able to disturb.
I knew another lady at a crowded convention who had to sleep in a room with two others because of the crowd. She wanted to sleep, but they wanted to talk. The first night she was greatly disturbed and lay there fretting and fuming long after the others had stopped talking, when she might have slept. But the next day she heard something about God's chariots, and at night she accepted these talking friends as her chariots to carry her over into sweetness and patience, and was kept in undisturbed calm. When, however, it grew very late, and she knew they all ought to be sleeping, she ventured to say slyly, "Friends, I am Iying here riding in a chariot!" The effect was instantaneous and perfect quiet reigned! Her chariot had carried her over to victory, not only inwardly, but at last outwardly as well.
If we would ride in God's chariots, instead of our own, we would find this to be the case continually.
Our constant temptation is to trust in earthly resources. We can see them. They are tangible and real, and look substantial, while God's chariots are invisible and intangible, and it is hard to believe they are there.
We often depend first on one thing and then on another to advance our spiritual condition and to gain our spiritual victories. We "go down to Egypt for help" (Isaiah 31:1), and God is often obliged to destroy all our own earthly chariots before He can bring us to the point of climbing into His.
We lean too much upon a dear friend to help us progress in the spiritual life, and the Lord is obliged to separate us from that friend. We feel that all our spiritual prosperity depends on our continuance under the ministry of a favourite preacher, and he is mysteriously removed. We look upon our prayer meeting or our Bible class as the chief source of our spiritual strength, and we are prevented from attending them. And the "chariot of God'' which alone can carry us to the places where we hoped to be taken by these things on which we have been depending, is to be found in the very deprivations we have mourned over. With the fire of His love, God must burn up every chariot of our own that stands in the way of our climbing into His.
We have to be brought to the place where things on which we depend fail us, before we can say, "He only." We say, "He and something else," "He and my experience," "He and my church relationships," or "He and my Christian work." All that comes after the "and" must be taken away from us, or shown to be useless, before we can come to the "He only." As long as visible chariots are at hand the soul will not climb into the invisible ones.
Let us be thankful, then, for every trial that will help to destroy our earthly chariots and that will compel us to take refuge in the chariot of God which stands ready and waiting beside us in every event and circumstance of life. We are told that God "rideth upon the heavens" (Psalm 68:4), and if we want to ride with Him there, we need to be brought to the end of all riding upon the earth.
When we climb into God's chariot our goings are "established," for no obstacles can hinder His triumphal course. All losses, therefore, are gains that bring us to this. Paul understood this, and he gloried in the losses which brought him such unspeakable rewards. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him" (Philippians 3:79).
Even the "thorn in the flesh" spoken of in 2 Corinthians 12:7, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, became a "chariot of God" to his willing soul. It carried him to the heights of triumph, which he could have reached in no other way. What is to "take pleasure" (2 Corinthians 12:10), but to turn them into the grandest of chariots?
Joseph had a revelation of his future triumphs and reigning, but the chariots that carried him there almost looked like vehicles of failure and defeat. Slavery and imprisonment are strange chariots to take one to a kingdom, and yet Joseph could have reached his exaltation by no other way. And our exaltation to the spiritual throne that awaits us is often reached by similar chariots.
The great point, then, is to have our eyes opened to see everything that comes to us as a "chariot of God," and to learn how to climb into these chariots. We must recognize each thing that comes to us as being God's chariot for us and must accept it as from Him. Perhaps He doesn't command or originate the thing, but the moment we put it into His hands, it becomes His, and He at once turns it into a chariot for us. As it says in Romans 8:28, He makes "all things," even bad things, "work together for good to (all those who trust Him)". All He needs is to have it entirely committed to Him.
When your trial comes, put it right into the will of God and climb into that will as a little child climbs into its mother's arms. The baby carried in the chariot of its mother's arms rides triumphantly through the most difficult places and does not even know they are difficult. And how much more we ride triumphantly who are carried in the chariot of the "arms of God!"
Get into your chariot, then. Take each thing that is wrong in your lives as God's chariot for you. No matter who the builder of the wrong may be, whether men or devils, by the time it reaches your side it is God's chariot for you, meant to carry you to a heavenly place of triumph. Say, "Lord, open my eyes that I may see, not the visible enemy, but Thy unseen chariots of deliverance."
No doubt the enemy will try taunting you with the suggestion that God is not in your trouble and that there is no help for you in Him. But you must completely disregard all such suggestions and must overcome them with the assertion of a confident faith. "God is (my) refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble" (Psalm 46:1) must be your continual declaration, no matter what the causes may be.
Moreover, you must not be halfhearted about it. You must climb completely into your chariot, not with one foot dragging on the ground. There must be no "ifs" or "buts" or "supposings" or "questionings." You must accept God's will fully and
must hide yourself in the arms of His love, always underneath to receive you, in every circumstance and at every moment. Say, "Thy will be done. Thy will be done," over and over. Shut out every other thought but the one thought of submitting to His will and trusting in His love. There can be no trials in which God's will does not have a place. The soul only has to climb into His will as in a chariot, and it will find itself "riding upon the heavens" with God, in a way it had never dreamed possible.
The soul that rides with God "on the sky" has views and sights of things that the soul which grovels on the earth can never have. The poor, crushed victim can only see the dust and stones and the grinding wheels, but the triumphant rider in the chariot sees far fairer sights.
You might ask where your chariots of God are to be found. The Psalmist says, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels" (Psalm 68: 17) . There is never a lack of chariots in any life. At the close of a meeting where I had been speaking about these chariots a dear Christian said to me, "I am a poor woman, and all my life have grieved that I could not drive a car like some of my rich neighbours. But I have been looking over my life while you have been talking, and I find that it is so full of chariots on every side that I am sure I will never need to walk again."
I don't have a shadow of doubt, dear readers, that if all our eyes could be opened today we would see our homes, our places of business, and the streets we travel filled with the "chariots of God." There is no need for any one of us to walk
because of a lack of chariots. That irritating member of your household, who has, up to now, made life a burden to you and who has been trying to crush your soul into the dust, may from now on be a glorious chariot to carry you to the heights of heavenly patience and longsuffering. That misunderstanding, humiliation, unkindness, disappointment, loss, and defeat all these are chariots waiting to carry you to the very heights of victory you have wanted to reach for so long.
Climb into them then, with thankful hearts, and lose sight of the causes of the trials in the shining of His love, which will "carry you in His arms" safely and triumphantly over it all.