Now and Hereafter

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 6
These words of our Lord, as we all know, refer to His washing the feet of His disciples. Behind that lowly act a hidden meaning lay which should be made quite plain to them one day. So when the work of redemption was accomplished, and Christ had taken His seat on high, and the Holy Spirit had come down, many a mystery was made clear, and many a thing told out that could not be told before.
But we are going to deal with these words in other connections now. Many a dear child of God is walking in a rough and rugged road, and passing through circumstances hard to understand. He sees no reason why he should be dealt with thus. With anxious heart he looks up and asks, " Lord, why is it thus with me?" And the answer is, " What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." With this he must be satisfied, and wait with patience the clearing of the clouds.
For example, the little home at Bethany, where Jesus was always welcome, had been thrown into great sorrow (John 11). Lazarus was sick. Now "Lazarus" means "GOD MY HELPER." To whom, therefore, should they turn in their distress but to Him who had come so near to them in grace? Short was the message which the sisters sent: "Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick." And there was every reason to believe that the Lord would hasten to their relief. For Jesus loved Lazarus, and if earthly love delights to do its best, what would not the love of Jesus do? So everything encouraged them to look for an early deliverance. Yet it did not come! Their expectations were not fulfilled. The sisters' message was received, but after the swift feet of the messenger had departed Jesus abode " two days " in the same place where He was. This delay must have sorely tried their hearts, nor could they divine a reason for it. And all the while Lazarus grew worse, and grim death knocked loudly at the door. In vain they looked for Jesus. He did not come, and their flickering hopes were finally extinguished when their brother breathed his last. Nevertheless, though they knew it not, His hand was all the time upon the helm, steering the ship aright. In the whirlwind and in the storm He has His way, and the clouds from which they shrank were but the sure sign that He was near, for they were "the dust of His feet." (Nah. 1:33The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3)).
"What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter " are words which might have been well addressed to the dear friends at Bethany in their most anxious hours. Their confidence in the love of Jesus was possibly unshaken, but this long and fatal delay was most perplexing. Could they, did they believe that all things were working together for good? that every detail was under the control of One who never erred, and whose love for them was deeper than the sea? We cannot tell. "Lord, if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died," are words which seem to come from hearts not quite submissive and at rest. But when the " hereafter" came, and the purpose of God in this sickness was fulfilled, and Lazarus was given back to his sisters, and the glory of God and of Him who was the Resurrection and the Life was seen in cloudless and broadened vision, then how gladly would they have owned that God's way was perfect, and that blessed is the man whose hope in Him is steadfast!
"Satisfied the way He taketh Must be always best."
And we may look at Paul, too, after he had been caught up into Paradise, where he heard unspeakable words and received visions and revelations of the Lord (2 Cor. 12). Such high privilege exposed him to a subtle snare, which at the time he did not see, but which the Lord knew, and from which He would save His faithful servant at all costs. For this "a thorn in the flesh" was needful. There have been many conjectures as to what the thorn was, but they are only conjectures at their best, and therefore of no value. God has not told us, so it is not necessary that we should know. But it was something hard to bear—as men speak—and which Paul earnestly prayed might be taken away. "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter," is a saying which applies to such a case as his. Think of that dear saint and devoted servant of Christ! Think of him as he bows his knees to the Lord, and asks in fervent prayer that this distressing infirmity might depart from him! But no answer came, though he may have long and patiently waited for it. Again he prays, and again no answer. For the third time he prays, then the silence is broken, the tarrying time is over, the suspense is ended, and the answer comes. But there is no taking away of the thorn—that is left to rankle, to be felt always, and always to be endured with pain and patience. The answer to Paul's cry came in a form which was better than the removal of the distressing thing: "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Shall we, then, think it strange if the Lord's way with us is at times after the same order, though the pattern of it may be different? Have we prayed for deliverance, and as yet no hand has been stretched out to deliver? It is the tarrying time, the " two days " of the Bethany story. Alas! with many of us these testing times show that our faith is hut a slender plank that will bear but little strain. Let none of us think that the Lord has forgotten us. A mother may forget her child, but He will not forget us. Our names are ever before Him, graven on the palms of those hands once pierced for us at Calvary. The present moment may be the "now" when we know not; tomorrow may be the "hereafter" when we shall fully know our Master's end and aim.
And if, as in Paul's case, the answer to our oft-repeated cry comes not in the way of deliverance; if instead of removing the trying thing, He speaks to our hearts in tender, gracious power, saying, " My grace is sufficient for thee," shall we not bow submissively to His perfect will, assured that His choice is wiser and better than ours? May we not even go further, as Paul did when he said, "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me "? It is a great thing to say, for glorying in our infirmities goes far beyond bearing them with patience and submission. But His grace enables His weak and suffering saints thus to speak when He is fully trusted and His will accepted in perfect acquiescence. We rest, then, as one rests-on a bed of down, and we gladly leave ourselves in His hands as we hear Him say, " What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."