Songs for Sorrow and Suffering

 •  40 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the Sanctuary, and bless the Lord.” Psalm 134:1,21<<A Song of degrees.>> Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. 2Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. (Psalm 134:1‑2).
“And many a rapturous minstrel,
Among those saints of light,
Will say of his sweetest music,
‘I learned it in the night!’
And many a rolling anthem
That fills the Father’s home,
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
In the shade of a darkened room.”
(Author unknown)
“Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” Psa. 149:55Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. (Psalm 149:5).
“Any bird can sing in the daytime; God gives songs in the night,” it has been remarked.
Above all the power of trial and weariness and pain, the Holy Spirit of God can lift the suffering Christian, so that “in the night” of testing and “upon their beds” of affliction, they may sing aloud with joy.
Happy is the believer who, confident in his God, can thus rise above his present circumstances and rejoice in the Lord. Such an one, in the spirit of Habakkuk of old, may exultingly say,
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Hab. 3:17-1917Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:17‑19).
To the Jew, the fig tree, the vine, the olive, the fields, the flocks and the herds spoke of prosperity. Without these and their produce, famine would stare them in the face. Habakkuk’s confidence is of a marked character therefore. Is not such faith to be followed? May we not say that it honors God and is delighted in by Him?
“How great is Thy goodness,” exclaims David, “which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!” Psa. 31:1919Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! (Psalm 31:19).
Paul could write from the Roman imprisonment which he was enduring, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil. 4:44Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4).
“Songs in the night” are these. And perhaps the night seasons are allowed to come upon us in order that such songs may rise from our hearts.
Amid the changing circumstances of life we may not be able to rejoice in them, but the Lord in His all-sufficiency is above all circumstances. In Him let us rejoice, as we journey on to our everlasting portion.
“And there in mine inheritance,
My kingly palace home:
The leaf may fall and wither,
Not less the spring will come.
Like winds and rains of winter,
These earthly sighs and tears,
Till the golden summer dawneth
Of the endless year of years.”
“Affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground.” Job 5:66Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; (Job 5:6). So said Eliphaz the Temanite.
In times of trouble, and these come upon all the children of God (for each “heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy,” Prov. 14:1010The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy. (Proverbs 14:10)), it is wise and well to turn to our gracious God with the enquiry, “Why is it thus with me?”
In some way or other, inscrutable to us today, God our Father is acting on our behalf, for our ultimate good. He allows that which is evil, apparently, to come upon us, but He turns the seeming curse into a real blessing.
Of old the alchemists spent time and fortune, lives and possessions, in the vain endeavor to make base metals into gold. They failed absolutely, as we know.
But this is the way of the God of knowledge. The base metals of trouble and tribulation are changed, in His all-wise and all-powerful hands, into the finest gold for the believer’s profit.
The chastisement, which “seemeth” not “to be joyous, but grievous” (Heb. 12:1111Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)), yields a harvest of blessing in the end. It is proved to be “for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” That is God’s side, that we may be in accord with His mind and respond to His thought.
It has been pointed out that one may treat chastisement in any of three ways:
We may despise it.
We may faint under it.
We may rejoice during it.
This illustration has been employed: In a heavy rain a duck goes on its usual course; the rain does not affect it. A hen seems to droop under the shower and is miserable. A little robin chirps in the midst of it all.
Let us not make little of the trial. Let us have confidence in our God in the midst of it, and sing praises to Him who fails not in His mercy and kindness towards us day by day.
“My spirit on Thy care,
Blest Saviour, I recline;
Thou wilt not leave me in despair,
For Thou art love divine.”
“Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.” Prov. 25:44Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. (Proverbs 25:4).
Such may be our prayer when “in the furnace of affliction.” It is ofttimes here that one is chosen for special and honorable use. “I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isa. 48:1010Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10).
The silver is placed in the crucible. The heat is applied and increased. Subjected to it, the metal becomes melted. Then the scum, the dross, rises to the surface and is removed. Thus the purifying process is continued and the silver is cleansed from inferiorities, more and more. It has been said that formerly, when the refiner could see his own image reflected clearly in the molten silver, then he knew that the work was completed. Then he removed the crucible from the heat, but the silver was purified seven times, it may have been, before he was content.
It was for him, for his pleasure, that the silver was to be.
“For the Finer.” A vessel for Him. For us, who by His grace believe, our Lord is the Finer. In His hands we may leave ourselves, assured that the furnace of affliction will remove only dross, the dross of worldliness, or earthliness, or selfishness, from us, so that we may come forth for Himself.
Yes! “For the Finer.” “A vessel for” Him. Not simply an ingot of silver, purified. He has a vessel in view, a vessel “fit for the Master’s use,” a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name in increased sweetness and power for the conversion of sinners and for the comfort of His own, which are in the world and are loved by Him to the end. What honor is this! To be for His own delight and interests here! He is for us there in heaven in present, active intercession, as Advocate and High Priest. He would have us here in this world, “for Him” in power ministered to us by His pierced hands, abiding “for Him,” many days, it may be.
Thus we are disciplined, day by day. We are silver. We are redeemed. We are His, bought with the price, His precious blood. He will soon have us with Him. But now He needs us for service, and so it is that we are placed in the crucible that the dross may be taken away.
“Oh! to be but emptier, lowlier,
Mean, unnoticed, and unknown,
But to God a vessel holier,
Filled with Christ, and Christ alone.
Nought of earth to cloud the glory,
Nought of self the light to dim,
Telling forth the wondrous story,
Emptied to be filled with Him.”
Obsolete: “gone into disuse, neglected in use.” Such is the dictionary definition of the word. Obsolete words are those which were employed commonly once, but are now out of date and service. Such words may be found in some dictionaries still because they have been used in standard and classical literature of bygone decades. They are included, that their meaning may be understood by those who read books of the long ago.
Obsolete! How many words of present employment will pass out of service in the glorious and eternal day soon to dawn for the Christian. The blessedness of that time is described for us now by the declaration that words well understood while here in the times of trial will be obsolete then.
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:44And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4).
“Tears”  —  obsolete! “Death”  —  obsolete! “Sorrow”  —  obsolete! “Crying”  —  obsolete! “Pain”  —  obsolete!
For all these words there will be no use in the world of joy on high in the Father’s house. All that of which this world is made up will have “passed away,” by the fiat of God, who will have said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
In tenderest care He will take away the last trace of our sorrow. With His own gentle hand He will wipe away our tears, just as the loving mother removes those of her child, as she comforts and encourages him, in her warm embrace.
“Joy and gladness” shall be ours, and “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” into the land of forgetfulness; or, if remembered, will but recall the long-suffering and tender pity of our Lord as He sought our welfare while in the valley of comfort.
Take heart of grace, dear believer. The “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” That morning will be “without clouds.”
Meanwhile, as you pass through “the valley of Baca” (the vale of tears), it will be made a wellspring of refreshment, and the rain from above will cover the weary, thirsty land with blessings innumerable (see Psalm 84:66Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. (Psalm 84:6)). Soon you will be where
“God shall wipe away all tears,
There’s no death, nor pain, nor fears;
And they count not time by years,
For there is no night there.”
Someone has said, “Every bottle of medicine which comes from God’s dispensary is labelled, ‘To do thee good at thy latter end’ (Deut. 8:1616Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; (Deuteronomy 8:16)).” Unpleasant, unpalatable the medicine may be, but it is mixed by Him who “is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” Isa. 28:2929This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. (Isaiah 28:29). He diagnoses our diseases with unfailing skill, and suits His medicines to our condition with perfect accuracy.
Thus we may leave ourselves in the hands of the Great Physician and know that in the “latter end” all will come out for our advantage.
So it was in the case of the patriarch Job. He was passed through fires and floods of distress. We see him stripped of possessions, sorrowing in bereavement, stricken with serious sickness, and crying from the dust, “The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” If we leave him in that distressful condition, we might wonder indeed! But we have seen “the end of the Lord” in the matter. That which He had in view was the blessing of the sufferer. In “the end” Job was doubly blessed. Humbled and contrite in spirit, he was relieved of the pressure which was upon him. The long, dark tunnel was passed through at last, and he came out into the light and joy of the knowledge of God in a new way altogether.
We have heard of the patience of Job! May it be ours to endure when all that seems adverse comes upon us and when friends may criticize and condemn. If they understand us not, our God and Father knows us perfectly. When “He hath tried” us we “shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:1010But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10). We shall be cleared from much that was unsuitable to God and unprofitable to us.
We Christians know Him today in a way the patriarch could not. In His great love God has given us His Son, His own Son, His only One. May we not be sure that He will not withhold anything which will be for our true and lasting benefit?
Shall we not “consider the latter end,” and cry with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” remembering that “the end” is in view, “to do us good,” and that that end is near at hand.
“Absolutely tender, absolutely true,
Understanding all things, understanding you.
Infinitely loving, exquisitely near,
This is God our Father!
What have we to fear?”
Have you watched a skillful knitter? Then you have seen the knitting needles making mimic warfare one against another. At least, so it seems. One pin will gain all the wool, and then the other will recover everything it lost, and more besides. The operation might appear vain to one who does not understand the art.
So it was to me when my aged Christian mother employed her skill in that direction.
What was it all for? Why all the ado in the matter? I did not understand. Ah, but she did! She had an object in view from the very outset of her operation. A pattern was in her mind, and every stitch put into the work was for the furtherance of her intention. She knew what she was about, and in each action of her hands and fingers she had the carrying out of that pattern before her, and all the wool was worked together for the fulfillment of her thought.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Rom. 8:2828And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
“All things.” Comprehensive words these! “All things!” Yes, the Maker of every “stitch” has the end in view. Good, only good, is meant for each and every one of the children of God.
And “as for God, His way is perfect.” 2 Sam. 22:31.
My mother, good knitter though she was, made an occasional error in her work, dropping a stitch or making a false one, and then some of the work had to be “pulled out.”
But God makes no mistakes. He never has to undo any of His work; all is “very good.” He never drops one of His stitches, though perhaps we might wish that some of His dealings had been omitted. He knows the end from the beginning, and His skillful hands carry out His heart’s designs for our true spiritual prosperity.
As a little sock or cuff or mitten drew near to completion, I saw what my mother’s object had been, but she knew all the while.
A little later we shall see the “why” and the “wherefore” of much that is not understood at present. Then in His “light we shall see light,” and boundless praise shall well from our hearts!
“Oh, to trust Him then more fully!
Just to simply move,
In the conscious, calm enjoyment
Of the Father’s love,
Knowing that life’s checkered pathway
Leadeth to His rest,
Satisfied the way He taketh
Must be always best.”
“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. 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.” Isa. 43:1,21But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 2When 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 43:1‑2).
Sweet words of comfort for the tempest-tossed and storm-driven ones among the children of men.
The words “Fear not” in the Bible are spoken for the cheer and encouragement of saints in times of special alarm and dread. Take the “Peace, be still” of the Son of God, to quiet the angry billows on the waves of Galilee, so the “Fear not” is uttered to calm the unquiet heart with its direful dread of impending woe.
These verses to which we have turned form one of the sweetest utterances of our Saviour-God to awaken restfulness of spirit amid the storm and stress of events.
He has redeemed us. He has called us. He has made us His own. Will He fail us in the hour of calamity?
The waters may have to be passed, but He will be with us then. As with Israel at the Red Sea, He will guide and guard His own.
The rivers may have to be crossed, but like His people going over Jordan when it overflowed its banks, He will make the path, so that dry-shod we may gain the further shore.
Through the fire, if needs be, we may have to walk, as the three youths in Babylon, but He who gave them His presence and His succor will be with us and glorify the furnace by His company, and cause that “the smell of fire” shall not pass on us.
“Fear not”! We hear Him say, “I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death [death and of hades].” He has been into death and come forth victorious. To us He says, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.  .  .  .  Lo, I am with you alway [all the days], even unto the end of the world [age]. Amen.” Matt. 28:18,2018And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18)
20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)
Let us not fear aught that is, or aught that may be. HE is, and will be, with us, come what may. “A horror of great darkness” may press upon our spirit at times and all be dark and difficult before us, but He whispers, “Certainly I will be with thee.” Ex. 3:1212And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. (Exodus 3:12).
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
Standing before his audience, the preacher held up a worked text formed with silks upon perforated cardboard. But he held the back of the text towards the people. To them, all that appeared of it was a tangled mass of various colored silken threads. No words were decipherable. The stitches might have been made without reason; to the onlookers they conveyed no message.
That preacher was seeking to show how all God’s dealings with His own are the outcome of His deepest care for their abiding and abounding welfare, and that we cannot make out why it is we have to suffer as we sometimes do. Let us keep in mind that now we only “see through a glass, darkly,” but soon we shall see “face to face.” Then it is that the dark places will be made plain before our vision. Then, up there, we’ll understand.
When the preacher turned the text towards his listeners, they could read, clearly, words which had been formed with care and beauty,
Every silken thread had helped in the weaving of the message. Not one of them was unnecessary or out of place.
So, by-and-by, when in the home and presence of our Lord we shall discern clearly how all the threads of life were wrought together, to tell the story of the love of God towards us. Looking now upon the wrong side of things, they seem mysterious and meaningless. But before long, when in the presence of Christ our Saviour, all will be manifest and plain; the shadow of death will be turned into the morning, and we shall “know as we are known.”
“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” were the words of our Lord to Peter, and we may make an application of them to much which comes upon us in our pathway. But if He does it, it is, it must be, well.
“The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of the Christ.” 2 Thess. 3:5 JND.
He is love, He has loved us, He is loving us, He will love us. In a coming hour we shall read clearly all that which tear-blinded eyes could not discern.
“We cannot always trace the way
Where Thou, our gracious God, dost move;
But we can always surely say
That ‘God is love.’  ”
“If the outlook be dark, try the uplook.”
Good advice this for the sad and sorrowful in the day of difficulty.
We look around and see the effects of sin on every hand; suffering and trial are known by those who love the Lord, even as by others who love Him not. Looking forward, there seems no way of deliverance.
“Broken, lies creation,
Shaken, earth’s foundation,
Anchorless, each nation.”
Little wonder is it if men’s hearts are “failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” That which seemed sure and stable is tottering to its fall. The day when all things shall be shaken appears to have reached its dawn.
Disruption of kingdoms, disturbance of republics, discontent among the peoples on every side. Where shall the Christian turn? He seems walled around with difficulties. His “flesh” and his “heart” fail. At such seasons of perplexity he is happy truly in being among the children of God, for of them it is written, “His children shall have a place of refuge.” Yes, “God Himself is a refuge for us.” “Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him.” Psa. 62:88Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. (Psalm 62:8). There is our resource! “The devil can wall us round; he cannot roof us in,” it has been said quaintly by one, and another has put it:
If you want to be distracted —
look around.
If you want to be miserable —
look within.
If you want to be happy —
look up.
“The uplook” is clear, however storm-clouds may lower about us. God IS, and He is for His own. All that He is, is for us. To Him we can turn in confidence. Never has He failed one of His own. Never will He forsake the least of those who trust in Him.
His power and wisdom and love are as three pillows upon which we can place our weary heads amid the clashing and crashing of things present or of things to come.
“The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
Years ago two friends were traveling in Switzerland. One of them decided to remain in a hotel, at the foot of the Rigi, while the other went up in the railway to the summit of the mountain.
While thus separated, a heavy tempest swept along the valley. The lightnings flashed and the thunders pealed. The tourist who remained below telegraphed to his absent companion, “There is an awful storm raging down here.” Promptly the answer was returned, “Come up here! We’re above the storms!”
This is a picture of the truth conveyed in the words, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6,76Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6‑7). This has been thus epitomized:
“Careful for nothing,
Prayerful in everything,
Thankful for anything.”
Refuse to allow anxiety to fill your breast and crush your spirit. The “cares of this life” are put in the same category, by the Lord Jesus, as surfeiting and drunkenness (Luke 21:3434And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)). From these gross self-indulgences we shrink, but “the cares of this life” are fondled by some as though they were babes to be cherished. Their effect is darkening and deadening, and we must avoid them.
Let us cultivate thanksgiving. There is always abundance for which our gratitude should be expressed to our God and Father, who knows what we have need of day by day. Then with our thanksgiving we join our requests in prayer and supplication. We unbosom ourselves before Him, and tell Him all our desire. The answer to our petition He may not see well to give, or it may be delayed until the time He judges best. But meanwhile His peace will be given to keep our hearts and minds, as a garrison keeps a city. He is in peace, never disturbed, and by the railway of faith we reach His presence above the storms and tempests of our lives.
“He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim;
He does the very best for those
Who leave the choice with Him.”
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Gen. 50:2020But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph’s brethren had plotted and planned against their brother. Apparently their malicious designs were successful. The youth had been put down into the pit — then sold to the Midianites into slavery. They had accomplished their full wickedness. They “thought evil    .    .    .    but God — .” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Taken into Egypt, “the Lord was with Joseph,” and he prospered. Then again, while there, evil was thought against him. For sin — not his own — he was thrown into prison. His “feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron [or, his soul came into iron]: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him.” Psa. 105:18,1918Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: 19Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. (Psalm 105:18‑19). In body and in spirit he was bound “until the time.”
At length that time arrived. The discipline was effected. The mellowing and the molding were perfected. Joseph comes forth to be lord over all Egypt for the blessing of the people of that land and of all people around, and for the succor of his father and of the very brethren who had thought evil against him.
“God” had “meant it” all “unto good” —good for Joseph himself, good for others through him.
“God is above everything, and there is none above Him,” it has been said.
And He means good unto His own all through their history. That which is painful, and apparently contrary, will be used by His gracious hand for our ultimate benefit, and then through us for the help of others. Comforted in affliction ourselves, then we may comfort others. The affliction is overruled thus for the education of the believer in service, that he may be employed to encourage others with the comforting of God which he has known (2 Cor. 1:4).
“When He makes bare His arm,
Who shall His strength withstand?
When He His people’s cause defends,
Who then can stay His hand?”
“Jesus wept.” John 11:3535Jesus wept. (John 11:35). Sweet is the record of the sympathy of Jesus, the Son of God. This shortest verse in the Bible is one of the richest in comfort for the sorrowing and bereaved in a sad and sin-stricken world.
The Son of God, the Maker and Upholder of all, was among us here in tenderest grace. With fullest love in His heart and fullest power in His hand, in true manhood, He walked on earth.
The sisters of Lazarus had sent the message to the Lord, “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” They knew His affection and interest in all in that Bethany home.
Yes! He loved them all and He loved each of them particularly. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” We may add, today, with Paul, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). He has intimate care for every one of His own.
Thus we find Him going to Bethany, for although of late in Judea He had been sought to be stoned by the Jews, yet His deep love took Him to the grief-stricken home, and, when there, that same love led Him to weep His way by the side of Mary to the grave of her brother.
“Behold how He loved him!” exclaimed some.
His tender heart was moved by the sorrow death had brought into the world, with its blighting, blasting power.
Oh, stricken soul, He is the same today.
He is “able  .  .  .  to save  .  .  .  to the uttermost,” to the very last step of the homeward journey, all who draw near to God by Him (Heb. 7:2525Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)).
His consolations are great indeed. When bereavements rob us of a loved one, and the chair is empty, and the home has lost its light, He will draw near and make Himself known in fresh grace and glory.
“Jesus wept.” Ponder it, my soul! Jehovah the Saviour, the Lord of glory, Himself showed His heart of sympathy thus. “In all” our “affliction He was afflicted.” Isa. 63:99In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9). “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” entering in fullest measure into every trial. Apart from sin, He knew all that our anguished spirits suffer, being in all points tempted, or tried, as we are. It was for this He had become man, for in that He Himself suffered, being tempted, He is able to feel with and to succor those who are tempted. It is in our sorrows that we learn His heart’s tenderness and love.
“We know Him, as we could not know
In heaven’s unnumbered years;
We there shall see His glorious face,
But Mary saw His tears.
The touch that heals the broken heart
Is never felt above;
His angels know His blessedness,
His wayworn saints His love.”
The song of the sick king is full of instruction (Isa. 38). Hezekiah had been stricken with an illness that threatened his life.
In view of death he had wept and lamented. “Chattering like a crane or a swallow,” he had mourned “as a dove,” as he poured out the plaint, “O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” Immediately he had found relief, and records what the Lord had spoken and wrought for his good.
And God Himself is the resource of the child of God in every age. He is the refuge for the tried and troubled of whatever clime or country.
The king was recovered, and gives to us the secret thoughts which passed through his mind during his sickness. What a lesson he had learned! “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.”
That which was death and darkness was turned into life and light by the hand of Him who said of old, “Light be,” and light was.
“By these things,” the things which speak so clearly of the passing character of all “under the sun.”
“By these things,” the things which show how all here is shakeable, which lift our thoughts more and more to the kingdom which cannot be moved, to our eternal home with Him on high.
“By these things,” the things which are used of our God to turn us to Himself, so that He may bless us in His great love for us. “By these things men live.”
It is not usually when the south winds of physical and temporal prosperity blow that our lasting advantage is brought about. More often it is when the north winds of adversity and trial rage that we are truly benefitted. But whether it be in this way or in that way, we may know that all is well.
We may recall the well-known story told of a Christian farmer. He built a new barn over which he put a weathercock, and under that weathercock placed the words, “God is love.” When all was completed he found that some of his neighbors were ready to twit and tease. One said, “Do you mean that God’s love is as changeable as the wind?” “No, indeed!” he answered. “But I mean this: God is love, whichever way the wind blows.”
Happy are we to know this truth and to be able to say, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” Song of Sol. 4:1616Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. (Song of Solomon 4:16). This will be “life indeed” — to be for His pleasure here.
“Sweet is the sorrow, kind the storm,
That drives us nearer home.”
We should look away from all “second causes” and fix our eyes upon Him who is above all and who commands all for His people’s good.
Matters, small and great alike, are under His control, and are made to do duty in service for the spiritual advantage of His saints.
Any one or all of these may serve His purpose and “work His wondrous will,” for His glory and for the good of His own.
Notably is this truth seen in the case of Jonah. Sky and earth and sea are laid under tribute by the All Mighty Creator. “A great wind” is “sent out.” “A great fish” is “prepared” and directed in its course. A gourd is made to grow and overshadow the head of the prophet. A worm is formed to smite the gourd so that it withers. Finally, a vehement east wind and the sun in its strength overcome him so that he faints and wishes to die.
Yes! “All things serve His might.” God can and does employ, at times, the most unlikely instruments to accomplish His pleasure.
“He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves,” and, “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” “These are the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.” Rivers are turned into a wilderness, and dry land into water springs, at His word, while the poor are set on high from affliction, and families are made by Him “like a flock.”
“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.” Psa. 107:2443.
Oh, for this wisdom and this observation in all the dealings of our gracious Lord, with men generally and with ourselves particularly!
The coming day will declare that things which seemed most contrary were made to operate on our behalf, all through the intricate maze of our life. Then shall praise be His eternally.
“When Thy blood-bought bride, Lord Jesus,
Is complete:
When each soul is safely landed
At Thy feet:
What a story, in the glory,
She’ll repeat.”
They tell of a child who was asked to repeat the first verse of Psalm 23. She was nervous and shy, but made the attempt. “The Lord is my Shepherd”  .  .  .  “The Lord is my Shepherd”  .  .  .  “The Lord is my Shepherd,” she repeated, but could not remember the rest of the words of the verse.
Commencing again, however, she said, “The Lord is my Shepherd  .  .  .  that’s all I want.”
Strangely enough she gave the true meaning of the well-known words, “I shall not want,” for “I shall want for nothing” is the real purport of them.
If I have Him for my Shepherd, He will be enough for me in every detail of my pathway, enough in every circumstance, enough in every emergency. Enough in “the green pastures and still waters,” enough to refresh or restore when faint or faltering, enough in the dark, gloomy valley, enough in the midst of enemies, enough all the days of earthly life, and enough in the house of the Lord forever. He will be with His sheep here, watching over, tending and defending every one, and they will be with Him there forever and forever.
If we have Christ as our Shepherd, we have in Him all that is needed for time and for eternity; while if we are without Christ, we are poverty-stricken in truth.
A well-known preacher was asked for a motto for a New Year’s card, which was to be sent to Christians far and wide. At once he gave the opening words of a stanza of a much-loved hymn,
“Thou, O Christ, art all I want.”
Those seven words express the truth of that first verse of Psalm 23. We need Christ, and in Him we find everything we need —Saviour, Keeper, Lover, Friend, Present Companion and Everlasting Helper. He is all this for each one who confides in Him. Never can we find ourselves in such a position or in such a condition where He cannot or will not succor us.
All under the sun changes —
Thou art the Same.”
All here will pass away —
Thou remainest.”
These are comforting words from Hebrews 1, and the messages of the closing chapter of that epistle are like unto them —“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Boldly we may say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.” Having Him, we have all we need.
“In Thee I place my trust,
On Thee I calmly rest;
I know Thee wise, I know Thee just,
And count Thy choice the best.”
“Who plucked that flower?” It was the question asked by a gardener. A cherished bloom, the pride of the garden, had been cut from the parent stem. From bud to tender blossom it had been watched and cared for. Now it was gone. Who was it who had dared to take the flower?
The answer was, “The master.”
Yes, the owner, passing by along the gravel walk, had noticed it, had admired it, and had removed it. It was his and, appreciating it, he had taken it to himself.
Hearing the answer, the gardener was satisfied.
The master himself had seen, with pleasure, the outcome of his gardener’s work and had plucked the choice bloom for his use.
If our Master and Lord had taken to Himself one of the choicest blooms from the garden of our lives, shall we demur? It was His; the right to pluck the flower was with Him, and He has used that right. Perhaps the loved one had been long with us, and we had thought the flower our own. But it was not so. It was His. “Ye are not your own  .  .  .  ye are bought with a price” are His words of reminder to us all. All we have, we have in stewardship.
It was this which Job recognized, as he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:2121And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21).
We know Him in a fuller way than Job could know Him, for our Lord has come and has suffered for us. In His grace He, though rich, for our sakes “became poor, that [we] through His poverty might be rich.” 2 Cor. 8:9. He has given Himself, keeping nothing back. He sold all that He had and delivered Himself up on our behalf.
Shall we not confide in Him who ever acts in the good pleasure of His goodness, and who deals in love and kindness towards us in everything?
“God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,
But what thou wouldst thyself agree,
If thou the end of all events
Couldst see as well as He.”
The Christian child or parent or brother or sister or friend who has gone from us has been chosen by the Master for Himself in the courts on high.
Let us not murmur! The Master has the loved one with Himself, and we have the Master with us, until that glad day when together all will be introduced to the realms of light and glory.
“Our loved ones before, Lord!
Their sorrows are o’er, Lord!
We’ll meet them once more,
At Thy coming again!
That marked them as Thine, Lord!
The blood was the sign, Lord!
And brightly they’ll shine,
At Thy coming again!”
How sweet are the invitations of the Saviour!
Which of us has not rejoiced in His “Come” to the weary? “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:2828Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28). Weary of sin, we have listened to His call, and have pillowed our heads upon His loving breast.
Or, again, when the world has been sought over for satisfaction and has failed us, we have thirsted for heart content. Then His voice has been heard saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37,3837In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37‑38). Coming to Him we have found heart’s ease. But not only salvation and satisfaction are with Him, but comfort and consideration also.
To the tired with toil, He says, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” Mark 6:3131And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. (Mark 6:31). Let us notice, “Come” is His word here, not “Go!” He will be with us in privacy as well as in our public service. There, in the “desert place,” He will commune with us, teaching us in secret what we could not learn in the activities of labor for His name. “Apart” — with Him. Hallowed are these hours, and profitable for our spirits.
It may be that the sick bed, the quiet home, the enforced idleness become the “desert place,” where we may be alone with Him.
We need these retreats. The unstrung bow regains its power. The silent hour in His presence restores our spiritual balance. There we learn the true value of all things.
Do you remember why He chose the twelve? It was “that they might be with Him.” Yes! That was first — “with Him.” Then, having been “with Him,” they should have power to go forth to preach. “With Him,” then “for Him.” Such is His order for us all.
Our Lord delights in having His own “in the secret place” of His presence. There He qualifies us to face the world of turbulence and trouble.
“Company is better than property,” it has been said, and said truly. We may give of our property to many; we give of our company to those who are the objects of our love.
Let us see to it, beloved, that we give the Lord our company, as we hear Him say: “Come ye  .  .  .  rest a while.”
“In the secret of His presence
How my soul delights to hide;
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me,
Neither trials lay me low,
For when Satan comes to tempt me,
To the secret place I go.”
Moses and Elias were occupied thus on the holy mount where our Lord was transfigured.
Moses had not been permitted to enter the promised land when the Israelites passed over Jordan because he had failed in meekness when provoked by that rebellious people. But now he comes in, in the company of the Son of God Himself, and is seen communing with Him, communing concerning that greatest exodus — the departure of our Lord by way of Calvary into the glory of God. Hallowed company! Hallowed communion!
May it not be thus with some who, leaving us to mourn their loss, are found now in the presence of their Saviour and Lord? Are they “talking with Him” as these lines are penned or scanned? Would we wish them disturbed in that holy, happy occupation?
“Talking with Him.” This is to be our privilege “in glory.” In bodies of glory, suited by Himself for Himself, so that with infinite complacency He may look upon us, and see us comely with the comeliness He has put upon us, so as to fit us to be His companions forever; we on our side knowing every question forever settled, which could ever arise to disturb our delight in being with Him, and the Holy Spirit, unhindered and ungrieved, giving us power to enjoy unbroken and unbreakable communion with our Lord. What a prospect this!
“Talking with Jesus.” The “decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” will engage our attention eternally, assuredly. The redeemed host of Revelation 5 sing of the redemption work of Christ, and praise Him that His blood was shed to redeem them and to make them a kingdom of priests to God. What will it be to hear our Lord and Saviour Himself unfold to us that which His sufferings have wrought for the glory of God and for the blessing of men? It will lead to full and everlasting praise.
“With Thee, in garments white,
Lord Jesus, we shall walk;
And, spotless in that heavenly light,
Of all Thy sufferings talk.”
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Acts 16:2525And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (Acts 16:25).
These were “songs in the night” in truth!
Their backs were smarting with the cruel stripes of the scourge. Their feet were fast in the stocks. They were in the inner prison at Philippi. But their hearts were kept in peace and rose in prayer to God. Did they pray to get out of the prison? Or was it their request that the light of God should enter the dark heart of the jailer? We know not. But we know that their supplications were mingled with songs of praise to God. They were confident in Him and assured that all would work for His glory.
The midnight prayers and praises told their tale. “The prisoners heard them.” Instead of oaths and curses, the songs that rose that midnight in the darkness must have seemed remarkable. But not alone by the prisoners, the prayers and praises were heard by the Lord of heaven and of earth. The “man of Macedonia” had been seen, in vision, crying for help. As yet it had been “the women” gathered by the riverside who had received the Apostle’s ministry. The jailer was held by his duties. If he could not go to the preacher, the preacher would come to him, and come by a pathway of pain and persecution and imprisonment. Paul and Silas realized but little, probably, what would come to pass as the result of their forced visit to the innermost dungeon, but their Lord and Master knew, and they were confident in Him. He knows the end from the beginning in all things. The “dragons, and all deeps” are called on to praise Him. In this case He intervened by an earthquake. The earthquake was followed by the heart quake, and by the conversion of the jailer, and the blessing of his household.
Let us have confidence in our God, and pray and sing praises in the darkness of the midnight hour of difficulty. In His own time He can bring us out of the prison gladdened in heart that we have had His support while there, and that the time of testing has proved a time of testimony for Himself, and of triumph over all the power of Satan. A human prison may be a divine palace.
“The Lord was with” Joseph in prison. He was with Paul in Rome. He was with John in Patmos. He was with Bunyan in Bedford. He makes “the wrath of man to praise Him.”
“If our faith were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word,
And our lives would be all sunshine,
In the sweetness of the Lord.”