The divine Gardener
(J. R. Miller, "How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life" 1880)
We may think that our lot is especially hard — and may wish that it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes — with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. We think that then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be — never to have a care, an irritation, a trouble, a single vexing thing!
But the fact remains — that the place in which we find ourselves — is the very place in which the Master desires us to live our life! There is no haphazard in God's world. God leads every one of His children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences, each particular life will ripen best.
One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water's edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. Every tree or plant is found in the precise locality to enhance its growth. And does God give more thought to trees and plants — than to His own children? No!
He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar trials to which we are each subjected — is the exact discipline we each need to bring out the beauties and graces of true spiritual character in us. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly — in a more easy and luxurious life. But God knows what is best for us — He makes no mistakes!
There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased — but a change came over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty, and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best, where to plant each flower.
Just so, God, The divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what He would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms; some will only thrive in the shadow of worldly adversity; and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity — whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. The divine Gardener knows what is best for each one!
There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian, exemplifying all the virtues of godliness. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly — wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us — He fits us for its peculiar trials.
God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each one's necessity. For rough, flinty paths — He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier — the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken — He draws closer. As the trials become sorer — the trusting heart grows calmer.
Jesus always sees His disciples, when they are toiling in the waves — and at the right moment He comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life — in any circumstances.
Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true in heathen Egypt — as Benjamin in the shelter of his father's love. The sharper the temptations — the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship — in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.
Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a very faulty life — it should be our settled purpose to live, through the grace of God — a patient, gentle and unspotted life — in the place, and amid the circumstances, He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials — but in rightly meeting and enduring them.
The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living.
The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences — and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles — and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these testings of my temper — and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?" This is the true problem of Christian living.