Widow Directed to the Widow's God
by John Angell James, 1841
Letter to a friend who
had lost a near relative
Your long and intimate letter gave me great pleasure.
There is a sympathy in the feeling of people who have been recently
afflicted, which cannot be expected to be found in others; a mutual chord,
which, touched, vibrates with a kindred sound. We have not suffered exactly
alike. But we have suffered; and that circumstance has made us love each
other better than we did before.
When I view myself, riven asunder, root and branch, not
the limbs torn away—but the very body of the tree sundered from top to
bottom, nature must feel the parting agonies, must at times, be ready to
sink under the consciousness of her dissolution. All this must be to those
who have interests to be smitten, friendships to be broken, and hearts to
Yes, dear friend, our hearts have bled. The wound
inflicted has been deep. We have felt that the stroke was full of anguish,
that it went to our very souls. We will not deny that this is all true. We
will not please ourselves with the delusion that the deep, deep wound which
the hand of God has inflicted, can ever cease to bleed. But, O my friend!
'is there not balm in Gilead? is there not a physician there?' Is not that
physician our Savior; wise to discern, prudent to manage, strong to save?
Has not the kind hand which smote so deeply, accompanied the stroke with
many softening, mitigating circumstances? Oh yes; I trust we both feel that
it is so. It is God who has afflicted us, the infinitely wise,
compassionate, and faithful Jehovah, the Lord our God. And does it not argue
great lack of confidence in him, if we sink into despondency when he
chastises us? Does it not show, either that we think we could manage things
better than he can, or that there is something which we have not cordially
submitted to his disposal?
And now, O God, you are the potter, and we the clay. O
how this quells the murmurings of self-will; how it settles the restlessness
of the troubled spirit; how it plucks the sting from the rod of affliction!
God knows best! Precious truth! It is an anchor to the soul, sure and
steadfast, which keeps it from shipwreck, amid all the storms and tempests
of the troubled sea of life. Oh, for a firm, unwavering faith! This is all
that is needed. With this we may say, "Cheerful I tread the desert through."
By faith, we may rejoice when our beloved Christian
friends are taken from the stormy ocean to the peaceful haven--from the
weary wilderness to the happy home--from the field of conflict to the crown
of victory; and trace with holy courage, our way through the same
difficulties to the same glorious reward.
But, ah! this, a firm unwavering faith, is too often
lacking. We miss our dear friend. The heart which sympathized in all our
pleasures and pains, has ceased to beat; the ear which was always open to
listen to our afflictions and wishes, is closed; the kind voice of affection
and unselfish love, is hushed; the arm which supported us, is withdrawn. It
is a chilling thought. Cherished alone, we feel its freezing, benumbing
influence fastening upon all the springs of comfort and hope, and turning
every stream of joy into one wilderness of cold and motionless despair.
But, my dear friend, we must not view our trials thus. We
must think much and often of the blessedness of those whose removal we
lament, of the perfection of the divine government, of the certainty of the
promise, that 'all things shall work together for good to those who love
God,' of the rapid approach of that hour which will unite us eternally to
those in Christ whom we love, of the danger of creature-comforts, and of the
suffering life on earth of our glorious High-priest and head, and his
assurance that it is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. Oh,
my dear friend, if we are Christians, there is a glorious prospect before
us—as much of the good things of this life as an infinitely wise and kind
Father sees to be best for us, and hereafter an eternity of unmingled and