Charles Naylor, 1920
Louise stood looking out of the window with unseeing eyes. There was a troubled expression upon her face. There were tears in her eyes, and a lump in her throat. What was the trouble? An hour before she had been singing as blithely as a song-bird. Her morning devotions had been sweet. The presence of God had been with her. The day had started out full of sunshine, but alas! now her sky was clouded.
It had all happened in a moment. Her younger brother had been playing with his dog and had carelessly run against the stand upon which her flower-pots were sitting and had upset one of the choice plants, breaking the pot and ruining the flower. Louise saw the happening. How careless it was of the boy! Quickly a feeling of impatience arose, and before she realized what she was doing, she had spoken sharply to her brother and had said hasty words that she immediately regretted. Her conscience quickly reproved her. She felt bad over the loss of the flower — but she felt much worse over her hasty words. A dark, heavy cloud settled down upon her. The sunshine was all gone, there was no longer any song in her heart, but heaviness instead.
Standing there by the window, she now pondered over it. Oh, if she had been more tender! If she had only exercised more self-control! If she had kept back those hasty words! It was quite true that Tom had been very careless. Still, she knew that he too loved the flowers. He did not mean to destroy one. Louise loved Tom, and because of this she felt all the more deeply what she had done. He was gone now, she knew not where. She would be glad to apologize to him and beg his pardon, if he were there.
She decided that she would tell him as soon as he returned, and that gave her some satisfaction — but it did not take away the cloud. She thought of how bright the morning and how light and care-free her heart had been! But now her day was clouded, and worst of all, she had made the cloud herself, by her own haste!
That is often the way it is with us. We make so many of our own clouds in life. Clouds often come over our lives from the actions of others. Sometimes they come through circumstances that cannot be helped. Such clouds as these do not have the effect upon us that our home-made clouds do. The things that are hardest to bear, are the things that we feel we have brought upon ourselves. These get closer to us than anything else. They have a sting to them that nothing else has.
Many times people do things that try us; but if we also do or say something hastily at that time, it will increase our trial and make it the more difficult to bear. It will make the clouds that come all the darker. If we have not been as kind as we ought to have been, if there has been a sharpness in our words, or if we have manifested our displeasure at something in a way that showed bitter feelings — it is sure to bring a cloud over our day.
The more tender our consciences, the more we shall feel these things and the more the tendency will be to cloud our days. It is true that we shall feel displeased over things, and it is very natural to manifest our displeasure in some way. Some people are very impulsive and speak before they stop to think what they are saying, or what the result will be — and thus they are continually making clouds for themselves. There are times when we must resolutely take hold of ourselves when the feeling of displeasure comes, as it is sure to do. The will must grapple with these emotions quickly — and not let them get into action. Our wills were given us to rule ourselves with.
When tempted to be unkind or to be hasty in our words and actions, we should say within ourselves, "I will not speak hasty words. I will control myself and keep sweet. I will be patient. I will be kind. I will do as the Lord would have me to do." Then we should put these resolutions quickly into action. Instead of the trial bringing a cloud over us — the fact that we have conquered ourselves and kept ourselves in the attitude that we should hold toward God and toward others, will make the sunshine all the brighter.
Conquer yourself! Set a watch before your lips. If you are of an impulsive disposition, you may fail again and again — but do not be discouraged, and keep up the fight. You will win in the end. You will at last reach the place where self-control acts automatically, where you will think in time.
If you fail and the clouds come — then endure them patiently, resolving to do better the next time. Do not let yourself be crushed under the circumstance. Do not let yourself be so discouraged that you think that there is no use in trying, that you never will overcome. Keep up the fight — you will yet come out a conqueror.
Sometimes people feel that God is leading them to do a certain thing — they feel strongly impressed to do it. They see an opportunity — then, perhaps through timidity or indecision, they let the opportunity pass by, and when it is gone they feel bad because they failed to improve it. How they regret not having done it! If they had another opportunity, they would not let it slip. But it has gone. In vain do they wish for it again. They have failed, and that failure brings a dark cloud over them. It is another home-made cloud. They cannot blame anyone else for it — not even Satan. But they do blame themselves, and sometimes to such an extent that it takes the joy and sweetness out of the day — and possibly out of several days.
If we have done such things, it does no good to heap reproaches upon ourselves. That only makes our clouds darker. The way out is to open our hearts to God and tell him all about it, asking him to help us to be more courageous, more diligent to take advantage of our opportunities, and more faithful to follow his leadings. Let us resolve in our hearts that we will do this, then go cheerfully about it.
Frivolous or foolish conversation or actions sometimes bring clouds over our sky. The Spirit reproves us, and we see our fault. To chide and condemn ourselves does no good. The only profitable thing for us to do at such times is to be open-hearted and frank toward the Lord and tell him about it, to ask his help that we may do better the next time, and to determine in our hearts that we will do better. I do not mean that we should get into bondage. God wants us to be free, to live naturally, and not to live under a strain — but to exercise a proper degree of caution.
We all have regrets and come more or less short of our ideals at times. But if we are as careful and as true as we ought to be, we shall not have so many of these home-made clouds. But if we do have them, then let us bear up patiently. It will do no good to chastise ourselves. The only thing we can do that will be profitable is to trust in the Lord, and go ahead until the darkness passes away and the sun shines again.
Let us be true to God and hold fast our confidence and our decision to serve him — and be ready to confess our faults before him. He will not cut us off for such things. He will have mercy upon us and will show his loving-kindness toward us. Let us therefore trust in him and make as few of these home-made clouds as possible!