The Every Day of Life
J. R. Miller, 1892
Loving the Unseen Friend
"The world sits at the feet of Christ,
Unknowing, blind, and unconsoled;
It shall yet touch his garment's fold,
And feel the heavenly Alchemist
Transmute its very dust to gold."
Love for Christ is transforming the world. Love always
transforms. Many a life is made beautiful by a pure, sweet, strong, human
love. Who has not seen a young wife, with light, girlish nature, without
seriousness, caring only for herself—until a baby came, when all was
changed? She became serious, thoughtful, and earnest. Self died, and her
soul flowed out in unsparing service. She lived now for her child. The hands
that heretofore had been idle became ministering hands. Too dainty before,
for any toil, or any rough touch, they were now used without thought, in
caring for her child. Her whole being was transformed and shown now in noble
beauty. Love had wrought the change. Children are God's angels to thousands
of young mothers, sent to bless them by drawing their heart away from self.
For we never learn to live—until we cease to think of ourselves and begin to
live for some object outside of self. Selfishness destroys the life, blights
its beauty, withers up its powers, and lays a curse upon it. Love saves the
life, develops its faculties, and calls out its best.
There was a childless home. Husband and wife grew up
together in mutual love—but having no interest outside of their own lives;
they became selfish, grasping, and covetous. Years passed, and they were
growing rich—but were miserly, saving every possible cent. They pinched
themselves, living almost like beggars, with thin clothing, poor fare, in
fire-less rooms. They gave nothing away to the relief of the need and
distress about them. Appeals for God's work met with no response. Thus time
passed until they had reached mid-life. Then the breaking up of another home
by the death of the parents, brought a little child into the cold, loveless
dreary home. At once the child found her way into both you withering hearts,
and little by little the love awoke. Almost instantly there was a change.
The home was brightened. The hoarded money was brought out and was spent
more freely. The poor were remembered, God's cause received help. The faces
that were growing old and cold with the lines of greed and grasping
desire—became soft and warm with love's subtle warmth. The two lives were
transformed. God had saved them through a child.
These are only familiar illustrations of what even human
love does continually in this world. We do not know what God is doing for us
when he give us friends to love, especially when he give us those, the
loving of whom costs us something. The blessing comes through the serving,
through the giving out of life. An invalid or suffering one in a home
is oftentimes the means of softening, refining, and enriching all the
household lives. When God sends one to love—who becomes a burden upon your
heart, who call for sacrifice, service, patient care and cost—lift up your
eye and reverently thank him, for there is divine blessing for yourself in
this ministering in Christ's name. This is a losing of life, which is in
reality—the finding of it.
But it is the loving of Christ, which works the most
wonderful transformations. It has changed millions of lives from sin,
sordidness, cruelty, degradation, and crime—into beauty, gentleness,
refinement, and holiness. It is nearly two thousand years since Christ died
upon the cross, rested in the grave, and arose from the dead. All these
centuries, multitudes in each generation have believed in him and loved him;
and love for him has changed their lives, lifted them up and drawn them
after him in holy devotion.
His followers have learned the lessons of patience,
unselfishness, endurance of wrong, forgiveness of injuries, compassion for
the weak, pity for the lost, and kindly ministry to the needy and the
sorrowing. The whole blessed work of Christianity, is simply the influence
of the love of the unseen Christ in human hearts and lives.
"But how can we love one whom we have not seen and cannot
see?" This is a question, which many ask. For one thing we may learn all the
story of Christ as told in the Gospels, until we are familiar with it. Then
we may remember that while Christ is unseen on the earth, he is as really
present as he was during the years of his abode in Palestine. He promised,
"I am with you all the days," and he certainly meant just what he said. His
presence does not depend on our seeing him.
Indeed, we never really see any of our friends. It is not
the human form you can see—that is the person you love. It is not your
mother's face and hair and hand and body that you love; it is her soul, her
spirit. It is not her body that is gentle, patient, kind, thoughtful, and
unselfish. A body cannot love. Even the loveliest face cannot itself be a
blessing to you. It is the life which dwells in the body, that is your
mother. You can say of her, in a sense that is true, "Whom having not seen—I
love." Take any friend whom is much to you, on whom you lean, and it is not
the body that you love. There is sweetness in a face, kindly warmth in an
eye, thrilling inspiration in a touch. Why? Because of the soul that is in
the body. But the body is not your friend, whom you have really never seen,
since you cannot see truth, purity, love, sympathy, constancy, and strength.
We cannot see Christ—but if we have become his, he is
indeed our personal friend and is really to us all that such a divine Friend
What is it in your best human friend that is most to you,
on whom you lean most in weakness, who comforts you most in sorrow, who is
the best help to you in any need or trouble? Is it anything in your
friend—that you can see? Is it not his truth, his wisdom, his love for you,
his sympathy, his faithfulness, and his constancy? Even if he is not with
you at all so that you can see him, is he not still a strength to you, a
comfort, a refuge, a help? The consciousness that he is your friend; that
whatever else may fail you—he will not; that he sympathizes with you,
understands you, will be patient with you; the assurance that if need be—he
will help you with all the capacity for helpfulness there is in him—makes
you strong, blesses you, gives you peace, though you see him not.
You cannot see Christ—but you believe that he is true,
loving, faithful, touched with sympathy when you suffer; that he knowss all
about you and loves you with a personal, deep, tender, strong, everlasting
love. You know, too, that he has all power and that all his power is yours
to support, keep, bless, deliver, and protect, save you. You know that he
has all wisdom—wisdom that never errs, that never counsels rashly,
indiscreetly, short-sightedly, and that all this wisdom is for the guidance
of your life, the ordering of your steps. As we think along these lines the
unseen Christ becomes very real to us. Loving this Friend whom we cannot
see, becomes then blessed power in our life. For one thing we learn to trust
him and leave in his hands all the affairs of our life.
Many people have altogether too narrow a concept of what
Christ does for them. They think of him as forgiving their sins, changing
their hearts, helping them only in spiritual affairs, and bringing them home
at last to heaven. But there is nothing in our life, which is not of
interest to him, and true believing in Christ implies the putting into his
hand, of all our affairs. This may not always be easy. We like to have our
own way, to carry out our own plans. We do not like to have sorrow and
disappointment break in upon us. Yet if he is to fashion our life into
heavenly beauty, he must have his way with us. Thus we get a glimpse of the
meaning of trial. If sorrow comes in place of the joy which you have planned
for yourself, it is because sorrow is better than joy would have been.
Christ may oftentimes seem to be spoiling the beauty of our life; but it is
ours to trust him even then, and by and by, we shall know that hi way was
wiser than ours. Tapestry weavers see only the wrong side as they weave.
"My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me;
I may but choose the colors–
He works steadily.
Full oft he weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget he sees the upper
And I the under side."
Loving this unseen Savior—will draw us into his service.
No transformation into his character is complete, which does not make us
like him in the devotion of our life to the good of the world. Perhaps we
sometimes overlook this, thinking of Christ-likeness as gentleness,
patience, meekness, purity, truth, without the active element. But
when Christ put the thought of his mission into a sentence it was: "The Son
of man came not to be served—but to serve, and to give his
life a ransom for many."
Not otherwise can we conceive of our mission as followers
of Christ. We must follow him in self-denial and sacrifice, in the true
laying of our life upon the altar of love. It is this which the world needs
today—the life of Christ repeated in the lives of his people, in
humble services which shall fill the earth with the fragrance of love, and
carry blessing into every nook and corner of it. Not long shall he be with
us—as an Unseen Savior. We shall soon go to be with him!
The Secret of Peace
Peace is possible to every believer in Christ. No
Christian can say, "That is beautiful. It shines in my friend's face like
heaven's radiance. But it is not for me." The peace of God is for the
believer. God shows no favoritism in dispensing this blessing. There is
great diversity in the natural gifts and abilities bestowed upon
individuals. A violet could never be a rose. An apple-tree could never
become an oak. A sparrow could never reach the eagle's flight. An owl could
never learn the canary's song. Not all men can become fine artists. Not all
women can become sweet singers. If it were art, or music, or eloquence, or
the poet's power, which was set before us as the ideal of a true life, many
of us might say, "I never can attain that!" In matters of natural endowment
God divides to each one—as he will.
But best of God's grace is open to all of his
children. The divine peace is not for a few: it is a blessing which all may
obtain. No matter how restless, how turbulent, how full of care, how
naturally given to worry and anxiety one may be—this sweet, quiet, restful
peace of God is possible of attainment.
Yet there are a great many godly people, who have not yet
learned the secret of peace. There are Christian men in business, and in the
midst of life's affairs, who are always full of care, fearful of the outcome
of their ventures, restless, tossed on the bosom of life's rough sea like
leaves on the billows. There are women, Christian women, who love Christ and
read their Bible, and pray, and partake of the Lord's Supper, and work in
the Sunday school, and in missionary societies, and who are very dear to
Christ, yet whose lives are certainly full of little anxieties. They are
easily annoyed. Their faces show lines of care and fret. Now and then they
have brief seasons of restful trust, when they seem to have gotten the
victory—but in a little while, they are back again in the old broken
This is not the best that the religion of Christ can do
for us. More than two hundred and fifty times does the word "peace" occur in
the Bible. Paul, the homeless, hunted, suffering apostle, used it more than
forty times, writing it oftentimes in prison, with a chain rattling on his
wrist as he wrote. One of our Lord's sweetest farewell words was, "Peace I
leave with you;" and when he came from the grave, three times did the
blessing fall from his lips: "Peace be unto you." The ideal life for a
believer in Christ—is one of peace.
It is very evident that this life of peace is not a life
without care. Christ nowhere suggests the thought that his disciples are
lifted out of the common conditions of life—into a sheltered pilgrimage,
where the storms do not beat upon them, where sickness and pain do not reach
them, where there are no disagreeable people to live with, and no
adversities and disappointments to mar the calmness and quietness of the
life from year to year.
He said expressly, that he did not want his disciples
taken out of the world. The Christian is called to live in the midst of the
ordinary conditions of life. The winds blow no more softly for him. The
wicked are no more gentle, because one of God's children is beside them.
Sickness turns not away from a home, because one of Christ's little ones
dwells there. Circumstances are no more kindly, because it is a Christian
who is being hurt by their pitiless grind.
Care is one of the conditions of human life. The birds
have no care. The lambs that feed in the meadows have no care. As life grows
in the things that ennoble it, and make it worthy, care increases. The love,
which the religion of Christ teaches, makes our hearts more and more
sensitive, and instead of taking us out of the world's trying experiences,
it makes us feel its hardships and burdens all the more. Life's
relationships all bring with them burden and anxiety. The peace, which
Christ promises, is not made by emptying a little spot of all the darkness,
suffering, and troubles—and setting us down into it.
Nor, is this peace produced by so changing our nature
that we shall not feel the things which cause pain and disturbance.
To do this, our hearts would have to be robbed of the very qualities in
them, which are noblest and divinest. Only think what it would mean to
you—to have taken out of your life, the possibility of suffering from the
trials, the losses, the injustices and wrongs, the sorrows of life. To be
made so that you would not feel these things—would be to lose out of your
heart, the power to love and to sympathize.
Our purest joys, and our deepest sufferings—lie very
close together. To have the capacity to love and be happy, is to have also
the capacity to suffer. Religion makes our hearts gentler, more thoughtful,
more sympathetic, and prepares us to be pained more—not less—by the
frictions, the trials, and the frets of life. The Christian suffers no less
in sorrow, trial, and care, because they are Christian; he probably suffers
more. It is no easier, in human sense, for a friend of Christ to meet
disappointments, adversities, bereavements, and loses, and to endure the
frictions and annoyances of life—than it is for the worldly person; it may
be harder. It is not by dulling the sensibilities, that Christ gives peace.
It is a peace in the heart which he gives, a peace which one may have
within, while without storms are raging; a calm in the soul in the midst of
external agitations and tumults; a quiet restfulness which holds the life in
a serene composure even while all things seem to be disastrous; a spirit
unperturbed, unfretted, unruffled—in the midst of life's multitudinous
What is the secret of this peace? How is it to be gotten?
Paul gives the answer in two very definite counsels. The first is, "In
nothing be anxious." Anxiety is worry. We cannot help having things in life
that would naturally make us anxious. Yet come what may—we are not to be
There are reasons for this counsel. Worry does no good.
It changes nothing. Worrying over a disappointment does not give us the
thing we wanted. Worrying about the weather does not make it cold or warm,
cloudy or sunny. Worrying over a loss does not give us back the thing we
prized. Our Lord reminds us of the uselessness of worry when he says
that by being anxious about our stature we cannot make ourselves any taller.
Anxiety enfeebles and wastes one's strength. One day's
worry, exhausts a person more than a whole week of quiet, peaceful work. It
is worry, not overwork, as a rule, which kills people. Worry keeps the brain
excited, the blood feverish, the heart working wildly, the nerves quivering,
and the whole machinery of the life in unnatural tension, and it is no
wonder then that people break down.
Anxiety mars one's work. Nobody can do the best work when
fevered by worry. One may rush and always be in great haste, and may talk
about being busy, fuming and sweating as if he were doing ten person's
duties, and yet some quiet person alongside, who is moving leisurely and
without any anxious haste, is probably accomplishing twice as much—and doing
it better. Fluster unfits one for good work.
Anxiety irritates and frets oneself. A sweet spirit is an
essential feature of every beautiful life. Ungoverned temper is not only
unchristian—but is also most unlovely. There may be a difference of taste
concerning many matters. What one thinks very beautiful in dress or manner,
another may condemn. But no one thinks bad temper, lovely. Yet worry leads
to irritability, makes one censorious, querulous, of a complaining, repining
spirit. One cannot have a uniformly sweet spirit, patient, gentle, amiable,
without peace in the heart. Peace makes the face lovely, even in homeliness.
Peace curbs the tongue, that it shall speak no hasty,
ill-advised, impatient words. It gives quiet dignity to all the movements.
Anxiety spoils many a disposition, and writes lines of unrest and care upon
many a face, which ought to keep lovely into old age.
Then, anxiety is sin. It is not a mere unhappy
thing—which wastes the strength, mars the work, and hurts the temper; it is
also distrust of God. We say we believe in the love of God, and then we
worry over what he sends—the circumstances he appoints for us, the tasks he
sets for us, the place he assigns us, the path in which he leads us, the way
he deals with us. Worry is sin.
Hence we are to set it down as a positive rule—that we
are never to be anxious. There are no exceptions. We are not to say that our
case is peculiar; than even Job would be impatient if he had our trials;
that even Moses would lose his temper if he had our provocations; or even
Paul would worry if he had our cares. This law of life has no exceptions,
"In nothing be anxious." What then shall we do with the things, which would
naturally worry us? Paul tells us "In nothing be anxious; but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known
That is, instead of being fretted and distracted over the
things which we cannot control, we are to put them out of our own hands into
God's—by specific prayer—and leave them there. No human wisdom can explain
the mysteries of life. No human hand can take the strange complication of
life's events and so adjust them that they will make beauty and happiness.
But there is One to whose wisdom all life's mysteries are open and clear.
There is no confusion in this world as God's eye looks upon events. What is
keen trial to us today—he sees resulting in blessing and good a little while
hence. The thousand apparently tangled circumstances and events, amid which
our life is moving—are to him, threads with which perfect lovingness is
We are not to try, therefore, to thrust from us the cares
and trials which come to us clearly as God's will—but are quietly to submit
to them. It is this restless struggle against the things we cannot compel
out of our life—which makes such pain and bitterness for so many of us. The
bird which when put in the cage flies against the wires in wild effort to be
free, only bruises its body and beats its wings into bleeding wounds in
unavailing struggle. Far wiser is the bird which when put in a cage, begins
to sing. If we would but learn this lesson and cheerfully accept the things
we cannot resist—as our Father's will for us—we would have peace in our
heart and would get a blessing out of every trial.
We are told that the peace of God shall guard our
hearts and thoughts. It is a military figure which is suggested—when men
slept in quiet confidence in their tents, with enemies all about, because
waking sentinels kept watch through all the night. Our hearts were quiet and
confident in any danger, because God watches. "The Lord is your keeper." "He
who keeps you shall not slumber." It is not a mere philosophy of
self-preservation which is taught us. There is a keeping, which is not our
own. "The peace of God shall keep your heart and thoughts." It is possible;
therefore, for us so to commit all our life's sorrows, cares, and troubles
to Christ, that the divine love shall wrap us around like a blessed
atmosphere, quieting all fear and filling us with holy peace.
Is not the lesson worth learning at any cost? It can
be learned; it has been learned. Its one secret, is perfect
submission to the will of God. Every resistance or disobedience causes
unrest and sorrow; but quiet acceptance, with loving confidence and joyous
song, will bring the peace of God into the soul.
Time of Loneliness
Loneliness is one of the most pathetic of all
human experiences. The yearning for companionship is one of the deepest of
all yearnings. The religion of Christ has something to meet every human
need; what is its blessing for loneliness? We may turn to the Master's own
life for answer to our question. He met all the experiences that ever come
to ours, and he found himself the best there is to be found, in the divine
love to meet each experience. Thus he showed us what we may find in our
times of need and how we may find it.
Christ's loneliness was one of the bitterest elements
of his earthly sorrow. All great people are solitary people, for
there are so few other people, in whom they can find companionship. Christ
was the greatest man who ever lived on the earth. His very greatness of
character, made it impossible for him to have any real companionship among
men. Besides, those whom he came to bless and save, rejected him. "He came
unto his own, and his own received him not." The only human relief to his
loneliness along the years of his public ministry was in the love of his
chosen friends, and this was most imperfect and unsatisfactory.
But we know where he ever turned for solace and comfort
in his experiences. After a day of pain and suffering, he would climb the
mountain and spend the night in communion with his Father, returning in the
morning renewed and strong for another day of beautiful life. In his darkest
hour he said that though left alone as to human companionship, he was not
alone, because his Father was with him.
The comfort of our Lord's heart in his loneliness is for
us too, if we are walking in his steps. We too have our experiences of
loneliness in this world, and we too may have the blessed companionship
which shall fill the emptiness. In a certain sense, all life is lonely. Even
with sympathetic companionships all about us, there is an inner life which
each of us lives altogether alone. We must make our own choices and
decisions. We must meet our own questions and answer them ourselves. We must
fight our own battles, endure our own sorrows, and carry our own burdens.
Friendship may be very close and tender—but there is a sanctuary of each
life into which even the holiest friendship may not enter
Blessed are they, who in loneliness can say, "Yet I am
not alone, because the Father is with me." God's is the only friendship that
can really meet all our soul's deep needs and cravings. Human companionship
helps us at a few points; the divine has its blessing for every experience.
We never shall be left alone—when we have Christ. When other helpers fail
and comforts flee—he will ever stand close beside us. When other faces fade
out of view—his will shine out with tender love, pouring its light upon us.
There are special experiences of loneliness in every
life, for which Christ is needed. Youth is one of these times. Youth seems
happy and light-hearted. Companionships swarm all about it. But oftentimes a
young person feels lonely even amid such scenes and friendships. All life is
new to him. As his soul awakens, a thousand questions arise demanding an
answer. He is in this world with a thousand paths, and he must choose in
which he will walk. Everything is mysterious. There are perils lurking on
all sides. Choices must be made. Lessons must be learned. All is new, and at
every step the voice is heard, "You have not passed this way before!" This
loneliness of inexperience, when a young soul is taking its earliest steps
in life, is one of the most trying and painful feelings of all the years. If
Christ were not then the companion, lonely and perilous indeed is the way!
But if he walks beside the young soul in its inexperience, all is well.
There are those who are lonely because they are homeless.
It is impossible to estimate too highly the value and the helpfulness of a
true home of love. Home is a shelter. Young lives nest there and find warmth
and protection. There is also guidance in a true Christian home. A wise
mother or father answers many of life's hardest questions. Blessed is that a
young man or a young woman who can take every perplexity, every mystery,
every doubt or fear, every hunger, home to the sacredness of love's
sanctuary, and who gets there true sympathy, patient counsel, and wise
Home has also its blessed companionship. It is the one
place where we are absolutely sure of each other, and do not need to be on
our guard. Youth has its unspeakable longings, its deep hungers, and its
cravings for tenderness. In the true home these are all met. Those who have
such a home do not realize the half it is to them. It is the very shadow of
Christ's wings over their lives, the very cleft of the Rock, and the very
bosom of divine love. Life's loneliness means far less to them, while its
companionships and its gentle, patient, wise, helpful, nourishing love.
But sometimes the home is pulled down over youth—and its
shelter broken up. Few things are sadder than homelessness. Loneliness
begins to be really felt when the home is gone, when there is no longer a
wise and loving mother to give her counsel in life's inexperience, to lay
her hand on the head in blessing, to listen to eager questions and answer
them, to restrain the impetuous spirit, to quiet the soul when it is
perturbed and when its peace is broken, to lead through perplexing paths, to
fill the hungry heart with the comfort of love when it longs for sympathy
and companionship. Bitter indeed is the sense of loneliness when a young
person, used to all that a mother's love means—turns away from a mother's
grave to miss thenceforward the blessings which have been so much in the
past. Nothing earthly will in any full and adequate measure, compensate for
the loss. Other human friendships may be very sweet—but they will not give
back home, with its shelter, its affection, its trust, its guidance, its
soothing, and its security.
Only less lonely is it for the young people, whom
circumstances take them away in early years, from the home where through
childhood their life has been gently nourished. The home still stands, and
the love is still there with all its blessed warmth, and letters can be sent
and received, and now and then there can be a return for a brief stay in the
This mitigates the loss and the loneliness; yet even this
experience is oftentimes a very sad one. Away from home there is always a
loss not of love only—but also of protection. The young people, who
leave quiet rural homes, for life in the midst of a great city, plunge into
perils from which only Christ can shield them.
But blessed is the life, which in any earthly
homelessness can say, "Yet, I am not alone, because Christ is with me."
Blessed is that loneliness or homelessness, which has Christ to fill the
emptiness. With Christ unseen—yet loved and made real to the heart by love
and faith—even a room in a boarding-house may become a home, a sanctuary of
peace, and a shelter of divine love.
Another time of special loneliness is when sorrow strips
off the sweet friendships of life. Old age is an illustration. Old
people are oftentimes very lonely. Once they were the center of groups of
friends and companions who clustered about them. But the years brought their
changes. Now the old man stands alone. Still the streets are full; but where
are the faces of forty, fifty years ago? There is a memory of vacant chairs,
of marriage altar with the un-bindings and the separations that followed.
The old faces are gone. It is young life that now fills the home, the
street, the church—and the old people are lonely because their old friends
Yet in Christ even old age can say, "I am not alone." No
changes in life can take him away. He is the companion of life's feebleness.
He loves the old people. There is a special promise for them: "I will be
your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made
you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you."
Christian old age is very near to glory. It will not be long until the old
people reach home to stand again amid the circle of loved ones who blessed
their youth and early years.
But not the old people only are left lonely by life's
change; sorrow touches all ages, and if we have not Christ when other
friends are taken, desolate indeed shall we be. Blessed is that life, any
life, which, when human friends are taken away, finds the friendship of
Christ all-filling, all-satisfying, and can say, "Yet I am not alone—for
Christ is with me."
The loneliest of all human experiences, is that of
dying. We cannot die in clusters—we must die alone. Human hands must
unclasp ours as we enter the valley of shadows. Human faces must fade from
our vision as we pass into the mists. "I cannot see you," said one dying, as
the loved ones stood about his bed. So it will be with each one of us in
turn. Human love cannot go beyond the edge of the valley. But we need not be
alone even in the deepest of all loneliness, for if we are Christ's we can
say, "Yet I am not alone, for my Savior is with me." When human hands
unclasp—his will clasp ours the more firmly. When human loved faces fade
out—his will shine above us in all its glorious brightness. Death's
loneliness will thus be filled with divine companionship.
The inference from all this, is our absolute need of the
friendship and companionship of Christ, without which we can only sink away
into life's loneliness and perish. One reason, no doubt, why our lives are
so full of experiences of need—is that we may learn to walk with Christ. If
earth's human companionships satisfied us, and if we never lost them—we
might not care for Christ's. If earth's homes were perfect, and if they
never crumbled—we might not grow homesick for heaven.
The Blessedness of Not Knowing
Some people say they wish they could know their future.
They are sincere enough; they wish they could. But this would not be a
blessing. It is better that we should not know. It would shadow and sadden
our lives—if we knew from the beginning all the trials and sorrows we shall
have. This was one of the peculiar elements of the life of Christ; he knew
what lay before him. The cross cast the shadow over the manger where he
slept his first sleep. This foreknowledge made his life sadder, than if he
had gone on unaware of what was awaiting him.
It is one of the mercies of our life—that we do not know
what shall come to us. In the unopened years there may be waiting for us
trials, disappointments, and losses. None of us know what chapters of sorrow
will yet be written before our life-story is finished. Would it be a
blessing if the veil were lifted today, showing us all, down to the close,
what will be painful or sad?
There are old people now well through life's journey.
They have had many cares and trials. Friends have failed them. Children have
been taken away. They have had struggles and hardship. They have endured
sicknesses and losses. They have not found what they hoped to find in life.
Supposing they had known all this, seen it all from some lofty spot when
they set out in sunny youth; would it have been a blessing to them? Would it
have made their life a happier, richer, better one? No—it would have cast a
tinge of sadness over it. It would have taken out of it much of that zest
and interest, which have been such inspiration to them through all their
If a man had known, for example, that after all his toil,
pain, struggle, and self-denial, that a certain great undertaking would
fail, he would not have begun it. Yet perhaps that very labor of years,
though it proved in vain at last, has been the richest blessing of his life.
It drew out his soul's energies. It developed his strength. It taught him
lessons of diligence, patience, courage, and hope. It built up in him a
splendid manhood. The mere earthly result of our work in this world—is but
means to a higher, nobler end, and is of small importance in comparison with
what our work does in us. But if a man had known in advance that
nothing permanent would come out of all his toil, economy, and self-denial,
he would have said, "I may as well take an easy path. What is the use
of working like a slave for forty or fifty years, and having only weariness
and emptiness of hand at last?" Not knowing, however, that his efforts would
fail in the end, hoping that they would succeed—he lived earnestly,
laboriously, putting his whole soul into them. His work failed—but
he did not fail. There is no material result to show others of any
achievement—but there are imperishable results in the man himself—in
life, in character, in manhood—results far nobler than the noblest he could
have achieved in mere material forms. It was better that he did not know
that all would fail, for if he had known it—he would have missed all this
People say sometimes, in hours of great sorrow, that they
wish they had never known the friend that they have now lost. The friendship
was deep, rich, and tender. It absorbed the whole life. It brought sweetest
joy. It filled the heart during precious years. It was faithful to the end.
There was no stain upon its memory. No falseness ever marred its nobleness.
But just because the friendship had been so pure, so rich, so tender, so
unselfish, so satisfying, its loss at last was such an overwhelming sorrow
that it seemed as if it would have been better never to have had it at all.
Our deepest joys and our bitterest griefs—grow on the
same stalk. To love—always involves suffering, sooner or later, for one or
other of the friends, for there must some time be separation. One
must be taken and the other left. One must go on alone from a new-made
grave, with the head bowed, and the heart frozen numb.
If we know that ours must be this deep anguish and
loneliness some time, we might be tempted to say, "It is better to go
through the years unblessed by tender love—than to take into my life this
joy—only to lose it yonder—and then walk on without it, all the lonelier and
more desolate for having had it so long."
But to do this would be to miss rich blessing and good.
It might indeed be easier in a sense, for us never to have any friends. It
might spare us the pain and sense of loss, when they are taken away from us.
But we would miss meanwhile all that which rich, pure friendships bring into
our life. Love blesses us with unspeakable blessings. It saves us from
ourselves. It inspires us for noble living. It transforms our dull nature
and transfigures it. No depth of sorrow that can possibly follow the loss of
the companionship, could overbalance the blessing of a holy friendship given
to us even for a few years. Tennyson says most truly,
"Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
To have known of the sorrow and loneliness, and to have
shut one's heart against the friendship in dread of its loss, would have
been to rob one's life of its best blessing. Even grief is not too
great a price to pay for love. Love's blessing stays in the beloved one is
gone. Its influence is permanent. The work it does is on the soul's very
substance abides forever. Its impression is ineffaceable. Tennyson says
"God gives us love; something to love
He leads us; but when love is grown
To ripeness, that on which it throve
Falls off, and love is left alone."
So it is better that we do not know the end of
friendship's stories, from the beginning, lest we might rob ourselves
of love's blessing and good.
It is better, too, that we should not know the time of
our death. If we knew it, it would take out of our life one of the
strongest motives for earnest and noble living.
If a young man knew, for example, that he would live to
be eighty years old, he would be strongly tempted —human nature being what
it is—to live leisurely, not to be in haste to begin his life-work, to
postpone important duties, even to delay his preparation of death. The fact
that he does not know how long he will live, that he may die even tomorrow,
that he really has but today, and that he must put into the swift
passing hours, the best that he can do—acts as a constant pressure upon him
in all duty. He dare not loiter, or something will be omitted that ought to
be done, and the end may find him with his tasks unfinished.
If, on the other hand, a young man would die at thirty,
while it would make him intensely earnest, if he were a true-hearted man and
eager to crowd his brief days with noble living, it would tend to keep out
of his life-plan all such things as he could not hope to finish before the
end. Not knowing, however, how many years he may live, that possibly he may
have until old age to work—he begins many things, which will require scores
of years to complete. He does not finish them—but he starts them. He plants
trees, which will bear fruit, long after he is gone to his grave.
And, after all, none of us really finish anything in our
short life. We only begin things, and then leave them for others to take up
and carry on. It is better, therefore, that we should work; as for the
longest life, though our days are but few. Hence it is better we should not
know the time we are to live. It keeps in our heart all the while—the
element of expectation and hope, for we may live to reach fourscore.
At the same time it holds upon us perpetually the pressure of urgency and
haste—for any day may be our last.
Not knowing what is before us teaches us trust in God.
If we could see all our paths open in advance and knew just what is coming,
what temptations, what rough places to be gone over, what heavy burdens to
be carried, what enemies to be encountered, what duties to be done—we would
grow self-confident, would try to direct our own life—and would not feel the
need of God's guidance, help, shelter, and wisdom. One of the blessings
of not knowing—is that we must walk by faith; and nothing could be
better than this. Self-confidence is the bane of Christian life. It
is by faith that we are saved—and by faith that we must walk.
A young mother holds in her own, her baby's little hands.
She knows that folded up in them—is the tangled skein of life's destiny. She
knows that she must teach those hands to do life's duties. A deep sense of
responsibility and fear fills her heart as she holds these little hands in
hers and prints passionate kisses upon them.
"How will they build, these little hands?
Upon the treacherous, shifting sands,
Or where the rock eternal stands?
And will they fashion strong and true
The work that they shall find to do?
Dear little hands, if but I knew!
Could I but see the veiled fate?
Behind your barred and hidden gate!"
Thus the mother's heart longs and cries as she holds her
child's little hands in hers. But it is better that she should not know what
her child's life will be. It is better that this should lie wholly in God's
Her part is only to be faithful in the training of her
child. She must lead its young feet in true and holy paths. She must fill
its mind with pure thoughts and desires, and awake in its soul all
heavenward longings. All the rest she must commit to God and leave with him.
That is better than if she could know all, and herself be her child's guide.
God is better than even the best, wisest, and most loving human mother is.
In personal life also, as well as in work for others, it
is better that we should trust God. The walk of faith is always the safest
and the best of all earth's paths. If we knew what the day would bring to
us—we could not pray in the morning as trustingly, as when we know only that
our times are in God's hands, not knowing what they shall be. Not only is
there safety in thus leaving all in the divine hands; there is also an
element of interest in moving ever amid surprises, new scenes, new
experiences, and new circumstances. We can say,
"It may be that he keeps waiting
Until the coming of my feet
Some gift of such rare blessedness,
Some joy so strangely sweet
That my lips can only tremble
With the thanks they cannot speak.
So on I go, not knowing;
I would not if I might;
I would rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light;
I would rather walk with him by faith
Than walk alone by sight.
My heart shrinks back from trials
Which the future may disclose;
Yet I never had a sorrow
But what the dear Lord chose;
So I send the coming tears back
With the whispered word, 'He knows!'"
Thus all along our earthly life, we are shut in with God,
as it were, in little places. We must live a day at a time. The
mornings are little hilltops from which we can look down into the narrow
valley of one little day. What lies over the next hill—we cannot tell.
Perhaps when we come to it, it may reveal to us a lovely garden through
which our path shall go on. Or it may show us a valley of shadows, or a path
amid briers. It does not matter—we have but the one little valley of the day
now in sight. Evening is our horizon. Here in this one little day's
enclosure, we can rest as in a refuge. Tomorrow's storms and cares
cannot touch us.
We should be thankful that life comes to us in such
little bits. We can live one day well enough. We can do one day's duties. We
can endure one day's sorrows. It is a blessing that this is all God ever
gives us. We should be thankful for the nights which cut off from our view
our tomorrows, so that we cannot even see them until the dawn. The little
days, nestling between the nights, like quiet valleys between the hills,
seem so safe and peaceful.
"I thank you, Lord, that you do lay
These near horizons on my way.
If I could all my journey see,
There were no chances of mystery,
No veiled grief, no changes sweet,
No restful sense of tasks complete.
I thank you for the hills, the night,
For every barrier to my sight,
For every turn that blinds my eyes
To coming pain or glad surprise;
For every bound you set nigh
To make me look more near, more high;
For mysteries too great to know,
For everything you do not show;
Upon my limits rests my heart;
Its safe horizon—Lord, you art."
I am glad I do not have to know the future. I am glad I
do not have to understand things. It is such a restful experience to be able
to leave all in God's hands.
There may come times, when it will seem to us that that
if we could have known a little of the future, it would have saved us much
trouble. If we had known that this business would turn out so badly,
we would not have gone into it. But the experience has done us good, and we
could not have had the lesson without the experience. If we had known that
this person was so dishonorable, we would not have taken him as our
friend. But one of Christ's lessons was learned through a betrayal; and this
brings us into fellowship with him at a new point. If we had known that a
certain journey would have made us ill, we would have not taken it.
But our sickness has been a blessing to us. If we had known that we would
never see our friend again, we would not have parted from him in angry or
impatient mood. But we have learned gentleness and thoughtfulness through
our pain, and will never forget the lesson. No doubt in all such cases,
there is some reason why it is better that we did not know.
We have no responsibility for results. It is ours
only to be faithful to our duty—the results belong to God. The
engineer down in the heart of the great steamer does not know where the
force he sets free will propel the vessel. It is not his place to know. It
is his only to obey every signal, to start his engine, to quicken, or slow,
or reverse it, as he is directed. He has nothing whatever to do with the
vessel's course. He sees not an inch of the sea.
It is not our part to guide our life in this world, amid
its tangled circumstances. It is ours just to do our duty. Our Master's hand
is on the helm. He knows all—he pilots us.
We may thank God that we cannot know the future, and that
we do not have to know it. Christ knows; and it is better to go in the dark
with him—than to go alone in the light, choosing our own way.
Words About Consecration
"I do sincerely and earnestly want to give everything to
the Lord, my whole self and all that he has given me in trust. But I do wish
he would show me more definitely what he wants me to do. I do not feel at
all certain, that my life up to the present time has been what he would have
it to be. How much easier it would be if he would only say to me each day,
Thus writes one who eagerly desires to be altogether
Christ's. Yet the desire seems to outrun the attainment. The
difficulty, is in knowing what the Master would have his disciple to
do. She is ready, she believes—to do anything, to go anywhere, to take up
any duty, to render any service, to make any sacrifice; but she cannot hear
her Lord's voice telling her his will. She longs for direct, definite,
But it is not thus, that Christ guides us in duty. No
pillar of cloud moves in the air above our head. No bright angel goes before
us to show us the way. No divine voice is heard giving instructions as to
the details of our work or service. Yet doubtless there is a way in which we
may learn at each step what Christ would have us do. He would not require
service of us—and yet hide from us what that service is. If everyone's life
is a plan of God, it must be possible for us to learn the divine plan for
our own life. God would not expect and require us to fill a certain place
and do a certain work—and yet not be ready to give us clear and sure
guidance. There is nothing unreasonable or unjust in our Father's
requirements. He would never demand any duty of us—and not be willing to
tell us what the duty is. We may be sure that he will in some way direct us
as to what he would have us to do.
How, then, may we learn God's will for us—his plan for
our life, what he wants us to do? The first condition must always be entire
readiness to accept his will for our life—when it is made known. It is not
enough to be willing to do Christian work. There are many people who are
quite ready to do certain things in the service of Christ, who are
not ready to do anything he might want them to do. Many of us have our
little pet projects in Christian work, our pleasant pastimes of service for
our Master, things we like to do. Into these we enter with enthusiasm. They
are according to our special liking. We give ourselves to them eagerly, and
with ardor. We suppose that we are thoroughly consecrated to Christ's
work—because we are so willing to do these agreeable things. Possibly we
are—but there is a severer test. It is not whether we are ready to do things
for Christ, which we like to do—but whether we are ready to do just
as heartily, anything which he may give us to do.
The heart of consecration is not devotion to this or that
specific kind of service for Christ—but devotion to the divine will. It may
not be any form of activity; sometimes it is quiet waiting. It is not
bringing a great many souls to Christ, visiting a great many sick or
suffering ones, attending a great many meetings, talking a great deal. Some
weary one, shut away in the darkness, in the chamber of pain, may be
illustrating true consecration far more beautifully, than those whose hands
are fullest of Christian activities in the bustling world. Consecration
is devotion to the will of Christ. It is readiness to do, not what we
want to do in his service—but what he gives us to do. When we
reach this state, we shall not need to wait long to find our work. When the
continual prayer is, "Lord, what will you have me do?" the answer
will soon be given in each case.
The next condition of consecration, resulting from this,
is the holding of our life directly and always at the disposal of Christ.
Not only must we be willing to do this will, whatever it is—but
also we must actually do it. This is the practical part. The moment
Christ wants us for any service—we must drop everything and respond to the
call. Our little plans must be made always under his eye, as fitting into
and as parts of his perfect plan for our life. This is the meaning of the
prayer we are taught to make continually, "May Your will, not mine, be
We are to hold everything of our own most loosely,
knowing that it is not our own, and that it may be asked for, at any moment.
We make our arrangements and engagements, with the consciousness that the
Master may have other use or other work for us, and that at his bidding we
must give up our own plan for his.
We are apt to chafe at interruptions, which break
in upon our own favorite work. We anticipate a quiet, unbroken day in some
retirement, which we have sought in order to obtain, needed rest. We hope
that nothing will spoil our dream for the day. But the first hour is
scarcely gone before the quiet is broken. Someone calls. The call is not one
that gives personal pleasure. There seems no real necessity for it. Perhaps
it is to ask a favor or some service, which we do not see how we can render.
Or it may seem even more needless and purposeless—a neighbor just dropped in
to sit a while, someone without occupation comes to pass away an hour of
extra time. Or you are seeking rest and there breaks in upon your quiet—a
call for thought, sympathy, and help, which can be given only at much cost
In all such cases the old nature in us rises up in
protest. We do not want to be interrupted. We want to have this whole day
for the piece of work we are doing, or for the delightful book we are
reading, or for the little pet plans we had made for it. Or we are really
very tired and need the rest for which we have planned, and it does not seem
to be our duty to let anything interrupt our quiet.
This is the way one voice within us meets these demands
for time or service. But there is another voice which says: "You are not
your own. You belong to Christ. You have recognized and also voluntarily
accepted his ownership in you and his absolute rights to command you and all
you have. You gave yourself to him this morning and gave him your day. You
asked him to prosper your plans if they were his plans; if not, to let you
know what he had for you to do."
It soon becomes very clear to you—that the calls, which
have so disturbed you, have some connection with your consecration and with
your Morning Prayer. The people who called, Christ sent to you. Perhaps they
need you. There may be in one a discouragement that you should change to
cheer; possibly a despair, which you should change to hope. With another it
may be an hour of sore temptation, a crisis-hour, and the destiny of an
immortal soul may be decided in a little talk with you.
Or if there is no such need in any of those who come in
and spoil your dream of quiet, perhaps the person may bring a blessing to
you in the very discipline, which comes in the interruption. God
wants to train us to such condition of readiness for his will—that nothing
he sends, no call that he makes, shall ever disturb us or cause one moment's
chafing or murmuring. Oftentimes it takes a long while, with many lessons,
to bring us to this state of preparedness for his will. The more resistance
and chafing there is when any bit of God's will breaks into our plans—the
more need there is for such interruptions, until the lesson is well learned.
Once our Lord himself took his disciples apart to rest
awhile, since there were so many coming and going that they had scarcely
time to eat. But no sooner had they reached their place of resting—than the
eager people, flocking around the shore of the lake, began to gather about
them with their needs, their sorrows, and their sicknesses. But Christ did
not murmur when his little plan for rest was thus broken in upon. He did not
resent the coming of the throngs—nor refuse to receive them. He did not say
to them that he had come to this quiet place for needed rest—and they must
excuse him. He forgot his weariness and gave himself at once, without
reluctance or the slightest withholding, with all of his heart's loving
warmth and earnestness, to the serving and helping of the people who had so
thoughtlessly followed him to his retirement.
At the well of Jacob, too, though so weary that he sank
down exhausted to wait alone until his disciples came with food for his
hunger—he yet turned instantly to the serving of the poor, sinful woman who
came to draw water. He might have pleaded that he was too tired—but he did
not. He even spoke of what he had done for the woman—as the will of his
From the example of our Master, we get our lesson. He may
follow us into our vacations and to our vacation-resorts with fragments of
his will. He may call us out into the darkness and the storm—on errands of
mercy after we have wrought all day and have put on our slippers and
prepared ourselves for a cozy rest with our loved ones around the home lamp.
He may wake us up out of our sleep by the loud ringing of the bell, and send
us out at midnight on some ministry of kindness.
We would seem to have excuse for not listening to these
calls. It would not appear greatly unreasonable, if we would say that we are
exhausted and cannot go on these errands. There are limits to human strength
and endurance. Perhaps, too, these people who want us, have no just claims
on us. Besides, why did they not send for us at an earlier hour, instead of
waiting until this most unreasonable time? Or why will not tomorrow
do? Then we will be fresh and strong, and the storm will be over.
But ordinarily none of these answers will quite satisfy
the spirit of our consecration. It is the will of God which rings our
door-bell and calls us out. Somewhere there is a soul who needs us, and we
dare not shut our ears. A beautiful story is told of Francis Xavier. He was
engaged in his missionary work, and hundreds kept coming until he was
literally worn out. "I must have sleep," he said to his servant, "or I shall
die. No matter, who comes—do not disturb me. I must sleep." Hastening to his
tent, he left his faithful attendant to watch. In a little while, however,
the servant saw Xavier's white face at the tent-door. Answering his call, he
saw on his countenance a look of awe, as if he had seen a vision. "I made a
mistake," said the missionary. "I made a mistake. If a little child comes,
waken me." There are needs to which we dare not deny ourselves. When Christ
sends the least of his little ones to us for any ministry —hungry to be fed,
thirsty to receive a cup of cold water, in trouble to be helped—to refuse to
answer the call is to neglect Christ himself.
This true consecration becomes very practical.
There is no place in it for beautiful theories, which will not work,
for splendid visions, which will not become hands and feet in service.
"Consecration meetings," with their roll-call and their Scripture verses and
their pledges and their hymns, are very pleasing to God, if—if we go out to
prove our sincerity in the doing of his will.
Another condition of consecration is humility. It
does not usually mean great things, showy services—but little humble
things, for which we shall probably get neither praise nor thanks. Most of
us must be content to live commonplace lives. Ninety-nine percent of the
work which chiefly blesses the world, which makes the bulk of human
happiness, and which most sets forward the kingdom of Christ, and must
always be inconspicuous, lies along the lines of common duties, in
home relationships, in personal associations, in neighborhood helpfulness.
It is in these humble spheres, that consecration must prove itself. It is
here too that the noblest lives of the world have been lived.
When we speak of consecrating our lives to Christ—it is
to the common deeds of the common days that we
must think of turning. Consecration must first be a spirit in us, a spirit
of love, a life in our hearts, which shall flow out to everyone we desire to
bless and help and make better. Thackeray tells of one who kept his pockets
full of acorns and whenever he saw a vacant place in his estate he took out
one and planted it. In like manner, he exhorts his readers to do with kind
words as they go through life, never losing a chance of saying one. "An
acorn costs nothing—but it may sprout into a prodigious tree." To such a
life true consecration prompts and inspires. It takes humility of mind in
many of us—to accept such obscure services. We think too often of some great
things to be given to us to do when we devote ourselves to Christ.
My soul was stirred; I prayed: 'Let me
Do some great work so purely
To right life's wrongs, that I shall know
That I have loved you surely.'
My lips sent forth their eager cry,
The while my heart beat faster.
'For some great deed to prove my love,
Send me, send me, my Master!'
From out the silence came a voice
Saying, 'If God you fear,
Rise up and do, your whole life through,
The duty that lies nearest.
The friendly word, the kindly deed,
Though small the act in seeming,
Shall in the end unto your soul
Prove mightier than your dreaming.
'The cup of water to the faint,
Or rest unto the weary,
The light you give another life
Shall make your own less dreary,
And boundless realms of faith and love
Will wait for your possessing;
Not creeds—but deeds, if you would win
Unto your soul a blessing.'
These reflections may help us to answer the question at
the beginning of this chapter. Christ tells us through our various
relationships, what he wants us to do each day, each hour. To the little
child he gives duty through the parents' guidance, command, example, and
teaching. In home life all relative duties become plain and clear. In our
contact with friends and neighbors the voice of Christ speaks to us
continually in the human needs which appeal to us, and in the opportunities
of usefulness which comes to us. In our church life, also, work is bought to
our hand in the calls for service.
True, we cannot do everything that offers. There are many
things, too, which we could not do—if we were to try. "To everyone his own
special work," according to his gifts. There is wide room for good judgment
in choosing the things we can do and ought to do. God has given us brains to
be used. We ourselves are to think. It is very foolish for any one to
try to have a hand in all manner of good work. "This one thing I do,"
is a motto, which it is wise to follow in all lines of life. It is usually
better that we do one thing well—than give ten things a touch and
then leave them.
The most useful people in any community are the
plodders who make choice of one class of work—and devote themselves to
it year after year. It is better for most of us that we devote ourselves to
the helping and uplifting of a few people—than that we scatter our influence
over hundreds. Then we can make impressions on their lives which will last
forever. Jesus gave his whole public life to twelve men—but he so stamped
his impression on their lives that they went out and moved the world!
We cannot expect the guidance that little children get in
finding the duties of our consecration; but we shall never lack true
guidance if only we will follow. One day's work leads to another. One duty
opens the way to another. We are never shown maps with all the
course of life projected on them; but we shall be shown always the
next duty, and then the next. If only we are obedient, there
shall never come a time when we cannot know what our next duty is. One
disobedience, however, breaks the continuity of the guidance, and the thread
may be hard to find again. Those who follow Christ, never walk in darkness.
There is need of preparation. The life must be holy—which
Christ will employ. The vessel must be clean, that the King will use.
The heart must be broken, through which God's love may flow. Someone
gives a Consecration Prayer: "Lord, take me, break me, make me," and tells
the story of a golden cup which had been made out of old coins. These had
lost the image and superscription originally upon them, and were then thrown
into a melting-pot and wrought into a beautiful cup. Likewise, oftentimes a
human life has lost its beauty; and then the Master takes it, breaks it, and
makes it over again in form of beauty. Then the King will use it.
Duty of Speaking Out
"In the desert where he lies entombed
He made a little garden and left there
Some flowers that for him had never bloomed."
No doubt there is a duty of silence. There are
times when silence is golden. But there is also duty of speech.
There are times when silence is sin. There are times when it is both
ungrateful and disloyal to God, not to speak of his love and goodness, or
witness for him before men in strong, unequivocal words.
We ought to speak out the messages given us for others.
God puts something into the heart of every one of his creatures—that he
would have that creature utter. He puts into the star a message of
light, and you look up into the heavens at night and it tells you its
secret. Who knows what a blessing a star may be to the weary traveler who
finds his way by it, or to the sick woman lying by her window, and in her
sleeplessness looking up at the glimmering point of light in the calm, deep
heavens? God gives to a flower a mission of beauty and sweetness, and
for its brief life it tells out its message to all whom can read it.
"To me the meanest flower that blooms can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
Who can count up the good that even a flower may do, as
it blooms in the garden, or as it is carried into a sick-room, or into the
cheerless chamber of poverty?
Especially, God gives to every human soul a
message to deliver. To one it is some revealing of science. A great
astronomer spoke of himself as thinking over God's thoughts after him, as he
traced out the paths of the stars and the laws of the heavens. To the poet
God gives thoughts of beauty, which he is to speak to the world—and the
world is richer, sweeter, and better for hearing his message. We do not
realize how much we owe to the men and the women, who along the centuries
have given forth their songs of hope, cheer, comfort, and inspiration.
To every one of us, God gives something which he wants us
to say to others. We cannot all write poems or hymns, or compose books which
will bless men; but if we live near the heart of Christ, there is not one of
us into whose ear he will not whisper some fragment of truth, some revealing
of grace or love, or to whom he will not give some experience of comfort in
sorrow, some new glimpse of glory. Each friend of Christ, living close to
him, learns something from him and of him, which no one has
learned before, which he is to forth-tell to the world.
Therefore, each one should speak out their own message.
If it were only a single word, it will yet bless the earth. If only one the
flowers that bloom in summer days in the fields and gardens had refused to
bloom, hiding its little gift of beauty, the world would be poorer and less
lovely. If but one of the myriad stars in the heavens had refused to shine,
keeping its little beam locked in its breast, the nights would be a little
darker than they are. And every human life that fails to speak out, keeping
it locked in the silence of the heart, leaves this earth a little poorer.
But every life, even the lowliest, that learns of God and then speaks out
its message—adds something to the world's blessing and beauty.
We ought to speak out our heart's gladness. There is
something very strange in the tendency, which seems so common in human
lives—to hide the gladness and tell out the misery. Any one
who will keep an account of what people he meets say to him—will probably
find that a large proportion of them will say little that is pleasant and
happy—and much that is dreary and sad. They will tell him of their bodily
aches and pains and infirmities. They will complain bitterly of the heat if
it is warm, or of the chill if it is cold. They will speak of the
discouragements in their business, the hardships in their occupation, the
troubles in their various duties, and all the manifold miseries, real or
imagined, which have fallen to their lot. But they will have very little to
say of their prosperity, their health, their three good meals a day, their
encouragement's, favors, friendships, and manifold blessings.
But it is of this latter class of experiences that the
world ought to hear the most. There is no command in the Bible, which says
we should empty the tale of all our woes into people's ears. We
really do not have so many woes as some of us imagine we have. Of course
everybody has some cares, pains, and losses. We cannot live in this
world without such things. But most of us have at least a hundred mercies—to
one misery. We need cares, as a clock needs its weights, to keep our life
machinery in healthy motion. God makes this world a little rough for most of
us—to keep us from settling down too contentedly in it, as our home.
But he does not want us to complain continually about the
roughnesses which are for our good. It is neither loyal nor brave
in us to do so, and surely it is not beautiful. None of us think
it beautiful in another—when he speaks always of his miseries—and
never of his mercies.
We have no right to add to the world's shadows and
burdens and pains—by unloading our worries and frets
into every ear we find open. It would be a far sweeter service—if we
would speak only of the pleasant things. And there always is
something pleasant even in the most cheerless circumstances, if only we have
an eye to find it.
There is a legend, which says that once Jesus and his
disciples, as they journeyed, saw a dead dog lying by the wayside. The
disciples showed disgust and loathing—but the Master said, "What beautiful
teeth the creature has!" The legend has its lesson for us. We should see the
beauty even in loathsomeness.
Miss Murdock tells of a gentleman and lady passing
through a lumberyard, by a dirty, foul smelling river. The lady said, "How
good the pine boards smell!" "Pine boards!" explained he companion. "Just
smell this foul river!" "No thank you," the lady replied; "I prefer to smell
the pine boards."She was wiser than he was. It is far better for us to find
the sweetness which is in the air—than the foulness. It is better to talk to
others of the smell of pine boards—than of the heavy odors of stagnant
There is a large field of opportunities for saying kind
and loving words, which will do benefit to others. Many people seem too
watchful of words of encouragement. They have the kindly thoughts in their
heart—but they do not utter them. Of course there are things
in many a breast that are better than speech. Some people indeed boast of
saying always just what they think. That is very well—so long as they think
only nobly, charitably, generously, and lovingly. But saying what one
thinks, means oftentimes speaking rashly, impulsively, in flashes of anger
and bad temper, and then the words are neither wise nor good. "As well
say them as think them," says someone. No! Thinking harsh or
unkind things hurts us—but does not yet hurt others. A moment later we shall
regret the bitter thoughts; and if they have not been spoken we will be most
thankful that they are not. If they are uttered, however—they crash like
darts into tender spirits and we never can withdraw them.
Here is a young man in sore temptation. He is tangled up
with evil associations, which have thrown their chains about him. He is in
danger of being swept away. You know it and see it all. You are near him,
and your heart is full of sympathy with him. You speak to some of your
friends of his danger—but you do not say a word to him. Yet it may be that a
true word, the expression of your loving interest at the right time, might
have saved him. Unspoken sympathy is better than indifference.
Your neighbor is in sorrow. It is known for days that a
loved one is hovering between life and death. Then the crape on the door
announces that death has conquered and that the home is darkened. You want
to help—but shrink from intruding upon the sorrow. With a heart full of
affection, longing to be of use, you do nothing. Is there no way by which
your brotherly love might make your neighbor's load a little lighter or
their heart a little stronger? Are we not too timid in the presence of
God wants us all to be true comforters. The priest passed
coldly by on the other side, when he saw the wounded person. The Levite
seemed to do better, for he drew near and looked upon the sufferer with a
feeling of compassion. But his compassion issued only in a sigh, for he too
passed on without giving any help. The Good Samaritan alone, illustrated
love's whole ministry, for his sympathy took shape immediately in most
practical relief. Sorrow is very sacred, and we must enter its sanctuary
with reverence; but we must beware that we do not fail in affection's duty
in the hour when either a brother or sister's heart is broken.
Perhaps it is in our homes, that the lesson is
most needed. There is great deal of love there, which never finds
expression. We keep sad silences oftentimes with those who are dearest to
us, even when their hearts are crying out loudest for words. In many homes
which lack rich and deep happiness, it is not more love that is needed—but
the flowing out of love in little words, acts, and expressions. A husband
loves his wife and would give his life for her; but there are days and days
that he never tells her so, nor reveals the sweet truth to her by any sign
or token. The wife loves her husband with warm, faithful affection—but she
has fallen into the habit of making no demonstration, saying nothing about
her love, going through the duties of the home life almost as if there were
no love in her heart. No wonder husbands and wives drift apart in such
homes. Hearts also, need their daily bread, and starve and die if it is
withheld from them.
There are parents who make the same mistake with their
children. They love them—but they do not reveal their love. They
allow it to be taken for granted. After infancy passes they quietly drop out
of their interaction with their children—all tenderness, all caresses, and
all marks of fondness. On the first intimidation of danger of any kind their
love reveals itself in anxious solitude and prompt efforts to help; but in
the daily life of the home—there is no show of tenderness. The love is
unquestioned—but like the unbroken vase of ointment—it gives out no
The home life may be free from all bitterness, all that
is unloving or unkind, and yet it has sore lack. It is not enough to love;
the love must find expression. We must let our friends know that we
care for them. We must do it, too, before it is too late. Some people wait
until the need is past, and then come up with their laggard sympathy. When
the neighbor is well again, they call to say how sorry they are that he has
been sick. Would not a kindly inquiry at the door, or a few flowers sent to
his room, when he was ill, have been a fitter and more adequate expression
of brotherly interest? When someone without their help has gotten through
their long battle with business or other difficulties or embarrassments, and
is well on their feet again, friends come with their congratulations.
Would it not have been better if they had proved their
care for him in some way when they needed strong practical sympathy? The
time to show our friendship is when our friend is under the shadow of
enmity, when evil tongues misrepresent them—and not when they have gotten
vindication and stand honored even by strangers.
There are those, too, who wait until death has
come before they begin to speak their words of appreciation and
commendation. There are many who say their first truly generous words of
others—beside their coffins! They bring their flowers then, although they
never gave a flower when their friends were living. Many a person goes down
in defeat, under life's burdens, un-helped, un-cheered; and then, when the
eyes are closed and the hands folded, there comes, too late, love enough to
have turned the tide of battle and given victory, had it come a little
Life is hard for many people—and we have no right to
withhold any look or word or touch or act of love, which will lighten the
load or cheer the heart of any fellow-struggler. The best use we can make of
our life—is to live so that we shall be a blessing to everyone we meet.
Learning by Doing
There is a great deal more in life's common task-work,
than we dream. We think of it oftentimes as the dreariest kind of drudgery.
Many a man never learns to go to his daily toil with hearty enthusiasm. Many
a woman never goes through her household duties but with a weary heart and a
feeling of constraint. It is this dullness of life's common
tasks—which makes them seem so hard. If people loved them and took them
up with delight, they would be light and easy, for love makes anything easy.
It is the dreariness of this unending plod and grind which wears out
so many lives—not the real burden of it. People are fretted and become
discontented, as they must go every day over and over the same old routine.
It seems so tedious. Nothing comes of it. It is weaving ever only to have
the web un-woven.
"O trifling tasks so often done,
Yet ever to be done anew!
O cares that come with every sun,
Morn after morn the long years through!
We shrink beneath their paltry sway–
The irksome calls of every day.
The restless sense of wasted power,
The tiresome round of little things,
Are hard to bear, as hour by hour,
Its futile repetition brings;
Who shall evade, or who delay,
The small demands of every day?"
But is there no better way to look at all this dreary
work? Is there no heavenly ray which may illumine it? Is it merely futile
repetition? Does nothing come out of it all? Is it in any sense working for
Christ? If we will answer these questions in the light of New Testament
teaching, we shall see that there is a sense in which "drudgery" is indeed
"divine." All this task-work our Father sets for us. This alone will give it
grandeur, if we but realize it.
Besides, this very task-work which to many of us seems so
dreary—is one of God's ways of teaching us some of the greatest lessons of
life. We are not in this world merely to do the pieces of work, large or
small, which are given to our hand. We are here to grow in strength and
beauty of character. And it is not hard to see how this growth may go on
continually amid life's daily toils and cares. If we are diligent,
careful, faithful, prompt, accurate, energetic, in the doing of the thousand
little things of common life—we are building these qualities meanwhile into
our soul's fabric. Thus we are ever learning by doing. There is an
unseen spiritual building arising within us continually as we plod on in our
unending tasks. Negligence in common duties—mars our character.
Faithfulness in all work—builds beauty into the soul.
If we remember this as we go about our dull task-work, it
will grow bright under our hand. Every little fragment of it will grow
bright under our hand. Every little fragment of it will appear as a lesson,
which we shall add a new touch to the spiritual temple we are
building. There is a blessing in the doing of even the smallest duty. It
lifts us a little nearer to God.
This lesson has a very wide application. Our Lord said
that he who wills to do the will of God, would know of the teaching.
Doing is therefore a great deal more important in life, than we
sometimes think. In times past there has been a tendency to exalt
believing, not unduly, for believing is always important—but to the
disparagement of doing. But there can be no noble believing, without
noble doing. Character is built up by doing. We can get to know more of our
Father's will—only by doing what we already know.
We can never really understand the Bible—merely by
studying it. It will not reveal itself to us—until we begin to obey
what it teaches. He who seeks to obey it—shall know it. Many people have
the impression that there is something secret and mysterious about the words
of the Scriptures. But the mystery vanishes, if they accept the divine
teachings, and begin to fashion their lives according to them. Many
Christians will readily recall how dim and obscure faith in Jesus Christ
seemed to them before they believed, when they were trying to find the
way—and then how simple and clear it appeared after they had begun to follow
The same principle is found in other kinds of learning
besides that of spiritual truth. A pupil wants to acquire music. He may get
books and a teacher and learn all the principles. But he can never
become a musician, except by practice. Likewise, one will never become an
artist merely by studying the rules and principles of art—he must take their
brush and paint as he studies.
It is the same with the Bible. You read a command with a
promise annexed. You say, "I cannot see how if I do so and so—that this
shall be the result." While this is your attitude, the truth will not become
plain to you. But if you accept the teaching as a revealing of a fragment of
God's will for you, and begin to do it, light will break from it. As you
obey the teaching, you shall know.
Duties seem hard. We think we cannot do them all. The
door appears shut before us, preventing our progress. But when we quietly
and in child-like faith move forward—the door opens. The Israelites lay in
their camp on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The command came to
cross over. They struck their tents and formed their columns, ready to
march. But still the river flowed on, with full floods, with no sign of
abatement. They began to move—the advance of the multitude is now only a few
steps from the brink. Still the muddy water rushes on. Shall they turn back?
Or shall they stand there on the edge of the river and wait for it to pause
in its flowing to let them pass through? That is what many people do on the
margin of life's rivers.
But no! they obeyed God's will, and the advance guard of
priests, bearing the sacred symbol of God's presence, moved quietly on as
though there were no river before them. The moment their feet touched the
water's edge—the flood was cut off above, and the channel was emptied. This
old fragment of history has its living lesson. If we will to do God's will
we shall find the way open for our feet. The path of duty is never really an
Daily life is full of points where this lesson may find
application. One bright morning you give yourself anew of Christ. You
resolve to do his will all the day long. You will find the will of God not
in your Bible only, as you read its words—but in many circumstances and
experiences; for remember you are learning by practice, not merely by
theory. Something goes wrong at breakfast. Someone says a sharp word,
needless of course, thoughtless perhaps, even crude it may be. It hurts, and
the color flies to your face, the flash of anger to your eye, and the
unadvised word to the very door of your lips. But there is a still, small
voice, which reminds you that you have willed to do God's will to day. It is
his will that you should keep your heart loving and sweet—and not be
provoked. Do it and you will learn the sweet meaning throughout the day, in
the blessing which will come to you.
Many of us find our plans broken into continually by what
we are apt to call the accidents of life. The mothers in the home are
interrupted all day and kept back in their work by their children who clamor
for attention, for nursing, for care. Busy men meet constant hindrances,
which break into their hours and interfere with their plans. Who does not
many a time—have his day's beautiful schedule disarranged by little things
which come in, without announcement, and claim his thought, his time, and
Sometimes we may be disposed to chafe a little at what
seems to be interferences with the program we have mapped out for
ourselves in the morning. But we should remember that we are learning by
practice. We promised to do God's will all day, and these things are
God's will for us. We had left no place for doing things for God, and he had
to force them into our well-ordered schedule.
This is the only way God can get some of us to do
anything for him. We have no time for his special work. We leave no
little gaps in our schedule in which to do little errands for him. We crowd
our hours so full of things for ourselves that we have not a moment left for
ministries for Christ. The only way he can get us to do these things is to
press them right into the midst of our scheduled hours.
Here is the lesson: These things that we call
"interruptions" are little fragments of God's will breaking into the midst
of the plans, which we had willed for our own pleasure or profit. We have
set ourselves for the day to do his will, and we must not turn any of these
interruptions away. He knows what he wants us to do. Supposing that we are
tired, or that our own work is waiting, or that we are thwarted of our
goal—dare we turn away from the service which God is asking of us—some
little ministry to a child, some comfort to a sorrowing one, some gentle
touch to a life that will carry the blessing for days, some showing of the
path to a bewildered soul that knocks at our door asking the way, some
lightening of the burden for one bowed down—dare we, would we—turn away what
God has sent us—these tasks that angels would leap to do—that we may keep on
with our own poor little earthly tasks?
We must never forget, at least, that we are learning by
doing God's will, and that God's will does not all come to us out of a
written Bible. Some of it comes fresh from God's own lips in our life's
circumstances. In whatever way it may come, we are to do it, and in doing it
we will find a blessing. Hard tasks and duties are like nuts—they are
rough and unsightly, and the shell is not easy to break—but when it is
broken, we find it full of rich meat.
Once Jesus, tired and hungry, sat down by an old well to
rest, while his disciples went to the village to buy food. He was too weary
to go with them; but while he sat there exhausted, resting, a woman came to
draw water. Weary as he was, he treated her with compassionate interest,
entering into conversation with her, leading to spiritual themes, and saving
her from her own sinful life.
That fragment of ministry—was his Father's will for that
hour. To be sure it broke into his rest—but he forgot his weariness in
blessing a sad, lost life. Then when the disciples came with the food—he was
no longer hungry. They could not understand it. They thought someone must
have brought him bread in their absence—but he said in explanation, and the
words reveal a blessed secret of the spiritual life, "I have food to
eat—that you know not of … my food is to do the will of him who sent me."
Taking up the duty that came to him, he found in doing of it—real food for
his life. It is always so. Do the duty God sends—do it gladly, lovingly—and
you will find a blessing wrapped up in it. We get the goodness of divine
love—by doing the divine will.
Many people complain that they cannot be sure of the
right path in life. They are continually coming to points where duty is
uncertain. The way before them is dark, even close up to their feet. The
horizon seems to shut down like a heavy curtain, or a thick wall, right
But here, again, this principle applies: "If any man
wills to do his will—he shall know." We can learn the path of duty—only by
walking in it. There is no promise of anything more than this. The word of
God is a lamp unto our feet; not a sun to light a hemisphere—but
a lamp or a lantern to carry in our hand, to give light unto our feet, to
show us just one little step at a time. If we move on, taking the
step that lies fully in the light, we carry the light forward too, and it
then shows us another step. That is, we learn to know the road by walking in
it. If we will not take the one step that is made clear, we cannot know the
part of the way that is hidden in the shadow. But doing the duty that lies
nearest—will ever bring us to the next duty. Doing we shall know.
These are but little fragments of a great lesson, which
has very wide-reaching applications. We may get at least the heart of it,
which is, that, doing our duty as it is made clear to us, we shall learn. Do
the little of God's will you now perceive—and he will reveal more and more
of it to you. Instead of wondering what mystery the long, unopened future
holds for you—take the task or the ministry of the moment now in sight—and
God's will is an angel, bearing in his hand a little lamp
to light you step by step on your heavenward way, at last bringing you to
the door of home. If there are perplexities before you, simply begin to do
your duty—the little of it that is clear—and the perplexities will vanish.
If the task set for you seems impossible, still begin the doing of it. It
would not be a duty and be really impossible. God never requires anything he
does not intend to help us to do. The giving of a duty always implies
strength to do it. In due time the mountain will yield to your
faithful strokes. You will learn by doing. Life will brighten as you go on.