Life has its adversities. It
must needs have them. Adversity, pain, sorrow,
and disappointment, are the lathe upon which God
shapes us. They are the emery wheel that grinds
and smooths us. They are the polishing wheel
that makes us shine. If we can never be happy
until we are so situated that nothing which
exists may tend to render us unhappy, we shall
have little happiness in life. Happiness does
not come from a life of ease and indolence. It
is not the result of the absence of obstacles
and difficulties. Happiness comes from
triumphing over them. Therefore the song of true
happiness often arises from the soul that
undergoes many adversities.
Paul understood what life
must be. He went through the cities of Asia
after he had been stoned and left for dead,
"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and
exhorting them to continue in the faith, and
that we must through much tribulation enter into
the kingdom of God" (Acts 14: 22). He enumerated
the things he suffered in his work for Christ.
Doubtless you have read that list again and
again. Notwithstanding all this no one has more
to say about rejoicing, being filled with joy,
and singing the songs of victory, than does this
same sufferer of tribulations.
The Psalmist also knew
about tribulations. He said, "I will be glad and
rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered
my trouble; thou hast known my soul in
adversities" (Ps. 31: 7). God did not leave him
to himself in his tribulations. Being conscious
of this he could rejoice. Jesus said to his
disciples, "In the world ye shall have
tribulations." Did he say, "Mourn and weep
because of this?" Did he intimate that they
should shrink from them? Did he indicate there
was something wrong in them that brought these
tribulations? Not so. He had already told them
that the world would hate them. Now he showed
them that as a result of that hatred of the
world and also as the result of natural
conditions in life, they should have
tribulations. Did he say to them, "This will
take away much from your happiness; you will be
sad and disconsolate much of the time; you will
sorrow on account of these tribulations; it is
too bad you are to have them"? No; he said
nothing of this kind. He told them plainly what
was to come; then added, "But be of good cheer—I
have overcome the world."
Think of the boldness of
Jesus in saying this. Just before him lay
Gethsemane. Just beyond that the trials before
the high priest and Pilate and Calvary awaited
him. He knew this very well. He knew he must
pass through the bitterest of tribulations.
Nevertheless he said, "Be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world."
What a wonderful example
for us this is. He has overcome the world not
merely for himself, but for us as well. As the
Psalmist pointed out, he knows our adversities.
He knows that lying ahead of us there are
adversities and difficulties, perhaps dangers,
sorrows, and many things to try the soul. He
also knows when we are in those things, when
they are pressing hard upon us, when we are
tempted to bow down our heads and give up. He
knows exactly how we feel, how things seem, how
the future looks, how the present troubles us.
In spite of it all he is saying to us, "Be of
good cheer; I have overcome."
Dear soul, Jesus knows all
about your troubles. He knows every heartache,
every difficulty, everything you must overcome,
everything you must bear. Trusting in his grace,
relying upon his help, you shall soon find your
heart filling again with melody, for the clouds
will pas' away.
Paul asks, "Who shall
separate us from the love of Christ? shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Then
he adds, "Nay, in all these things we are more
than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom.
8: 35, 37).
Speaking of our acceptance
with God and our justification by faith through
grace, Paul says we "rejoice in hope of the
glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). But are the good
things of God all in which we can rejoice? No,
for he continues, "And not only so but we glory
in tribulations also."
Paul could rejoice in the
bad things as well as in the good things. Why
could he do this? Was he a mere enthusiast? Was
he a man who shut his eyes to the facts? No, he
was sober minded, consistent, and sane. He
looked behind the frowning face of
circumstances. He saw the results that follow
tribulations. He set them down for us that we
might consider them and rejoice with him.
""Knowing that tribulation worketh patience and
patience experience, and experience hope, and
hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God
is shed abroad in our hearts."
That was the secret of
Paul's rejoicing. The verses just quoted are put
in a more understandable and better way in the
American Standard Version, "We also rejoiced in
our tribulations, knowing that tribulation
worketh steadfastness and steadfastness
approvedness and approvedness hope and hope
putteth not to shame because the love of God
hath been shed abroad in our hearts."
Again Paul tells his
experience in II Cor. 7: 4: "I am filled with
comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our
tribulation." He tells why this it: "God, that
comforteth those that are cast down, comforteth
us" (vs. 6). "Who comforteth us in all our
tribulation" (II Cor. 1:4). The comfort of God
is wonderful. The satisfying, soul delighting
blessedness of it can be known only by those who
have gone deeply into the waters of tribulation.
So many in times of trouble are prone to feel
that God does not care for them or to feel that
they have offended him. Just when they need him
most and just when he would be most ready to
help they cease to seek that help and feel they
must meet their difficulties in their own
strength without the help they so much crave.
Right here many are tempted
to give up trying. They feel they are unable to
overcome or to endure through to better days.
They feel that God has forsaken them in their
hour of need. Their feelings and their attitude
shut them off from that help that God would
delight to give them. It is just here that we
need to face things squarely. We need to
consider God as he is. We need to take a right
view of our relations with him. In the time of
the child's need a true and loving parent yearns
with sympathy and with an earnest desire to
help. The heart of God is more tender than the
heart of a mother. His love is stronger than any
human love. In these times of tribulation and
trouble, of sorrow or care, of anxiety or
foreboding, we should remember that he is
waiting to take us into his arms and to comfort
us with that comfort that only he can give.
The clouds may seem to hide
his face; he may seem far off: but he is not far
off. The clouds may prevent us from seeing him,
but they do not prevent his seeing us. He does
see us and he desires us to turn to him for that
partnership in trouble which we need in order
that the heavy load may be borne. He desires
that we confide in him, that we pour out our
soul's bitterness and longing to him. He expects
us to act as men and women should act. He
expects us to use what strength we have. But
beyond and above our strength is his abundant
strength and help ready to supply whatever
deficiency there may be in us. He always sees
the way out of our difficulties. He always knows
just how much grace we must have. He always
measures out to us the needed supply when we
give him opportunity.
No one ever lived, whether
he be a Christian or not, but who has had his
times of discouragement, heaviness, sorrow, and
disappointment. Care and anxiety come to all.
Unsaved people have to bear their own burdens,
meet their own adversities, suffer their own
sorrows, without divine help. They get through
them in some way in their own strength and we
could do the same without divine help. There
would always be a way that we should get through
somehow. But God knows a better way than we know
and he will help us into that better way. He
will give us the strength and fortitude
necessary if we only trust and go forward
James tells us to count it
all joy when we fall into divers temptations.
There is a way to do this. That way is the way
Paul took. Paul looked behind the tribulations
to the outcome. James exhorts us to do likewise.
These tribulations all are fruitful. They are
good for us. If we bear them as we should we
shall look back upon them presently and rejoice
that God let them come.
Let us now look at Paul. It
was midnight. He and Silas lay in a Philippian
dungeon. Their feet were fast in the stocks.
Their clothes were rent, their backs were
bleeding from the many stripes that had been
laid upon them. It seemed that death might be
only a little ahead of them. Under these
unfavorable circumstances they did not lament;
they prayed (Acts 16: 25). After they had prayed
they did something else—they sang praises to
God. They did not do this for mere bravado. They
did not do it to keep the other prisoners awake.
They did it because of the joy that was welling
up in their own hearts. They were suffering so
they could not sleep; so they spent the time in
the very best possible manner. They spent not a
moment in regretting what had happened. They did
look for the needed help. Their faith reached
out to God and help came. Their souls were
filled with joyful praises and they sang from
There were reasons why they
could do this. First, they were innocent. They
had a consciousness they had done nothing wrong.
They had been trying to do good. Now they were
suffering for it. There is "rest comfort in
being innocent under such circumstances or in
any circumstances. A clear conscience inspires
to song. So if our conscience is clear we can
rise above our circumstances if we follow the
course taken by Paul and Silas.
Second, they were hopeful
Christians. They did not look on the dark side.
They looked beyond the present suffering and the
threatening circumstances. They saw not the
dungeon nor the stocks nor the executioner's
sword. They felt not their galled ankles nor
their smarting backs. They looked to God. They
saw his approving smile; and they sang praises.
Third, they exercised
definite faith. They believed God knew all about
their circumstances. They believed they were in
his care. They believed nothing could come to
them without coming through his will, by his
permission. So they rested in full assurance of
faith in him and in their tribulations sang
joyfully. Paul taught others to rejoice and he
set them an example. If we face our adversities
as he faced his we too may sing in adversity.
In adversity we sing a
different song than we do when we are
untroubled. We must join courage to trust. When
we do this we can sing songs of confidence born
of our confidence in God's help. We can sing
songs of trust that allay our fears. We can sing
songs of anticipation as we look forward to the
victories that lie before us and at the crown at
the end of the road. We can sing in joyful
remembrance of God's former mercies.
The song of adversity is
more difficult to learn than the song we sing
when everything is going pleasantly and
prosperously, but these songs are no less joyous
in the depths of the heart when they spring from
faith. In fact they can often be more truly
joyous than the songs of prosperity because they
go deeper into the depths of the heart and rise
with fuller trust. But no matter how many
tribulations we have, if we trust God we may be
"exceeding joyful" in all those