by C. W. Naylor

Life is often an enigma. It brings to us many things that we cannot understand. How blessed it is at such times to realize that there is One wiser than we who has our lives in his care and who sees all and understands all! God is our father, and we are the children of his love. He has our welfare at heart. He is interested in all that concerns us. He watches over all our lives, and nothing that comes can come without his knowledge. Whatever comes, he knows full well its effect upon us, and his loving hand is ever ready to protect and help his children. He could, if he chose, lead us in a pleasant and easy path through life, but he knows that a pleasant and easy path would not develop in us that strong and hardy Christian character so essential for us. Neither would it give him an opportunity to reveal the riches of his grace or his tender care. He knows that we must taste the bitter before we can appreciate the sweet. He knows that we must feel life’s sorrows before we can value its joys. Suffering more than anything else develops us in the things of God. He will presently take us to be forever with him in his heaven of peace and glory, and he wants us to be able to enjoy it to the fullest; so he would in this life develop as fully as he may our possibilities. It is for this purpose that he sometimes leads us by ways that we know not and lets his providences be dark and mysterious; but throughout our lives, if we are his, "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28). Many times, if we knew what was coming, the joy that it would bring would be lessened. He delights to surprise us, many times because by a surprise he increases our joy and appreciation. When difficulties arise through which we can see no way and he makes a way of which we had never thought – it is then that our hearts are made to wonder at his wisdom and are melted with gratitude.

His ways are not our ways. They are higher and better than our ways. If we were wise enough, we should always choose for ourselves that which he chooses for us. Alas! How often when we choose for ourselves, we choose that which is least wise! We must often deny ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to give up what we have chosen, as it seems desirable and exactly what we need. But God often denies us the seeming good that a greater good may come. If we submit and trust, that greater good will surely come; but if we rebel and clamor for what we have chosen, God may be compelled to hold back that greater good, and if we have our way, it may in the end prove to be a bitter way. What God gives is ever the best that we are willing to receive. We should often have better if we would trust God's wisdom and take gladly what he gives. Whenever we choose for ourselves and limit God to that which we have chosen, we deny ourselves of the better choice of his wisdom. The trouble so often is that we fail to trust him. We know that if he chooses he will choose well for us, but perhaps he may forget us. May not the thing that comes escape his notice, or may he not grow careless? Sometimes we cannot feel that what is coming is his choice for us. We fear and tremble and wonder. We try to escape it, but still it comes, and in the future days we often look back upon this very thing as one of God's greater blessing to us because of what it wrought for us and in us.

God sometimes places a wall before us that we may stop and consider. We may come face to face with this obstacle across our path. We see no way by which we can surmount it; we see no way to go around it. Sometimes it fills us with foreboding. We question, "What will be the result? What shall we do?" Sometimes we grow very much troubled over it, but it is through this very thing that God can get us to do the serious thinking that he desires us to do and that it is necessary for us to do. He does not put a wall before us just to hinder our progress. He has some other purpose in it always, and when he has worked out that purpose, he will either take the wall out of the way, show us a way to surmount it, or lift us completely over it and set our feet again triumphant in the way.

He sometimes places a mountain of difficulty before us that we may climb to higher altitudes and that in the climbing we may develop spiritual strength. A rugged mountain before us may be hard to climb. Its difficulties may discourage us; but if we will gather up our courage and surmount it, no matter what effort may be necessary, we shall find that we have realized true benefits. We now stand on a higher altitude with a broader outlook, and instead of our being weakened by these difficulties, they have been the very source of our strength. Every difficulty that we conquer by placing it under our feet raises us higher in the Christian life. This is the purpose of these difficulties. God is not desirous that we have the difficulty, but he must let us have the difficulty if he is to raise us to the higher altitude, and he desires us to have the higher position. He never lets the difficulties be too great. He knows that we can surmount them if we will. If he did not know this, he would not let them be placed in our way.

He sometimes sends sorrow to soften us and make us hungry for his comfort. We may become too satisfied with earthly things. We may draw too much of our joy from them. He delights to have us draw our joy and our comfort from him; therefore he must take away from us the toys which have been occupying our time, that our souls may yearn for the comfort and blessedness that only he can give. He knows that nothing softens us like sorrow. So he gives us a cup of sorrow to drink to the dregs, and oh, what tenderness and blessedness come into our lives when we drink submissively of that cup, no matter how bitter it may be to our taste! He sometimes takes away the staff upon which we lean, that we may learn to lean upon him. He sometimes takes away that in which we trust, that we may learn better to trust in him. He may sometimes take away our strength, that he may be our strength and that his strength may be made perfect in our weakness. He sometimes takes away our company that we may desire his company the more. All these happenings may seem dark and mysterious to us; they may seem the very things that are the worst for us, but they are not. They are but the manifestations of his kindly wisdom and his fatherly tenderness. Sometimes behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face. We often see only the frown of the providence, and that frown looks very threatening; but if we will look away from that frowning providence to the smiling face of God, we shall see that which will uplift us and strengthen us and enable us to bear whatever stroke of providence may come.

O soul, trust him. He knows the way that you take. He knows the things that are in your soul and he knows just what is needful for you. So bear with patience and endure with meekness and do not question his wisdom or love. It will all come out for the very best in the end. Here is a little verse that speaks out a great truth:

"With patient mind thy course of duty run;

God nothing does or suffers to be done

But thou wouldst do thyself if thou couldst see

The end of all events as well as he."

You will do well to memorize these lines and when things happen that you cannot understand, repeat them over to yourself until their truth enters your heart and becomes real to you. It will help you to trust; it will help you to bear; it will help you to be strong. Learn to look at things just that way, for such they are in reality. If you will count them so, it will often help you. It will make the hard places easy; it will make the tiresome places less tiresome.

But many things that come in life are not of God's sending. They are the result of natural happenings, and God would have to work a miracle to prevent their coming. Christians are under natural law the same as sinners. The natural forces, therefore, will work upon us the same as upon others. Many things that come upon us are the portion of all men and are incident to our life in the body of flesh. As long as we are in the flesh, natural forces will work upon us according to natural law. God often chooses to help us bear these things rather than to change them. He can and sometimes does overrule these natural forces in their action, but not ordinarily.

When you are tried, you should think, "Should I not have these same things to bear if I were not a Christian? And should I not have to bear them without the grace of God to help me?" Sinners have to endure trials through their own resolution. You and I have that same natural power, with the grace of God added; therefore we ought to bear trials easier than sinners. Too many people are looking for an easy way, and when they find a little hardship somewhere, something that requires a little endurance, they are ready to look for some other way. Some people think that Christians ought not to have these things to bear, but God sees otherwise. These things will come and must come. Giving up our hold on God will make it harder instead of easier for us to bear them. We shall not get rid of them. We shall have to pass through them, no matter what we do; so we might as well bravely face them and trust God to take us through.

In wars and other calamities, the innocent suffer with the guilty. Some people blame God for all calamities. If lightning strikes a church or the wind destroys the home of a poor Christian, they blame God. If there is an earthquake or a flood, the blame is placed the same. These things are very rarely providential in their nature. They come through natural forces. God has not promised to make us immune from the action of these natural forces nor from the action of evil men. He warns us not to trust in riches nor rely on the things of earth, but upon those higher things that cannot be stolen nor burned nor destroyed.

Sometimes it is said that God takes away our loved ones. It may be thus sometimes, but, as a rule, death comes as the result of natural causes. God has no certain time for people to die. The day of death is not decreed. We die when the natural forces of life are overcome by disease or accident or some other cause so that the body can no longer function. Moses makes it plain in the ninetieth psalm when he says: "The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (verse 10). Here he attributes the extra years, not to something decreed by god, but to the result of natural strength. We die only when our vitality is destroyed or our natural forces used up. Christians have no preeminence over others in this respect, except that God is often pleased to restore their natural forces through his healing power and so prolongs their lives beyond what they would have been prolonged otherwise. If our loved ones die, we should never charge God with injustice; instead we should turn to him for help and comfort. Some grow bitter instead of being softened and ennobled by their sorrow. If God ever does by his own act take a loved one, it is because it is better so.

If we look upon everything as God's providence, we shall often blame him for things with which he has nothing to do. We ought to discriminate between natural happenings and those things which are really the work of God. Sometimes we cannot distinguish; we cannot always be sure; but if we trust God, he will cause all things to work together for our good, whether by his own direct acts through his providence, or by keeping us in those natural things that we meet. The thing to do is to meet courageously whatever comes. It is safe to rely upon his wisdom, and his love will never fail us.