Enlightened societies pride themselves on their compassion, and no one cares like the ideal of mankind, the progressive of the early 21st century -- which assuredly represents humanity at its pinnacle. Every perceived oppression must be granted validation, every twinge of discomfort must be assuaged, even legislated against. With immense virtue, divinity, and wisdom, the special classes condescend to buffet the harsh realities of the world and eliminate any hint of unhappiness, so that the benefactors, the swaddled masses, will continue to suckle mush and reject the meat of life's challenges.
What this is, of course, is a denial of God's sovereignty as the first cause of all events -- including our sorrows and joys -- and of His role as Author of Love and Mercy. Our efforts to one-up God come up short because our ways are not anything like His. We cannot possibly comprehend sorrow the way the Father of the Man of Sorrows does.
Part of the problem is that the habit of dwelling on the Word of God has gone by the wayside, and as a result, the practices of turning the mind toward God's purposes have been discarded as well. Musings about man's loveable cleverness supplant Scriptural meditations on the hopeless corruption of the creature and the perfect love of the Cross. Preachers from previous centuries regularly directed their hearers to every nook and cranny of the Scriptures, to examine the biblical accounts of God's intentions to work out His glory and bring a redeemed people to Himself, and to seek and worship Him as the first cause of events in everyday life. In a horrifying twist, this has been replaced with homilies of happiness and worshiptainment happenings.
John MacDuff, a 19th-century preacher and pamphleteer, was one of those who pointed to the Divine as immeasureably greater than anything man might in his punyness attempt to be, and yet his advice was practical and accessible to the ordinary Christian in the pew. His contemporary, Charles Spurgeon, said of him, "For sound doctrine, presented Scripturally and devotionally, with its application to the Christian life, you cannot go beyond MacDuff.... [he] writes popularly, yet he is by no means shallow. For an hour's pleasant and holy reading, commend us to MacDuff!"
The following are excerpts from MacDuff's "The Rainbow in the Clouds" (from "Whenever I bring clouds over the earth — and the rainbow appears in the clouds" Genesis 9:14), a series of short devotionals about the One who knows all things because He is over all things.
"The Lord reigns!" (Psalm 93:1)
No rainbow of promise in the "dark and cloudy day" shines more radiantly than this. God, my God, the God who gave Jesus — orders all events, and overrules all for my good! "When I," says He, "send clouds over the earth." He has no wish to conceal the hand which shadows for a time earth's brightest prospects. It is He alike who "brings the cloud," who brings us into it, and in mercy leads us through it! His kingdom rules over all. "The lot is cast into the lap — but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." He puts the burden on, and keeps it on — and at His own time will remove it!
Beware of brooding over second causes. It is the worst form of atheism! When our most fondly cherished gourds are smitten; our fairest flowers lie withered in our bosom; this is the silencer of all reflections: "The Lord prepared the worm!" When the temple of the soul is smitten with lightning, and its pillars rent: "The Lord is in His holy temple!" Accident, chance, fate, destiny — have no place in the Christian's creed. He is no unpiloted vessel left to the mercy of the storm. "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters!" There is but one explanation of all that befalls him: "I will be silent, I will not open my mouth, because You are the One who has done this!"
"I know their sorrows!" (Exodus 3:7)
These are God's own words. Man cannot say so. There are many sensitive fibers in the soul, which the best and tenderest human sympathy cannot touch. But the Prince of Sufferers, He who led the way in the path of sorrow, "knows our frame."
When crushing bereavement lies like ice on the heart -- when the dearest earthly friend cannot enter into the peculiarities of our grief -- Jesus can. Jesus does! He who once bore my sins also carried my sorrows. That eye, now on the throne, was once dim with weeping.
Israel had long groaned under bondage. God appeared not to know it -- or, if He did know it -- not to care. He seemed, like Baal, to be "asleep". Yet at that very moment, His pitying eye was yearningly beholding His enslaved people. It was then that He said, "I know their sorrows!"
Just so, He may seem at times thus to forget and forsake us, leaving us to utter the plaintive cry, "Has God forgotten to be gracious?", when all the while, He is bending over us in tenderest love. He often allows our needs to reach their extremity that He may stretch forth His supporting hand, and reveal the plenitude of His grace.
"You can see how the Lord was kind to Job at the end -- for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy" (James 5:11).
God fully "knowing" our sorrows is a blessed guarantee that none will be sent, but those which He sees to be needful. "I will not," says He, "make a full end of you--but I will correct you in measure" (Jeremiah 30:11).
All the trials which He sends are precisely meted out and wisely apportioned. There is nothing accidental or random or unnecessary -- no excess thorn -- no superfluous pang!
"You keep track of all my sorrows; You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book" (Psalm 56:8). Each one is counted and recorded -- drop by drop -- tear by tear. Tears are sacred things among the treasures of God!
Suffering believer, the iron may have entered deeply into your soul; yet rejoice! Jesus, a sorrowing, sympathizing Jesus, "knows" your aching pangs and burning tears, and He will "come down to deliver you."
And of this divine sympathy, we are also assured in the New Testament, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tested in every way, just as we are." (Hebrews 4:15).
What an elevating truth! We have the Sympathy of the God-Man-Mediator in our sorrows! What a source of exalted joy, to the stripped and desolate heart! What a green pasture to lie down upon, amid the windy storm and tempest, or in the dark and cloudy day!
The sympathy of man is cheering and comforting, but "thus far shall you go, and no farther." Man's sympathy is finite -- limited -- and often selfish. There are nameless and numberless sorrows on earth, which are far beyond the reach of all human alleviation.
The sympathy of Jesus alone, is . . .
removed from all taint of selfishness!
Jesus has Himself passed through every experience of woe. There are no depths of sorrow or anguish into which I can be plunged but His everlasting arms are lower still. He has been called "The great sympathetic nerve of His Church, over which the afflictions and oppressions, and sufferings of His people continually pass!"
Child of Sorrow! A human heart beats on Heaven's Throne -- and He has your name written on that heart. He cares for you as if no other claimed His regard as if you were the only object of His care!
He "has been tested in every way, just as we are!" Blessed assurance! I never can know a sorrow into which the "Man of Sorrow" cannot enter. Ah rather, in the midst of earth's most lacerating trials, let me listen to the unanswerable challenge from the lips of a suffering Savior, "Was there ever any sorrow, like unto My sorrow!" Yet He willingly drank the cup of wrath! He did not shrink back from the appointed cross! And even when He hung upon the bitter tree, He refused the sour wine which would have assuaged the rage of thirst and mitigated physical suffering.
Are we tempted at times to murmur under God's afflicting hand? "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart!" Shall we hesitate to bear any cross which our Lord and Master sees fit to lay upon us -- when we think of the infinitely weightier Cross He so meekly and willingly carried for us?
Jesus has some wise and gracious purpose in every mysterious chastisement. His language is, "Hear the rod -- and Him who has appointed it!" (Micah 6:9). He has too kind and loving a heart to cause us one needless or superfluous pang to His redeemed children.
John MacDuff, from "The Rainbow in the Clouds", posted at Grace Gems.
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
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