The suffering of the household of faith is on the increase: trials abound. But the moment of release is at hand. The heavenly shore is in sight. Weak, broken up, and troubled as God’s people are on every hand, yet God is for us, all along the way from ruin to glory, and in counsel from eternity to eternity. We are treasure to Him (Matthew 13:44), yea, “one pearl of great price” (v. 46). We are compared to the most precious and costly materials—silver, gold and pearls. We are predestinated according to the eternal purpose of God, to be conformed to the image of His Son in glory (Romans 8:29)—a blessed purpose which no power can possible frustrate. To be like Him and with Him is our sure destiny. But the furnace in the meantime is needed to purify and purge from dross and grit and the precious metals. The breaking and bruising is a painful process, but it cannot be dispensed with, if the divine Refiner would see in every bit of silver the reflection of His own image (Malachi 3:3).
He sits at the mouth of furnace, while Christ Himself, absolutely pure and as tenderly sympathetic, takes a place in company with the sufferer in it (Daniel 3:25). Wisdom, divine wisdom, superintends every detail. There will not be a blow of the hammer too many or one too severe: nor will the furnace be heated one degree beyond what is absolutely necessary. The duration and intensity of the fires of affliction are limited and controlled. God measures our difficulties, prepares and heats the furnace, and carries on the disciplinary process till the final result is reached—moral conformity to Christ on High. All, all is under a Father’s hand; He “will never cause His child a needless tear.”
Would we seek to escape the present and painful discipline of the Lord, as we reflect on the distinguished place we are each to occupy—a discipline, moreover, which is only for a season, and for which there is a need (1 Peter 1:6)? “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The Valley of Baca (Psalm 84:6) wet with the tears, and its silence broken by the sobs of the Lord’s redeemed, leads on to the rest and worship of the House of the Lord (v. 4). Tribulation is God’s appointed path for all His sons and daughters, but it ends in the Kingdom and fullness of joy. Besides, there are present lessons as well as a grand future. We are yet in the school of God, which is necessarily more or less one of sorrow. Our richest lessons are taught us in the shade which we never could have learnt in the sunshine. There are in the best of us many hidden roots of evil and it is a mercy when these are exposed to ourselves. “My soul is even as a weaned child” expresses a ripened condition of soul. A broken and chastened spirit is of priceless value.
“My times are in Thy hand” (Psalm 32:15). Is it a safe hand? An Almighty hand? An infinitely tender hand? Yes! The hand that holds you up is one of divine love and omnipotent strength. Our times, whether dark or bright, whether of sorrow, desolation, poverty, or death are in Jehovah’s hand, and that is enough for weakness to lean upon. Our life seems a tangled web. Who can unravel its mysteries or explain its apparent contradictions? But faith’s confidence is this—that our God holds the thread of life. All is perfect light before Him if dark and inexplicable to us. “He knows the way He taketh.” Ever interpret His actions, however in themselves insolvable, by His love, well known to our souls. The character of His ways is simply the reflex of His nature—light and love. “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Trace all up direct to the source which is God—the God who gave His only Son; there rest. Occupation with second causes or agents and instruments shuts God out of the scene. No sorrow can reach you till He bids it come; poverty cannot touch you till He allows it; friendships cannot be severed unless He permits; loved ones cannot die till He withdraws His hand; and hearts cannot break till He sovereignly allows. “As for God, His way is perfect.”
Christ was “a man of sorrows.” God had only one Son without sin, but He never had one who was without sorrow (Hebrews 12:8) “whereof all are partakers.” The Blessed Lord is with us in the wildest storm, in the darkest night. The most awful hurricane can no more engulf us than it can Him (Mark 4:37–41). He who walks on the sea (Matthew 14:25) as the Lord of the raging elements sleeps in the midst of His own, whilst winds and waves dash around.
Tribulation cannot separate us from the love of God, but the love of God will by and by separate us forever from tribulation and set us in eternal felicity. In the meantime the love of Christ leads us on and through life’s trials “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:35–39). Do not allow yourself to be wrapped up in selfish sorrow. God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends (Job 42:10) and gave him “twice as much as he had before.” Wilderness lessons are meant for others as well as yourself, see to it, that you learn them well, and hand over the fruit of them to fellow-pilgrims (1 Corinthians 1:3–6). The trying of your faith (James 1:3) will soon be over, then the trial of it “more precious than of gold” will be publicly recompensed in the coming day (1 Peter 1:7).