Received in faith, the bitter trials and fiery afflictions we sometimes experience bring joy to our hearts for they are our music in the making. They are the notes that make up the symphony of our lives. Composed and directed by the Master of Music Himself, this glorious melody is the sweetest music on earth, and it is much more precious than fine gold!
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4:12, 13.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4.
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:7.
God brings us into trials in order that we may be drawn near to Him. The psalmist says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). He does not desire us to be under a cloud...He does not desire us to go in anguish of spirit. We are not to look at the thorns and the thistles in our experience. We are to go into the garden of God's Word and pluck the lilies and roses and the fragrant pinks of His promises. --That I Might Know Him, page 278.
Many of the sweetest joys of Christian hearts are songs which have been learned in the bitterness of trial. Many a cold, icy nature is made warm and tender by the grief that crushes it. --J. R. Miller.
There is a legend that tells of a German baron who at his castle on the Rhine, stretched wires from tower to tower, that the winds might convert them into an aeolian harp. And the soft breezes played about the castle, but no music was born.
But one night there arose a great tempest, and hill and castle were smitten by the fury of the mighty winds. The baron went to the threshold to look out upon the terror of the storm, and the aeolian harp was filling the air with strains that rang out even above the clamor of the tempest. It needed the tempest to bring out the music!
And have we not known men whose lives have not given out any entrancing music in the day of a calm prosperity, but who, when the tempest drove against them have astonished their fellows by the power and strength of their music?
Our sorrows do not spring out of the ground. God 'doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.' When He permits trials and afflictions, it is for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.' If received in faith, the trial that seems so bitter and hard to bear will prove a blessing. The cruel blow that blights the joys of earth will be the means of turning our eyes to heaven. How many there are who would never have known Jesus had not sorrow led them to seek comfort in Him! The trials of life are God's workman, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. --Sons and Daughters of God, page 302.
"Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: for he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole." Job 5:17,18.
How an old harper dotes on his harp! How he fondles and caresses it, as a child resting on his bosom! His life is bound up in it. But, see him tuning it. He grasps it firmly, strikes a chord with a sharp, quick blow; and while it quivers as if in pain, he leans over intently to catch the first note that rises. The note, as he feared, is false and harsh. He strains the chord with the torturing thumbscrew; and though it seems ready to snap with the tension, he strikes it again, bending down to listen softly as before, till at length you see a smile on his face as the first true tone trembles upward.
So it may be that God is dealing with you. Loving you better than any harper loves his harp. He finds you a mass of jarring discords. He wrings your heartstrings with some torturing anguish; He bends over you tenderly, striking and listening; and, hearing only a harsh murmur, strikes you again, while His heart bleeds for you, anxiously waiting for that strain--'Not my will, but thine be done'--which is melody sweet to His ear as angels' songs. Nor will He cease to strike until your chastened soul shall blend with all the pure and infinite harmonies of His own being. --Selected.
"For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies, For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." Lamentations 3:31-33.
Many of your afflictions have been visited upon you, in the wisdom of God, to bring you closer to the throne of grace. He softens and subdues His children by sorrows and trials. This world is God's workshop, where He fashions us for the courts of heaven. He uses the planing knife upon our quivering hearts until the roughness and irregularities are removed and we are fitted for our proper places in the heavenly building. Through tribulation and distress the Christian becomes purified and strengthened, and develops a character after the model that Christ has given. --God's Amazing Grace, page 89.
A child of God was dazed by the variety of afflictions which seemed to make her their target. Walking past a vineyard in the rich autumnal glow she noticed the untrimmed appearance and the luxuriant wealth of leaves on the vines, that the ground was given over to a tangle of weeds and grass, and that the whole place looked utterly uncared for; and as she pondered, the heavenly Gardener whispered so precious a message that she would fain pass it on:
My dear child, are you wondering at the sequence of trials in your life? Behold that vineyard and learn of it. The gardener ceases to prune, to trim, to harrow, or to pluck the ripe fruit only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. It is left to itself, because the season of fruit is past and further effort for the present would yield no profit. Comparative uselessness is the condition of freedom from suffering. Do you then wish me to cease pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?" And the comforted heart cried, 'No!' --Homera Homer-Dixon
The most trying experiences in the Christian's life may be the most blessed. The special providences of the dark hours may encourage the soul in future attacks of Satan, and equip the servant of God to stand in fiery trials. The trial of your faith is more precious than gold. You must have that abiding confidence in God that is not disturbed by the temptations and arguments of the deceiver. Take the Lord at His word. --That I May Know Him, Page 257.
"For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5.
If in the providence of God we are called upon to endure trials, let us accept the cross, and drink the bitter cup, remembering that it is a Father's hand that holds it to our lips. Let us trust him in the darkness as well as in the day. Can we not believe that he will give us everything that is for our good? "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Even in the night of affliction, how can we refuse to lift heart and voice in grateful praise, when we remember the love to us expressed by the cross of Calvary? -- Bible Echos, January 1, 1888.
The following incident is related by Mrs. Charles Spurgeon, who was a great sufferer for more than a quarter of a century:
"At the close of a dark and gloomy day, I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on; and though all was bright within my cozy room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the hand which I knew held mine, and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart I asked, 'Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?'
"These fretful questions were quickly answered, and through a strange language; no interpreter was needed save the conscious whisper of my heart.
"For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of the oak log burning in the fireplace. Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window.
"'What can it be? Surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of the year and night.'
"Again came the faint, plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke our wonder. My friend exclaimed, 'It comes from the log on the fire!' The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak's inmost heart!
"Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all was well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold. But he had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness, and the vehement heat of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice. 'Ah,' thought I,'when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified!'
"Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log, cold, hard, insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds, were it not for the fire which kindles around us, and releases notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will.
"As I mused the fire burned, and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me.
"Singing in the fire! Yes, God helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before."
Let the afflictions which pain us so grievously become instructive lessons, teaching us to press forward toward the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ. Let us be encouraged by the thought that the Lord is soon to come. Let this hope gladden our hearts. --God's Amazing Grace, page 89.
Many long to blossom in their Christian experience yet shudder from the thought of going through pain and suffering. Job knew about suffering, and this was what he said: "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." --Job 23:10
There is a divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can get in its way; for let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.
Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Timothy 3:12.
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Job 13:15.
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried;...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev 2:10.
The greatest things are always hedged about by the hardest things, and we, too, shall find mountains and forests and chariots of iron. Hardship is the price of coronation. Triumphal arches are not woven out of rose blossoms and silken cords, but of hard blows and bloody scars. The very hardships that you are enduring in your life today are given by the Master for the explicit purpose of enabling you to win your crown. --Selected.
The day how long;
Faint not! Fight on!
Tomorrow comes the song.
No cross, no crown, no song. "How can one be strong in the Lord without trials. To have strength, we must have exercise. To have strong faith, we must be placed in circumstances where our faith will be called forth. The apostle Paul, just before his martyrdom, exhorted Timothy, "Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God." It is through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of God. Our Saviour was tried in every possible way, and yet he triumphed in God continually. It is our privilege to be strong in the strength of God under all circumstances, and to glory in the cross of Christ." --Lift Him Up, page 248.
Regarding the martyrdom of Jerome and Huss during the early history of the Christian Church, their enemies were struck with their heroic bearing. A zealous papist said: "Both bore themselves with constant mind when their last hour approached. They prepared for the fire as if they were going to a marriage feast. They uttered no cry of pain. When the flames rose, they began to sing hymns; and scarce could the vehemency of the fire stop their singing." --Wylie, b. 3, ch. 7. [The Great Controversy, page 109, 110].
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some natures bloom
Only on blood-wet soil, some souls prove great
Only in moments dark with death or doom.
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." James 1:12.
Christ dwells in him who receives him by faith. Tho trials may come upon the soul, yet the Lord's presence will be with us. The burning bush in which was the Lord's presence did not consume away. The fire did not extinguish a fiber of the branches. Thus will it be with the feeble human agent who puts his trust in Christ. The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but only the dross will be consumed. The gold will shine brighter because of the process of purification. --Signs of the Times, March 5, 1896.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." --Proverbs 25:11.
Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping ground, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men...Suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others. -- Selected.
As it cleft the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Whence the wondrous song was borne,
And I found a bird, sore wounded,
Pinioned by a cruel thorn.
I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furl'd,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world;
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.
Ye are told of One who loved you,
Of a Saviour crucified,
Ye are told of nails that pinioned,
And a spear that pierced His side;
Ye are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Saviour bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.
Ye "are not above the Master."
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Tho' your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?
Though her life was bruised and torn with heartaches, sickness, constant pain and sorrow, Helen Steiner Rice, through the beautiful poems she wrote, uplifts humanity, gives faith and hope to the despondent, encourages and cheers those who are fainting under a heavy load of care. Here are some of my favorite Helen Steiner Rice's poems:
Let me not live a life that's free
From the things that draw me close to Thee,
For how can I ever hope to heal
The wounds of others I do not feel?
If my eyes are dry and I never weep,
How do I know when the hurt is deep?
If my heart is cold and it never bleeds,
How can I tell what my brother needs?
For when ears are deaf to the beggar's plea
And we close our eyes and refuse to see
And we steel our hearts and harden our minds
And we count it a weakness whenever we're kind,
We are no longer following the Father's way
Or seeking His guidance from day to day.
For, without crosses to carry and burdens to bear,
We dance through a life that is frothy and fair,
And, chasing the rainbow, we have no desire
For roads that are rough and realms that are higher.
So spare me no heartache or sorrow, dear Lord,
For the heart that hurts reaps the richest reward,
And God blesses the heart that is broken with sorrow
As He opens the door to a brighter tomorrow.
For only through tears can we recognize
The suffering that lies in another's eyes.
Meet Life's Trials With Smiles
There are times when life overwhelms us
and our trials seem too many to bear--
It is then we should stop to remember
God is standing by ready to share
The uncertain hours that confront us
and fill us with fear and despair,
For God in His goodness has promised
that the cross that He gives us to wear
Will never exceed our endurance
or be more than our strength can bear.
And secure in that blessed assurance,
we can smile as we face tomorrow,
For God holds the key to the future,
and no sorrow or care we need borrow.
There is a Reason for Everything
Our Father knows what's best for us,
so why should we complain?
We always want the sunshine
but He knows there must be rain.
We love the sound of laughter
and the merriment of cheer,
But our hearts would lose their tenderness
if we never shed a tear.
Our Father tests us often
with suffering and with sorrow.
He tests us not to punish us
but to help us meet tomorrow,
For growing trees are strengthened
when they withstand the storm,
And the sharp cut of a chisel
gives the marble grace and form.
God never hurts us needlessly
and He never wastes our pain,
For every loss He sends to us
is followed by rich gain,
And when we count the blessings
that God has so freely sent,
We will find no cause for murmuring
and no time to lament.
For our Father loves His children
and to Him all things are plain,
He never sends us pleasure
when the soul's deep need is pain.
So whenever we are troubled and
when everything goes wrong,
It is just God working in us
to make our spirits strong.
Adversity Can Bless Us
The way we use adversity
is strictly our own choice,
For in God's hands
Adversity can make the heart rejoice.
For everything God sends to us,
no matter in what form,
Is sent with plan and purpose,
for by the fierceness of a storm
The atmosphere is changed and cleared
and the earth is washed and clean,
And the high winds of adversity
can make restless souls serene.
And while it's very difficult
for mankind to understand
God's intentions and His purpose
and the workings of His hand,
If we observe the miracles
that happen every day,
We cannot help but be convinced
that in His wondrous way
God makes what seemed unbearable
and painful and distressing
when we view it as a blessing.
Afflictions, crosses, temptations, adversity,-- all our varied trials--are God's workmen to refine and sanctify us, and make us channels of light to the world. --Bible Echos, July 15, 1892.
When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people and they have become channels of light to a dark and sinful world, what a grand symphony that would be! The music, wrought by the fire of affliction and releasing from the very depths of their souls sweet notes of complete trust and cheerful compliance to His Will, would be as angels' songs to the ear of the Master Musician. Indeed, this melodious sound would be the sweetest music on earth!