IT is the easiest thing in the world in times of difficulty to let the heart be troubled it is very natural to us to give up and drift with the stream, to feel that it is of no use “taking arms against” such “a sea of trouble,” but that it is better to lie passive and to say, “If one must be ruined, so let it be.”
Despairing idleness is easy enough, especially to evil, rebellious spirits, who are willing enough to get into further mischief that they may have wherewithal to blame God the more, against whose providence they have quarreled. Our Lord will not have us be so rebellious, He bids us pluck up heart and be of good courage in the worst possible condition, and here is the wisdom of his advice, namely, that a troubled heart will not help us in our difficulties or out of them. It has never been perceived in time of drought that lamentations have brought showers of rain, or that in seasons of frost, doubtings, fears and discouragements, have produced a thaw. We have never heard of a man whose business was declining, who managed to multiply the number of his customers by unbelief in God. I do not remember reading of a person whose wife or child was sick, who discovered any miraculous healing power in rebellion against the Most High. It is a dark night, but the darkness of your heart will not light a candle for you. It is a terrible tempest, but to quench the fires of comfort and open the doors to admit the howling winds into the chambers of your spirit will not stay the storm. No good comes out of fretful, petulant, unbelieving heart-trouble. This lion yields no honey. If it would help you, you might reasonably sit down and weep till the tears had washed away your woe. If it were really to some practical benefit to be suspicious of God and distrustful of Providence, why then you might have a shadow of excuse; but as this is a mine out of which no one ever digged any silver, as this is a fishery out of which the diver never brought up a pearl, we would say, Renounce that which cannot be of service to you; for as it can do no good, it is certain that it does much mischief. A doubting, fretful spirit takes from us the joys we have. You have not all you could wish, but you have still more than you deserve. Your circumstances are not what they might be, but still they are not even now so bad as the circumstances of some others. Your unbelief makes you forget that still health remains to you if poverty oppresses you; or that if both health and abundance have departed, you are a child of God, and your name is not blotted out from the roll of the chosen.
There are flowers that bloom in winter, if we have but grace to see them.
Never was there a night of the soul so dark but what some lone star of hope might be discerned, and never a spiritual tempest so tremendous but what there was a haven into which the soul could put if it had but enough confidence in God to make a run for it. Rest assured that though you have fallen very low, you might have fallen lower if it were not that underneath are the everlasting arms. A doubting, distrustful spirit will wither the few blossoms which remain upon your bough, and if half the wells be frozen by affliction, unbelief will freeze the other half by its despondency. You will win no good, but you may get incalculable mischief by a troubled heart; it is a root which bears no fruit except wormwood. A troubled heart makes that which is bad worse. It magnifies, aggravates, caricatures, misrepresents. If but an ordinary foe is in your way, a troubled heart makes him swell into a giant. “We were in their sight but as grasshoppers,” said the ten evil spies, “yea, and we were but as grasshoppers in our own sight when we saw them.” But it was not so. No doubt the men were very tall, but they were not so big after all as to make an ordinary six-foot man look like a grasshopper. Their fears made them grasshoppers by first making them fools. If they had possessed but ordinary courage they could have been men, but being cowardly, they subsided into grasshoppers. After all, what is an extra three, four, or five feet of flesh to a man? Is not the bravest soul the tallest? If he be of shorter stature, be but nimble and courageous, he will have the best of it; little David made short work of great Goliath. Yet so it is; unbelief makes out our difficulties to be most gigantic, and then it leads us to suppose that never soul had such difficulties before, and so we egotistically lament, “I am the man that hath seen affliction;” we claim to be peers in the realm of misery, if not the emperors of the kingdom of grief.
Yet it is not so. Why? What ails you? The head-ache is excruciating! Well, it is bad enough, but what wouldst thou say if thou hadst seven such aches at once, and cold and nakedness to back them! The twitches of rheumatism are horrible! Right well can I endorse that statement! But what then? Why, there have been men who have lived with such tortures thrice told all their lives, like Baxter, who could tell all his bones because each one had made itself heard by its own peculiar pang. What is our complaint compared with the diseases of Calvin, the man who preached at break of every day to the students in the cathedral, and worked on till long past midnight, and was all the while a mass of disease, a complicated agony? You are poor? all yes! But you have your own room, scanty as it is, and there are hundreds in the workhouse who find sorry comfort there. It is true you have to work hard! ay! but think of the Huguenot galley slave in the old times, who for the love of Christ was bound with chains to the oar, and scarce knew rest day nor night. Think of the sufferings of the martyrs of Smithfield, or of the saints who rotted in their prisons. Above all, let your eye turn to the great Apostle and High Priest of your profession, and “consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your mind.” “His way was much rougher and darker than miner Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine? ” Yet this is the habit of unbelief to draw our picture in the blackest possible colors, to tell us that the road is unusually rough and utterly impassable, that the storm is such a tornado as never blew before, and that our name will be down in the wreck register, and that it is impossible that we should ever reach the haven.
Be of good cheer, soldier, the battle must soon end; and that blood-stained banner, when it shall wave so high, and that shout of triumph, when it shall thrill from so many thousand lips, and that grand assembly of heroes, all of them made more than conquerors, and the sight of the King in His beauty, riding in the chariot of His triumph, paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem, and the acclamations of spirits glorified, and the shouts and paens of cherubims and seraphims — all these shall make up for all the rightings of to-day, — “And they who, with their Master, Have conquer ’d in the fight, For ever and for ever Are clad in robes of light. ”