When Pain and Faith Collide

When pain and faith collide
The one absorbs the other.
But not without a shock
That shakes us to the core.

We trust in our own strength
Forgetting we are frail.
Until that unplanned hour
We’re broken, hurt, and sore.

It comes in many ways,
But always ends the same.
With perfect strategy,
It brings us to our knees.

Our minds become unclear
When hit while unaware.
And surveys all our sins,
Then tells us we are through.

Then in our shaken voice
Our faith lets out a groan.
Thunders cross the heavens,
For by Him it’s supplied.

For faith is the power
That overcomes the world.
One absorbs the other
When pain and faith collide.

-D. Eaton

Your Frequent Afflictions

My dear friend,

Your frequent afflictions are His sweet lessons. It is the proper work of the grace of Jesus to humble the proud sinner, to make him and to keep him sensible of his needs, convinced always that he has not any good of his own and cannot possibly of himself obtain any but what he must be receiving every moment out of the fullness of Jesus.

All providences, sicknesses, losses, successes, are only so far blessings, as they lead us more out of ourselves, into the fullness of Jesus.

The Lord having appointed you for His heavenly kingdom, has also appointed all the steps which are to lead you there. Your every affliction is in the covenant. Your sicknesses, your failings, your disappointments, there is not one thing that thwarts your will, that is not in God’s will. Nothing can befall you but what is divinely ordered, contrived for you by infinite wisdom, brought upon you by infinite love!

Oh, for eyes to see, for a heart to receive all God’s dealings with you in this covenant view. How sweet would be your many trials, if you found them all appointed and managed for you by the best of friends! Learn to receive them thus.

To the care of His dear loving heart I commend you and yours,

William Romaine – Letters

Racial Tension, Riots, and a River of Living Water

The past several days have been heart-wrenching. Not only are we dealing with COVID-19 and the restrictions and fallout related to it, but we have also witnessed what is clearly the wrongful death of a man at the hands of police officers. To compound that, we have had six days of violent protest across the United States as many have turned to rioting, vandalism, and theft. If we were not awake to the fact that we are living in a fallen world before this, we should be awake now.

If we spend too much time focused on the news or following social media feeds, we will soon be defeated and worn. If we spend too much time focused on this world without turning our eyes heavenward, we will quickly be hopeless because this world is unable to satisfy. The emptiness of this world is why scripture is continually calling us to turn our eyes away from the waves and turn them towards Jesus.

We see a perfect example of this when Jesus offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter four. What is especially relevant about this passage is we see racial tension at work in these verses as well.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he stopped to rest at the well in Samaria. The significance of this is that Jews and Samaritans, in general, did not like each other. Each group claimed the other group looked down on and mistreated them. The Samaritans were people who had married during Israel’s captivity, so the Jews did not believe they were genuinely Jewish. They were two or more ethnicities.

Adding to their racial differences, though the Samaritans believed in the God of Jacob, they merged their worship of him with pagan ideas. Some Bible scholars believe they worshiped him as a local deity who was only one among many. Due to these issues, the animosity between Jews and Samaritans went deep and cut both ways.

In walks Jesus, a Jew, and he engages the Samaritan woman in conversation by asking her for a drink of water from the well. Her response was to question why he was talking to her because Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Her question could have been honest, but most likely, her own prejudiced was starting to show. To put it in today’s vernacular, she could have been saying, “You Jews are usually too arrogant to talk to Samaritans. Take the hint; I am not interested in helping you.”

Jesus responds by saying, “If you knew who was speaking to you, you would have asked, and he would have given you living water.” What Jesus is doing, despite her disregard of him, is preparing to bless her. The first thing we need to notice about Jesus is that he does not play our culture’s race, gender, and class games. He simply treats this woman as a person made in the image of God regardless of society’s sins. The biggest problem is not this woman’s gender or race or even the mistreatment she has experienced at the hands of others; those are symptoms of a deeper issue. The real problem is her spiritual blindness, which becomes evident in her response to Jesus.

She says, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” Her exaggerated focus on the physical exposes her inability to see spiritually. All she can think about is physical water. This is the state of many people today. You talk to them about God, and all they want to do is require evidence and the only evidence they will allow must use the scientific method. Their blindness, often willful, has so reduced their world to the physical that they cannot see past it, and they try to find all their satisfaction in it because, for them, it is all that exists.

This blindness, however, is not merely a problem for some people. We are all born with this blindness. Every believer alive today was once just as blind, but Jesus did for us what he is doing for the Samaritan woman in the passage. He restored our spiritual sight and offered us living water.

When all you can see is the physical world around you, you will do everything you can to find your hope in it, because you know of nothing else. As Jesus continues to speak to this woman gently, he brings to light the fact that she has had five husbands, and the man she is living with now is not her husband. Whether it was by death, divorce, or adultery, this woman had tried to find fulfillment in men, and she was left empty, and Jesus had exposed her sinfulness. He did not need to condemn her. He simply opened her eyes, and she saw it. When we focus only on the things of this world, ultimately, all we will find is disappointment that will leave us weary and worn. In our attempts to address our weary souls without looking to Jesus, we will walk deeper and deeper into sin.

Despite the woman’s sin, because of the sacrifice Jesus knew he was going to make on the cross, he knew her sins could be washed clean, and she, a sinner, could be in a right relationship with the holy God. In light of the atonement he would make, He offers her living water and says, “Whoever drinks of this water will never be thirsty again, and the water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The water he is speaking of is ultimately the Holy Spirit who opens our blind eyes, points us to Jesus and the cross, makes our spiritually dead hearts beat again, and causes us to rejoice in our God of mercy. He took our sinful hearts and made us whole, he calls us his children, and his banner over us is love. Instead of the wrath we deserve, we find forgiveness and peace in his presence, and this river of living water is eternal. It will never run dry.

I am not sure where you are right now spiritually, but if you have spent too much time focused on the things of this world, I am sure 2020 has left you discouraged and broken. Even we as believers can experience this when we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our surroundings. This is what we see happening to Peter when he was walking on water, and he began to sink. The more we focus on the waves, the further we will descend until we find this world overwhelming us. Our society at large is undoubtedly sinking right now. This spiritual blindness so permeates our culture that it is attacking itself trying to find its happiness and hope in a world that cannot deliver.

What the world needs now more than anything is the living water that Christ offers, but we will only find it by being spiritually-minded and spending time with Jesus in his word and in prayer. As Christians, Christ is with us no matter what we face in this life. Sickness, racial injustice, and even riots cannot separate us from his love: even when injustice is directed toward us and at our front door.

The living water is a spring overflowing with joy, joy in the Lord. Joy in knowing he has forgiven us of our sins and healed us of our spiritual blindness. Joy in knowing no matter how bad this world may get, he will will not lose us and eventually return to set it all right. My question for you is, do you have this joy, or is your heart overwhelmed by the troubles of 2020? It is proper for us to have hearts filled with lament at times like these, but that lament can coexist in the full confidence in our great Savior.

How do we navigate these turbulent waters? How do we express our lament and reveal our hope? We cannot do it in our own strength, it is only through the Living Water himself, the Holy Spirit. If you are weak and unable to shine forth the light of your Savior, then turn to your eyes to him, he will restore your joy, and the joy of the Lord will be your strength. Did you catch that? The joy of the Lord will be your strength.

If there is anything Christians need now more than ever, it is strength. We need strength to be who Christ has called us to be, strength to be a city on a hill, strength to have hope during a pandemic and the resulting economic collapse, and power to model Christ’s example of the way past racial prejudice, violence, and anger. He broke down the racial wall when he broke down the wall between Jew and Gentile. In Christ, He destroys the artificial categories of class. All are one in Christ Jesus.

It is only in Christ that we will be able to love our enemies and return good for evil. It will only be in knowing our sinfulness and the grace we have received that we will be able to show mercy to those who mistreat us. As the world works to build higher and stronger walls of separation, Jesus has called us to break them down with the love of God, and there will be nothing easy about it. Others will mistreat us in the process, and as our scars begin to show, may the Spirit use them to draw people to the nail-scared hands, the only hands that can heal our world. We will only be able to live a life like that if we make sure our eyes are on Jesus, and we are drinking deeply of the living water.

-D.Eaton

You Gave Me Health, and I Misused It

You gave me health to use in your service, but I misused it to a wholly secular use. Now you have sent me a sickness for my correction. O let me not use this likewise to provoke you, by my impatience. I abused my health, and you have rightly dealt with me. O keep me now from abusing that also. And since the corruption of my nature distorts your favors to me, grant, O my God, that your all-prevailing grace may render your chastenings to be beneficial. If my heart has been in love with the world when I was in robust health, destroy my vigor to promote my salvation. Whether it be by weakness of or by zeal for your love, render me incapable of enjoying the worldly idols, that my delight may be only in you.

Blaise Pascal – A Prayer He Prayed During A Time of Sickness

The Great Depression, Pandemics, and a Benefit of Hard Times

The good times are to be expected, and the hard times are surprising and strange. Perhaps that unconscious assumption is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jayber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today. He says: “As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”

Though many wrongly interpret this disposition as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, politicians have promised us the world, and we have believed them. We may indeed chuckle at the thought that a single person thinks they have that much influence, still, conservatives and liberals alike often feel that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This thinking, of course, is foolishness. There are good days and bad days ahead for all of us. Pandemics, economic collapse, and the threat of government overreach are nothing new. They have all happened in the past, and they will occur again in the future. Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).

Bringing this to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust and our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to feel our weakness. The problem is that when our vulnerability is not apparent, a false sense of our competency begins to blind us.

For the Christian, hard times might not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much in the hard times as in the good, we have no reason to panic during the difficult days, as we are prone to do.

When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily dependence upon God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him. Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row, and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world. Even when evidence surrounds me, I deceive myself with a false sense of self-sufficiency, and it is not until life hits me with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind.  If this is true, then some of my “hard’ times are actually my good times, and some of my “good” times are my hard times. Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I am delusional.

For the Christian, our eternal well-being is not bound up in the pleasures of this life. The scoffers will say this kind of talk reveals our deficiency, and they are right. I will boast all the more in my weakness. I contributed nothing to my salvation, and I have no strength of my own to contribute to the Christian life. I will praise God for the days I lay helpless at His feet because those days he has promised that in my weakness his strength will rest upon me. When the hard times hit, and we find ourselves entirely dependent upon our God, it is time to draw up under the wing of our Savior and start paying attention because his power is about to be revealed in his people.

-D. Eaton

When Your Rib is Gone, Lean More Firmly on Your Staff

Dear Sir,

Last Friday I received a note from Mr. Venn, which acquaints me with the loss of your wife, who, I find, expired suddenly after a long illness. When your rib is gone, you must lean firmer on your staff. (Psalm 23:4)

What a bubble is human honor, and what a toy is human joy! Happy is he, whose hope is the Lord, and whose heart cries out for the living God. Creature comforts may fail him, but the God of all consolation will be with him. When human cisterns yield no water, he may drink of the river that waters the throne of God.

Youth, without grace, wants every worldly embellishment. But a gracious heart and hoary hairs cries out for communion with God, and says: Nothing on earth can I desire in comparison with Him!

What a mercy that you need not fly to wordily amusements for relief or to find comfort! Not satisfied with this world’s husks, the prodigal’s food, God has bestowed a pearl on you which creates an appetite for spiritual nutriment, and brings His royal dainties into your bosom.

May this season of mourning be sweetened with a sense of the Lord’s presence, bringing many tokens of His fatherly love, and sanctifying the painful visitation by drawing your heart more vigorously unto Him and fixing it on Him!

May the Lord bring eternity nearer to our minds, and Jesus nearer to our hearts.

-John Berridge (1716-1793) – Letters

Let Discouragement Lead You Home

How do you live with discouragement? Every attempt to remove yourself from the trial fails. When people look at you, they see courage, but you know it is nothing but a stiff upper lip. The last thing you want to do is burden them more than you have to.

The problem is that every setback brings you a little lower. It has become so much of a pattern that when you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, you refuse to let it lift your spirit because it has let you down so many times in the past.

You know you must fight, but the desire and will to do so has been beaten lifeless by the enemy. You had the courage once, but it has been taken from you. So what do you do now? Do you allow the misery to take over? Do you resign yourself to it? Clearly, the answer has to be, no, but what do you do?

It is at this point you find your will exhausted, and that is probably a good thing because perhaps the battle is not yours to fight. Or perhaps you have been fighting the wrong battle. The first thing we must begin to realize is that, in at least one sense, discouragement is not always the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, it is a tool in the hands of our loving God to do us good. Bear with me for a minute.

Our God is sovereign. He is not simply trying to manage the chaos of this world. He is in complete control of it. His sovereignty becomes clear when we ask two questions of any hardship. Did God know this was going to happen, and could he have stopped it?  If we answer no to either of these questions, we truly are in trouble because God has ceased to be God, and something else is mastering him. This, of course, can never be because there is nothing beyond God’s knowledge or power. Being God means he knew you would face this and that you would respond to this trouble with discouragement, so dismay was part of his plan. I know this is the hardest part of the pill to swallow, so let me elaborate for a minute because the payoff will be worth it, and without this pill, experiencing disappointment will be unbearable.

The most significant objection people have with the conclusion drawn from the fact that God knows what is happening to us and could stop it, and that discouragement was part of his plan, lies in the fact that discouragement is often a sin. If God’s plan for us was to reach a point of discouragement, doesn’t that mean that God is causing us to sin?

The problem is that this way of thinking is too simplistic. The disconnect is in failing to realize that we are already sinful. The fact that the Lord allows us to face situations that draws our dross to the surface, in no way makes him the author of our sin. This understanding lines up perfectly with scripture. We are responsible for our sin, and God is completely sovereign. We cannot deny either of these truths if we wish to remain biblical.

If you are God’s child, and he has brought you to a low point, he’s doing it because he loves you. There is something he wants to do with this discouragement in your life, and ultimately, like all dross drawn to the surface, he will wipe it away.

The first thing we need to do when discouragement hits is to ask ourselves why we are demoralized. Discouragement is almost always tied to the things of the world. Our hearts cling to them, and when hardship hits, they start to falter. Dismay almost always involves the removal of some earthly pleasure. We have errantly placed our hope and trust in some aspect of the world.

Homes, cars, jobs, human relationships, health, quality of life, or even mortal life itself; discouragement is always the result of losing, or the threat of losing, one or more of these. But even as these begin to show weakness, God has not failed us. Knowing that God has not failed us, and we are still dismayed should be an indication that we have misplaced our trust.

This revelation of misplaced trust may be the the first blessing the Lord is bringing to us. He is going to use it to set us more firmly upon the rock of Christ Jesus. When we find ourselves discouraged, we are not to resign ourselves to it. We are to change the way we see it. Instead of trying to will our way out of it, we should ask the Lord what blessing he is giving us through it. The most significant blessing will always be increased faith.

Scripture tells us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet. 1:6).” There are two things we need to see in this verse to help us. First, we need to realize that this happens after we have received the gospel. That is what “in this you greatly rejoice” means. We rejoice in the gospel. This verse is talking to believers, and the trial taking place is happening to Christians. The second point is that it says you have been “grieved” by the trials. One version says, “distressed,” and another refers to it as “heaviness.” The point of all these synonyms is that these are trials you will feel. These are not merely outward trials you will float through on a spiritual cloud. They are trials that will hurt your heart; they will bring you low. Dare I say, “discourage” you. And as the passage indicates, if they hit us, they are necessary.

There is a reason for this adversity. It is not pointless. The passage continues, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be tested,” and that faith is worth more than gold. It is worth more than any earthly possession because faith is our trust in God, and he is purifying it. The result of this is the praise and glory of God (1 Pet. 1:7).

Even when our health fails and we find our quality-of-life slipping, we must remember that even though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This continued renewal in the face of hardship is why we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:17).

How do we not lose heart? The scripture tells us, “by looking not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen.” For the things that are not seen are eternal, and everything else is passing (2 Cor. 4:18). If the things of Earth are not letting you down yet, they will.

How do you live with discouragement? You allow it to do the work God intended it to do when he sent it to you. You let it turn your eyes away from this world, begin looking toward home, and be renewed spiritually. All of this will end in the glory of God, which is the chief end of man. This is where our true enjoyment will be found, and that enjoyment is eternal with a weight of glory that cannot compare to the heaviness you are facing now. Let the dross rise to the surface, look to the things unseen, and your loving Father will begin to wipe it away even if the trial remains.

-D. Eaton

Celebrities Sing Communist Manifesto

As if we are not suffering enough already, celebrities decided to sing John Lennon’s song, Imagine, to encourage us, but do they realize that Lennon himself described Imagine as “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” Secularism has no good hymns.

What do you sing to the world when you have no real hope to offer?

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

You pretend there is no heaven or hell, so nothing you do in this life has any eternal consequences. Nothing like telling people who are facing a pandemic that is taking lives that there is no heaven. You then tell people to live only for today, which, of course, would be the worst thing you could do during coronavirus. After all, is that not what the spring breakers in Florida are doing, and everyone is upset about that, but if celebrities sing it, it is “beautiful.”

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do

They would go on and ask us to pretend like there are no countries, while borders are closed for their protection.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can

They would continue by telling the world to imagine there are no possession, while they record these videos from the safety of their homes that they certainly are not sharing with the world.

And no religion too

Finally, they would ask us to imagine a world without religion, but it is secularism’s denial of the living God that leaves them in a place where they have nothing to offer the world. Imagine is really the best hymn secularism can offer, and it is terrible.

Secularism hates the idea that we are made in the image of God but that we have fallen into sin. They hate the idea that we are glorious creatures in an abnormal state because they say it is demeaning to think of humanity that way. Then they declare that “God is dead,” but if God is dead, so is humanity.

It is a secular philosophy of life that says, as messed up as we are, we are not in an abnormal state. We are evolving creatures, and there was never a time when we were more glorious than we are now. So if you look around and see the despair, it is important to remember this is the best secularism can offer you.

The remedy to all of this is to look around and see that things are not the way they should be. Man is not in his most glorious state; something is seriously wrong. This is why things like covid-19 exist. Sin has touched us all, but unlike the secular worldview that leaves us in our despair, the truth of Christianity lets us know that even though we have fallen, God has provided a way for us to be redeemed.

Our guilt, even though it is true guilt against the Holy God of the universe and not just an internal feeling, can be forgiven through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who took our punishment on the cross. For those who come to him in faith, our relationship with our creator is restored. We, at that moment, are given a new life in Christ, and he begins a work in us that he promises to fulfill when he calls us home. For those of us who know Jesus, never forget that we are part of the greatest campaign ever imagined: to know God. Our calling is to glorify him and enjoy him forever. One day, all things will be set right. Maybe next time celebrities will sing us a gospel song.

-D. Eaton

A Christian Thanksgiving Meditation

“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34

The annual Thanksgiving Day in America, has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.

But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day—all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.

Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.

Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. All ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings.

In one of the Psalms, the writer says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” He had learned to sing in the hours of pain—as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should live—nothing should hush his song or choke the voice of thanksgiving and praise.

The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.

Likewise, one who has been full of miserable discontents, utterly lacking in gratitude, gets a new Divine impulse, and one day is really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he let his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness, until by and by it has been lured altogether away from the old beaten paths of discontent, discouragement, and unhappiness, and runs always in the ways of thanksgiving.

If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness—we should instantly set about the breaking of a new path, a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions when long indulged persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered, and we should not pause in our effort until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.

There are many encouragements to a life of thanksgiving. For one thing, it makes life much happier. The person who indulges in fretting and complaining—is missing much that is loveliest, both in character and in experience. The tendency of such a life is toward gloom and depression, and these qualities in the heart soon show themselves on the face and in the manner. Light is the emblem of a beautiful life—but ingratitude is darkness rather than light. If we would be happy—we must train ourselves to be grateful. Ingratitude makes life dreary for us.

Another reason for cultivating the thanksgiving spirit, is because of its influence on others. Nobody loves a sullen person. We are exhorted to think of “whatever things are lovely,” and cheerlessness is not lovely. If we would have people like us, if we would attract them to us and have good influence over them—we must cultivate happiness in all our expressions. There are many people who have formed the habit of unhappiness. They may be good and honest—but they have not learned the lesson of gladness. And they are not helpful people. They are not diffusers of joy.

We are as responsible for our faces—as we are for our dispositions. If we go about with gloom on our countenances, we will cast shadows over others and make life harder for them. No one can be a real blessing to others, until he has mastered his gloom and has attained the thanksgiving face. No one can be of very much help to others, if he carries discontent and anxiety on his countenance. We owe it to our friends, therefore, as well as to ourselves, to form the habit of thanksgiving.

There are those who have learned this lesson so well, that wherever they go they make happiness. Their lives are blessings.

It ought not to be hard to train one’s self to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life, for continual thanksgiving. True, there are days when things may seem to go wrong—but it is only in the seeming. There is not doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings, which we may have if we will. The hardest experience of any day, enfolds in it, a gift from God—if only we receive it in faith and love. We think of the sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather bad. But if we understood it, we would know that God sends to the earth just as rich blessings in His clouds—as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain, and after the rain all nature appears clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is ready always to give cheerful thanks, even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be apparent.

Indeed, we shall some day see that many of the richest and best blessings of our lives, have come to us through experiences and circumstances which to us seemed adverse, and from which we shrank. There is an old promise which says that to those who love God—all things work together for their good. All we have to make sure of—is that we keep ourselves in the love of God. If we do this, everything which comes to us will bring its enriching in some way, and out of the painful things—our lives we will gather the best blessings and the deepest joys.

We shall not have many miles at the most—of the rough, steep road. In a few years we shall have gone over it all, and shall have come out into a place where there shall be nothing to vex or disturb us. And such gladness waits for us, such blessing, that one hour there—will make us forget all the sorrow and pain and toil of the way!

-J.R. Miller

If Death is in Your Cup

Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). – Revelation 1:17-18

If death is in our cup, that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! When it is affirmed that Jesus holds “the key of death,” it is plainly implied that none can pass out of this present world without His appointment. And, more generally, that He is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death, necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of His providence in sustaining life that He fulfills His purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.

Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into the future, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death. Nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which He has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until He is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. The Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth and over the time and manner of our departure out of the world.

No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy — can touch our life but by His command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is exposed, the frailty of our frame, the diseases to which it is subject, our constant exposure to fatal accidents, the malice of open or concealed enemies, it must be consolatory to know, that the key of Death is in the Savior’s hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until He opens the door and bids us to come to Him.

More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior’s power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probability of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in His own hands the keys of life and of death! And if He has fixed the outcome of this disease, then why should we be anxious?

If the door of death is opening for our departure, it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!

Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests, can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?

True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home, are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?

The duration of each man’s existence on earth is determined by the Redeemer. It belongs to Him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as He wills. And in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that He determines according to the dictates of His infallible wisdom, although the reasons of His procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.

We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in childhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness, but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences. The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by Him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature, or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period, than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to His appointment we must submit, however unwilling, it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err.

– James Buchanan – 1837