"And so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
AND SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD
I say the words over and over, broodingly, thoughtfully, wistfully, longingly. It seems to meet every need, to include the whole blessed plan of salvation.
When I am weary it rests me, when I am weak it strengthens me, when I am lax it spurs me on to fresh endeavor with the knowledge that some time soon, our opportunity for soul-saving will be over, and we shall stand before His throne and hear Him ask, "What have you done for Me?"
When I am tempted this verse shames the temptation away, when I am sad it comforts me, and when I am in the slough of despond it gives wings to my spirit and lifts me far above earthly things.
Nothing else matters. Just a few short years or days here, just a little more of pain and sorrow, a little longer time to work for Him, and then to be forever with the Lord, "whom, having not seen, we love." What will be our love and adoration when we have actually seen His blessed face!
O come quickly, Lord Jesus, for these eyes of ours long to behold Thee, this weary flesh cries for release from pain, these oftimes fainting souls of ours would be at home with Thee. And more than all else, we would see every knee bow before Thee, and behold Thee crowned King of kings and Lord of lords!
"Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God" (2 Corinthians 9:11-12).
Since man apart from God is but an abnormal creature, our greatest joys, our deepest satisfactions, come in our relationship to Him. So I thank Him this Thanksgiving season for sins forgiven, for a great High Priest touched with a feeling of my infirmities, for the privilege of being a tool in His mighty hand, for His guidance, for His ear that hears my prayers, for His arm on which to lean, for His precious Word in which He speaks to us explicitly, and for the blessed, blessed hope of His soon coming!
I thank Him, more than all else, for utter safety. In the past I have known what it was to be afraid, but now I know that I am entirely and perfectly secure. I feel that I have come into a safe harbor. Nothing, absolutely nothing, nor my own deeds nor those of others, not the works of devils, not circumstances, not so-called fate -- nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Pain, sorrow and bereavement can come, shattered nerves and body can be my lot, death can even put my body in the grave; but whatever comes, it passes first through His tender hands, and so I can love it because it comes from Him!
Nothing can keep me out of heaven. I am as safe now as though I were already there. Just these few hard years to live, these few burdens to bear, and then to be forever with Him, our daily portion glory beyond infinite glory! Thankful? My cheeks are wet with happy tears. Why He gives all this to a poor creature like me I do not know -- but I know that I shall need all eternity in which to thank Him for it!
When I was a very small child I prayed earnestly that God would send me a letter. It was to be written on fine white paper edged with gold, and it was to tell me how much He loved me, and to show me how to be good. I wanted it desperately, and every morning before I laced my shoes, I would run out to the front porch to see if it had come. It hurts yet to think of my bewildered disappointment, as the days and weeks passed. And yet, beside me as I write is my letter from God, on fine white paper edged with gold, bound in a volume called the Bible. In it He tells me how much He loves me, and shows me how to be good.
Throughout all the ages men have been searching to find out God, seeking to trace His face in the starry heavens, His footprints in the mountains and plains, thinking to take His measure with their finite minds, even striving to shape His image with their hands.
Suppose that God had never communicated with man in any way, and that after ages of groping for Him, word would come that on a certain day there would be one message from Him. Can you not imagine the scene? No one would sleep the previous night, and long before daylight great crowds, hushed and awed with wonder, would gather and wait in tense expectancy, straining their eyes to the heavens above, so long mute! Finally, fluttering down from the blue would come that precious word from Almighty God Himself! How the crowd would surge forward to learn what He had said! Who would dare to touch it, to pick it up? The message would be stored in a waterproof vault, and would be the dearest treasure of the human race.
Would it not be terribly unfair of God to put us here to stumble in the dark, and then have a Day of Judgment when we would learn to our horror that certain things were required of us, and that we should be punished forever because we had not fulfilled these obligations? Certain things are required of us, and we shall be separated forever from God if we do not accept the Way of escape He has provided. But He has been just and fair with us; He has told us plainly all about it.
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews13:2).
A lovely thing happened last night in our street, and it left a hush in our hearts and to some of us a sob in our throats, and the feeling that we had been entertaining angels unaware.
I don't know who nor what they were, perhaps students from our own Biola, but just after dusk a band of young people strolled slowly past our house, singing the old hymns which are dear to many of us. Their voices rang out on the sweet summer air with indescribable beauty. Even the moon and its attendant star seemed to lean from the heavens to catch the words, as they must have listened long ago to the angels' song announcing the birth of Him who came to earth to die for our saving!
The tears ran down my cheeks as I thought longingly of heaven and how groups of us would be strolling down the golden streets, and sweetly and naturally lift our voices in praise of Him to whom all honor and praise are due. And sometimes, sensing a Presence; we may turn suddenly and find our Lord Himself beside us in the throng, listening to our song. Surely He must have listened last night in our street and been pleased.
The singing died away in the distance, the people went back into their houses and shut the doors, but that blessed Presence still seemed to linger in our street.
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22).
HIS FALLEN SPARROWS
When I was just a little girl we had a neighbor, an old lady who lived alone. Her only companion was her canary. One day the bird died, and the old lady, broken with grief, opened the front of her dress, laid the little creature in it, and carried it about for days, refusing to bury it.
We children, knowing nothing of bitter loneliness, were inclined to be amused, but my mother said, "Never, never laugh at the grief of another. Never even feel amused by it. If you cannot understand it, it only shows your own lack of comprehension. The fact that the grief is real is enough to merit your sympathy."
Then she gently took the bird from the sorrowing owner, wrapped it in her best handkerchief, put it in a little box and buried it.
Now my mother did not care for pets, yet see how perfect was her understanding.
I have never forgotten her words, especially since it has been my lot to care too deeply for my pets. Sometimes when I could not but grieve over the death of a loved dog, I have wished that others could have learned the gentle lesson my mother taught me.
I would say a word in behalf of the dumb, but loyal and devoted friends of mankind, who must take patiently and helplessly the treatment which man metes out to them. The animal world is innocent of all wrongdoing, yet they are under the curse because of man's sin, not their own. Does not common justice demand that we give them kindness and consideration, if we cannot give them love? And I can tell you from experience that they give in return much that is rich and beautiful, in touchingly bountiful measure.
Oh, for the blessed time that is coming, when the curse shall be removed and "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all thy holy hill."
THE BRIGHTENING PATH OF PAIN
Everyone needs to work in order to remain normal, and it is such a comfort that none of us are too ill to know the joy of accomplishment, the opportunity to win crowns, sheaves to lay at the feet of the Lord of the harvest. Years ago I was reading the Bible to a little boy of nine who had recently given his heart to Christ. He had had no Christian upbringing and thus the truth of the Word of God was new to him. I found that he caught the marvel of it in a way that shamed me at times. I was explaining about the five kinds of rewards, and read to him the verse, "Henecforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness . . ."
His eyes grew bigger and bigger, and at last he fairly gasped, "Oh, are there going to be crowns too? I should think it would be enough just to save our souls!"
Then there is that very quiet work of grace. All summer I have thrilled to a miracle in our back yard. We had a sapling fig tree, only knee high. We poured on the water, and it drank it in and spread its little branches to catch the sunshine. I took such pride in it and would stroke its straight strong trunk and limbs so unlike my twisted body. It grew so quietly, never a sound nor a stir, yet now it is six feet tall, and this fall gave us largess of gifts, great fat figs bursting with their own sweetness. So we, on quiet beds of pain, may drink in His Word, and open our hearts to His Holy Spirit until we too bear fruit.
It is such a blessing to know that God makes no mistakes, that this illness is not something that just happened to me, "Shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He hath no understanding?" No, the enduring is mine, to be sure, but the responsibility for it is entirely His, and what a difference that makes! Nothing can even touch the child of God without His permissive will. It is not necessary for me to know the reasons, for they are safe with our dear Lord, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
I am no wise theologian, but I have thought that surely God will be glad when this is all over and He will no longer have to watch His children suffer, when all tears will be wiped from our eyes, and a song put upon our lips. Until then cannot we "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" and spare Him the sound of our wailing?