(Excerpted from ‘Christ in Isaiah’ by F. B. Meyer)
Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God.“Ask God to give thee skill
In comfort’s art;
That thou mayest consecrated be
And set apart
Into a life of sympathy.
For heavy is the weight of ill
In every heart;
And comforters are needed much
Of Christlike touch.”
– A. E. Hamilton
Think it not strange, child of God, concerning the fiery trial that tries you, as though some strange thing had happened. Rather, rejoice–for it is a sure sign that you are on the right track. If, while traveling in unfamiliar country, I am informed that I must pass through a valley where the sun is hidden, or over a stony bit of road, to reach my desired abiding place–when I come to them, each moment of shadow or jolt of the vehicle tells me that I am on the right road. So when a child of God passes through affliction he should not be surprised.
In the case of the chosen people, who for nearly seventy years had been strangers in a strange land and had drunk the cup of bitterness to its dregs, there was an added weight to their sorrow–the conviction that their captivity in Babylon was the result of their own impenitence and transgression. This is the bitterest thought of all–to know that one’s suffering need not have been. To know that it has resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing. Ah me, this is pain!
There is an inevitable retribution in life. The laws of the heart and home, of the soul and human life, cannot be violated with impunity. The sin may be forgiven; the fire of penalty may have been already changed into the fire of trial; the love of God may seem nearer and dearer than ever–but still there is the awful pressure of pain, the trembling heart, the failing of eyes and pining of soul, the refusal of the lip to sing the Lord’s song. Surely, we ought not be surprised at the troubles that afflict us.
Look up. You are to be like the Son of God, who himself passed through the discipline of pain as a participator with the children of flesh and blood. If he needed to come to earth to learn obedience by the things that he suffered, surely you cannot escape! Could you be quite like him unless you are perfected by suffering? You must endure the file of the lapidary; the heat of th crucible; the bruising of the flail–not to win your heaven, but to destroy your unheavenlies. The glorified spirits who have gathered on the frontiers of the heavenly world to encourage you in your journey thither declare that the brilliance of their reward has been in proportion to the vehemence of their sorrows–allowing you also space and opportunity for the heroism of faith.
Look down. Do you think that the prince of hell was pleased when you forsook him for you new master, Christ? Certainly not! At the moment of your conversion your name was put on the proscribed list, and all the powers of darkness pledged themselves to obstruct your way. Remember how Satan hated Job; does he now hate you? He would vent on you the hatred he has for your Lord, if he mights. There is, at least, that one case on record of hell being permitted to test a saint–within a defined limit.
Look around. You are still in the world that crucified your Lord, and it would do the same again if he were to return to it. It cannot love you. It will call you Beelzebub. It will cast you out of it synagogue. It will count it a religious act to slay you. In the world you shall have tribulations, but in the midst of them you can be of good cheer.
When the soul is in the period of its exile and bitter pain, it should do three things: Be on the lookout for comfort; store it up; and pass it on.
1. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR COMFORT
(A) It will come certainly. Wherever the nettle grows, beside it grows the soothing dock-leaf; and wherever there is severe trial, there is, somewhere at hand, a sufficient store of comfort–even though our eyes, like Hargar’s, are often restrained so that we cannot see it. But it is as sure as the faithfulness of God. “I never had,” says Bunyan, writing of his twelve years imprisonment, “in all my life, so great an insight into the Word of God as now; insomuch that I have often said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comfort’s sake.” No, God cannot forget His child. He cannot leave us to suffer, unsuccored and alone. He runs to meet the prodigal, and he rides the cherub and flies on the wings of the wind to the sinking disciple.