Are you walking in soul-darkness, beloved? Is God hiding His face? Has Jesus suspended His sensible presence? and is this shadow, deep and dark, resting upon your spirit? Cheer up! It is not the darkness of unregeneracy, but the passing shadow of Christian life, and before long it will dissolve and vanish. Listen to the language of your covenant God and Father: “For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord.” The ‘small moment’ will before long pass, and the shadow will disappear- and the joyous language of your soul will be, “O God! You were angry with me; but Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”
With the shadow of adversity, in some one or more of its protean forms, all true believers are familiar. “The Lord tries the righteous,” and He tries them because they are righteous. Not more essential the knife that prunes the branch- not more necessary the fire that refines the gold- not more needful the storm that rarifies the atmosphere- than is adversity to the growth of the spiritual life of the soul. Is not the experience of every believer in harmony with that of the Psalmist? “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Your word.” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Your statutes.” To no discipline is the divine life of the soul under greater obligation than that which thus prunes and refines, and which thus fructifies and purifies.
Sweet are the uses of adversity; and never so sweet as when most bitter! “Out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong comes forth sweetness;” and from an adversity that looked so consuming- from an event that threatened, as with lion-strength, to crush every fair prospect of life- there has issued some of the costliest blessings in the believer’s history.
God fashions graciously the hearts of all His children alike; “for what son is he whom the Father chastens not?” All are tried. The family provisions are “the bread and the water of affliction.” “Humble and scanty fare this!” exclaims the worldling; nevertheless, lowly and distasteful as it may be to those who are living upon ‘husks’- that which they call food- there is in it an element of sweetness, and a power of nourishment and growth, which the living soul only knows and fully tests. “The full soul loaths a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
Affliction times are fruit promoting times to God’s “trees of righteousness.” Afflictions deepen the roots, and clothe the boughs with the foliage and fruit of righteousness. Oh, who can fully estimate the real advance of the spiritual life of the soul in one hallowed trial, through one sanctified sorrow? The slumbering spirit of prayer is roused- the truant heart is recalled- trembling faith is strengthened- and the spirit shaded with sorrow and the soul bowed with calamity, turns to Jesus, and finds in the wounded and wounding hand of the Savior, the balm and the succor which ‘heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.’