|by Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth
In every public assembly, we see the black badge of mourning. Watch the people on the thoroughfares of travel, and how true the saying that "the mourners go about the streets." The countenances of those we meet express a sadness they cannot hide. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness."
There are many who bear heart-breaking grief, yet hoist no signal of distress. Crape is not worn for loss of character, for secret heartaches, for bitter disappointment, or because friends betray our trust.
We sometimes bestow our deepest sympathy on those who suffer least. There are sorrows worse than death, sorrows that are a blacker black than any covered by the coffin lid. The parents who mourn over son or daughter who has brought them disgrace and sadness would sometimes esteem their burden light had the child lived a pure, holy life and then been laid to rest beneath the lilies of the valley. In their sorrow is found no peace, no comfort.
The wife who has been forsaken and betrayed by him who promised to love and cherish till death, almost envies the widow clad in sable who mourns the husband ever loyal and true. Ah, a living sorrow is far harder to bear than a dead one! We may cover close the sting, the disgrace, of our grief, that none may see. Those bereaved by death receive help, sympathy, and love which are denied to those suffering a sorer need.
Then there are other troubles that bring the blinding tears, the groan of despair. Affliction sometimes comes in the form of lingering illness, of financial losses, of disappointed hopes and ambitions. There are days of watching, delay, and painful waiting, and nights when sleepless eyes stare out into the blackness, times when there seems no hope, no respite, no comforter. Yes, "there is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet"; and likewise on the earth "behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish," and sadness reigns supreme. Many are ready to exclaim, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." The wail of agony reaches to heaven. At some time, in some form, intense grief pierces every soul.
Seeing the sadness and the troubles we must bear, Jesus our Saviour laid aside His kingly crown, His royal robe, and came to our earth to suffer with us.
One day, He sat on a mountain side. The people had assembled in crowds to hear His gracious words. He said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." A poor mother with reddened eyes, who was mourning over her lost child, said to herself, "That means me; I am a mourner." The forsaken wife, cringing on the outskirts of the crowd, murmured, "He said that for me, for my heart is broken." A guilty man whispered, "That is for me; I am mourning over my wicked life." All found comfort in the message.
At the grave of Lazarus, "Jesus wept" - not for the sisters who mourned the loss of their brother, for he would soon live again; but He wept for all the mourners who would live, to the end of time. He wept for you, for me. He wept for every one that "shall know his own sore and his own grief," the grief he cannot share with even his best friend; and He styles Himself "the God of all comfort." Christ's mission was to "comfort all that mourn; ... to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
Many have experienced this comfort when the dark shadow of grief has fallen upon their hearts and homes. They have been able to rejoice even in affliction and suffering. ...
The Christian religion is the only one that sympathizes with sorrow and brings comfort to the mourner. And in this fact lies evidence of its heavenly origin, its sufficiency for every human need. It brightens the tomb, and points to the Father above, who "shall wipe away all tears," who promises a "new heaven," and a "new earth," where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
FELLOWSHIP IN SUFFERING
We are never able to sympathize deeply with others in their griefs till the sword has pierced our own soul. One who enjoys perfect health cannot know the suffering of the one who experiences long days and dreary nights of bodily distress. The rich know not the worth of gold, or the keen distress of the poor, till they lose their possessions and are left helpless and destitute. Those blessed with friends have no understanding of the sadness and desolation of those who are friendless and alone.
We attend funerals and look upon the faces of the dead, but we have no acquaintance with death till we battle day after day and night after night for the life more precious than our own. We never know the meaning of a funeral till we hear the crunch of the wheels of the hearse on the gravel before our own door.
But when sorrow grips the heart and writes its story on the brow, when the hair whitens and the heart fails - it is in that trying hour that the divine Comforter is closest and most precious; and like the skillful surgeon, He binds up our wounds and applies His healing balm.
Sometimes we lose the blessings that sorrow brings by questioning and rebelling against the circumstances in which we are placed. Better is it to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Our doubtings and repinings only add to our sorrow. The time of affliction and bereavement is the time to walk by faith and not by sight, to trust where we cannot see.
Never is God's goodness questioned when He sends joy and blessings for which we pray. We trust and love Him then. Why not trust Him in the darkness and gloom the same as in the light and joy? He "changeth not," and His love for us is strongest when we need Him most. ...
A young man found he was losing his sight. Life was very bright before him till this affliction came. He was expecting to marry a young woman whom he loved devotedly.
Feeling that perhaps if she knew he was to be blind she might wish to be released from her engagement, he wrote offering to end their relationship if she desired it. He was greatly surprised and pained when she replied that she thought it better for them to live apart, and the poet-preacher passed through a veritable Gethsemane of sorrow.
But though in his distress he was ready to exclaim, "All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me," yet in time his feet found the Rock of Ages, he came into a fellowship with his Saviour he could not otherwise have known. To the "Man of sorrows," Him who was "acquainted with grief," he poured out his complaint. In his travail of soul, he wrote:
"O Love that will not let me go,
That consecration brought comfort, and then he could offer this prayer of resignation in the face of overwhelming disappointment and impending blindness:
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be."
"O Light that followest all my way,
And he could even rejoice in tribulation, for he sang:
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's glow its day
May brighter, fairer be."
"O Joy that seekest me through pain,
Finally, with still clearer vision, knowing that victory was his own, George Matheson concluded his immortal hymn, that has comforted and inspired thousands of hearts, with these words of triumph:
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow in the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be."
"O Cross that liftest up my head,
But what shall be said of the young woman who rejected the cross offered her, when she turned aside from such a love, and left that noble, kingly soul to suffer in sorrow and darkness alone? Hers was surely a self-seeking affection, and she was utterly unworthy of the love of the man she abandoned to his fate. Of true, unselfish love she knew nothing. His was the gain, hers the loss.
I dare not ask to hide from Thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red,
Life that shall endless be."
Many of the loveliest songs of peace and hope which God's children sing in this world they have been taught in the hushed and darkened chambers of sorrow. In like manner, many of the rarest beauties of character are touches given by the divine Spirit in the hours of affliction. ...
The photographer carries his picture back into a darkened room, that he may bring out its features. The light would mar his delicate work. God brings out in many a soul its loveliest beauties while the curtain is drawn and the light of day shut out. ...
Many a home is saved from wreck by a sorrow that comes and draws estranged hearts close together again. Many a cold, icy nature is made warm and tender by the grief that crushes it. - J. R. Miller, in "Week-Day Religion," pages 90, 91.
THE MISSION OF SORROW
The sweetest music has its minor chords. Sorrow, if borne aright, brings with it a blessing and sweetens our lives. It makes us more sympathetic toward others, more kind and tender. It develops patience, humility, and the better qualities of the heart. Fiery trials lessen our hold on earthly objects, and cause us to look beyond the earthly realm to a better world.
Some of our saddest experiences come suddenly and give no premonition of their approach. Yesterday our hopes were high; to-day our hearts are crushed. The earth seems dim with anguish. Our calamity seems so cruel, so unexplainable! We are ready with the question, "Why is all this befallen us?" There seems to be no light even in the heavens. To us, no sorrow can be compared with ours. Other husbands and wives are happy in each other's companionship; ours are sleeping in death. We hear a childish laugh in the street; our child will never smile again. Others are not tearful, anxious, or bereft. We were as happy as they yesterday; now everything is shrouded in gloom. Why, oh, why does the God we have loved and served permit us to be so afflicted?
When overtaken by trouble or bereavement, there is a better way than to clothe our souls in gloom, to shut ourselves away from those who need us, and yield to complaining and rebellion. There are still others for whom we should live, a work we still have to do. By our patience, we may tell others that we are sustained, cheered, strengthened; and their courage will be renewed by our example. This will be better than to become a heavy burden to the friends left us, or to indulge in doubt and stormy grief.
"Arise and all thy tasks fulfill,
To shut one's self up to grief and lamentation and woe, to burrow in the darkness like a mole, does not honor the dead. Grief may be very selfish, and is one of the most difficult forms of selfishness to overcome.
And as thy day, thy strength shall be;
Were there no power beyond the ill,
The ill would not have come to thee.
Though cloud and storm encompass thee,
Be not afflicted nor afraid;
Thou knowest the shadow could not be
Were there no sun beyond the shade."
Alas for him who never sees
One of the best remedies for sorrow is to find others who are afflicted, and try to "comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." We shall find them everywhere, - those who bear heavier burdens than our own. Our courage, hope, and faith may give them strength. ...
The stars shine through his cypress trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That life is ever lord of death,
And love can never lose its own!
With all the promises we have, with the evidences all about us that God still loves us as His own, we must seek to live for those yet with us, that when the great roll call comes, not one name among our loved ones shall be missing.
Our comfort must be that the time will come when we, with those we love, "shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Drop the warm tear - for Jesus wept;
This article is chapter 25 of the book "The Real Home" and is in the public domain
Sorrow shall find relief in tears.
But let no secret grief be kept
To waste the soul through nameless years.
They rest in hope; their hallowed dust
Is watched, and from the grave shall rise;
Earth shall restore her sacred trust,
Made all immortal for the skies.
- J. Loton
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