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01 April, 2014

THE CHASTENING ROD

Encouragements to Patient Waiting
by John MacDuff, 1864


"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty." — Job 5:17
 
Happiness! How little does the word mean when used in its ordinary sense! We generally esteem those happy — who enjoy uninterrupted health, and are apt to imagine that all happiness is gone when they are laid on a bed of sickness. But it is not so! To many of God's children, the time of sore trial has been a time of peace and joy — a time to which they have looked back with the deepest gratitude. Not that sickness is in itself desirable — but it is precious. In the buoyancy of health — when our sky is clear — our sun shining brilliantly — and our hearts are full of hope — oh, how prone are we to forget our true character of "strangers and pilgrims" here on earth! How insidiously does the world entwine itself around our heart-strings! And how slowly do we advance in our heavenward journey! But when the sky is darkened, and the heavy clouds are rolling overhead — when we are laid prostrate — weak and helpless — then is it that we are brought to realize the frailty of our nature, and to become conscious of the truth that this world is not our rest — because it is polluted!
 
In the midst of our heedlessness — God summons us to an audience. He who knows the secrets of all hearts, has seen that within us which must be corrected. He has discovered us wandering — and He would bring us back. He has watched us paying our homage to the creature — and He would remind us of our duty to Him — the Creator. He has noticed the gradual yielding of the heart's affections to things "seen and temporal" — and He would have us give more earnest heed to the things "unseen and eternal."
 
"Happy is the man whom God corrects." Yes, assuredly, because it is a proof that He cares for us. We are not left to wander on without a father's care, but when our steps are fast nearing dangerous ground — His hand of love is outstretched; when we are likely to stumble on the dark mountains — He points to the path of safety; when the siren voice is alluring us further and further away — He summons us back, and Himself condescends to become our Guide. But He will not commune with us in the midst of our heedlessness and folly. He must first draw us aside — away from the scenes in which we foolishly delighted, away from the companions who were making us as worldly as themselves — away even from our daily occupation — He would have us be alone with Him!
 
We are laid on a sick-bed — health vanishes like a dream, friends begin to look anxious — and we are made to pass through days and nights of weariness and pain. All nature wears a gloom around us. The sun still shines — but, for us, he is draped in sadness; the flowers still bloom — but we cannot enjoy their fragrance; the seasons change — but they seem ever tending towards dreary winter.
 
This is the trial-time of sickness. There is much to be endured — much to be struggled against. Hard thoughts enter into the soul — tempting, sinful, unholy thoughts — which would lead us to question God's goodness and mercy — as if He took delight in the sufferings and sorrows of His children.
 
At such a time, there is little peace or comfort — and often those who wish to advise and comfort, come too soon. We cannot, as yet, feel that "all is well;" — we are not, as yet,happy in being corrected. They would have us at once "be of good cheer," but it may not be.
 
God does not intend that we should be happy yet. We must be brought to solemn thought — to heart-searching — to earnest, importunate prayer. The love of the world must be weakened; the cords which knit our heart-strings must be snapped asunder; the longings for earth's giddy joys must be driven from the soul — before we can have the "happiness"of a corrected child! But when again we turn "with our whole heart to the Lord," feeling not only that it is a "Father's hand" which has been laid on us — but that that "Father" desires by this correction to draw us more closely to Himself — then does He impart His promised peace; then does He give strength to bear meekly the burden laid upon us; and then, above all, is the blessed assurance realized, "Fear not, I am still with you — I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you."
 
Oh! who shall say that the "chastening time" is not a precious one — when such is the blessed result? Who will for a moment doubt the happiness of the tried one, when thus "the light of his Father's countenance has been lifted up," and the Lord has "strengthened him upon the bed of languishing?"
 
Fellow-sufferers! we may not have realized this blessed condition as ours; we may be still under the cloud — as yet the struggle may be still going on. Let us not give way to despair. Let us hope on, let us pray for grace to see God's hand in our sickness, to acknowledge that "in faithfulness, He has afflicted us," and to learn those lessons He designs to teach us. Let us wait on the Lord. He will not long delay His coming. In some blessed way He will answer us. If He withholds the blessing of health — He will give the more precious one of His own presence. If He sees fit to continue our pain and suffering — He will impart strength equal to bear them. If He prolongs the time of bodily weakness — He will convey to the soul spiritual nourishment, and "strengthen us with all might in the inner man."
 
Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, to whom belong the issues of life and death — look down with compassion upon Your frail and afflicted servant. Oh, enable me to acknowledge the mercy of Your dispensations, and, without murmuring or doubting — to accept all things as coming from You. Give me strength against all my temptations, and patience under all my sufferings. In the midst of all my fears and anxieties, I would give You thanks for Your sparing mercy. I have grievously sinned, O Lord, and merit Your hot displeasure. But I would cast myself wholly upon Your mercy in Christ Jesus. Oh, hear me in the day of trouble. Send help from Your sanctuary, and strengthen me from Zion. Give me grace, O Lord, in remembrance of Your past loving-kindness — so to trust in Your goodness, to submit to Your wisdom, and meekly to bear what You think fit to lay upon me — that I may be brought to say at the last, "It was good for me that I was afflicted!" Grant this measure of grace unto Your servant for Your Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.