Friday, July 9, 2010

"Misinterpretation of a Dark Providence"

This is from my reading last night in "The Fullness Of Christ" by Octavious Winslow. I'm sorry it is so long......To read the whole chapter click here.
"Jacob exclaimed, "You have deprived me of my children! Joseph has disappeared, Simeon is gone, and now you want to take Benjamin, too. All these things are against me!" Genesis 42:36
The deep, long shadows of life's evening were now gathering and darkening around the close of Jacob's course- but deeper, darker still were the shadows of God's providence. His sun, whose race had been so long and so prosperous, was now setting- but setting, oh, how gloomily! It would seem as if the residuum of life's cup of sorrow were reserved for life's close. And thus it pleases our heavenly Father ofttimes that a believer's deepest affliction, his heaviest woes, shall come upon him at the moment that he is about to bid farewell to them forever: as if his Father would make heaven all the sweeter by imparting an added bitterness to earth. All the brighter, by accumulating around its last stage the darkest dispensations. All the more a perfect rest, by letting loose the wildest storms as the vessel enters the port. Thus was it with the patriarch.
And as he contemplated the cloud, he could think of nothing but a speedy grave to which his gray hairs would descend with sorrow. And yet, how different the reality of the whole scene to the aspect which it wore to his dim and darkened vision! In those clouds of woe he could see no silver light. Those mystic symbols of God's providence he could not decipher; the handwriting upon the wall he could not interpret. The only conclusion to which he could come was- all these things are against me!

The Lord Jesus sometimes holds our blessings as hostages. They are not entirely and forever removed from us, but are reserved to Himself for a while, as pledges of our unswerving confidence, filial obedience, and supreme love- that we will perform the vows and fulfil the promises we made when His hand was upon us. If this be the sorrow you are called to experience, dear reader, be still and know that He is God; yes, that He is your own God, and that whatever may be the painful, distant, and prolonged separation from the creature, there shall be no separation from Himself- His love, care, and sympathy.
Faith must look rather at the end, than at the beginning, of a dark providence. Beloved, we are but little acquainted with our own selves if we do not find much in our Christian and personal history that corresponds with this. Therefore, forgetting for the moment the case of the patriarch, let me state when it is, and how it is, that the child of God, tried and afflicted by the dispensations of his heavenly Father, is led to misread, misspell, and misinterpret these dispensations, and come to the conclusion, the wrong and erroneous conclusion, that because he cannot penetrate the darkness, unravel the mystery, and solve the problem, therefore God and His dispensations are against him.

In the first place, when spiritual exercises, when the dark dispensations of God's providence are viewed simply and only with the eye of sense, it will invariably lead us to a misconception, a misunderstanding, and a misinterpretation of His dealings with us. It is utterly impossible for you thus to look at a dark cloud, a paralyzing event, a crushing calamity, an unfortunate circumstance in your history, and not feel that it is a foe coming to despoil you of happiness; that it is a frown of your God; that it is an electric cloud sur-charged with some element of destruction.

But, beloved, this is not the eye with which we are to look at God's dealings. The moment faith made its home in our hearts, that moment God gave us a new eye, a divine organ of vision; we professed to have ceased to deal with God and His dispensations as men of the world, as men of sense who looked at things only through the spectacles of carnal reason; we then professed to become believers in Christ, to commence the life of faith, to walk by faith, to fight by faith, and by faith ever to look at and deal with the visible, as with the invisible; by faith spelling the dark letters, and interpreting the mystic symbols of God's providences, and by faith resting in the firm conviction and assurance, that though clouds and darkness were round about Him, righteousness, faithfulness, and love, are about us, pointing, ordaining, and guiding every step of our feet homeward.

Looked at with the eye of sense and the eye of faith, the aspect of God's providences will be essentially dissimilar. If with the eye of sense, they will appear dark and overwhelming, and you shall come to the conclusion that all is against you, conspiring to destroy your happiness and well-being. But looked at with the eye of faith- faith's farseeing vision- the picture changes, and those very events, circumstances, and incidents in your history that looked so somber and threatening, are all disguised blessings, veiled mercies, elements under the control and government of God, all combining for your greatest good and His highest glory.
Cease, then, to view your dark shadows, your trying dispensations, your overwhelming afflictions with the eye of sense, and look at them more simply, directly, and constantly with the eye of faith. "I would have fainted unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

But let us thank God that we have this high principle of interpretation of what He does- namely, His revealed and written Word- His promises sustaining, tempering, interpreting His providences. The Lord's government of His saints is like a dissolving panorama. Scene after scene, picture after picture, each one differing from the other, passes before the eye. Some are tinted brightly, others are shaded darkly; some portray battles lost, others battles won. Yes! what is life but a daily succession of dissolving views? But what is God, He whose pencil tints and whose hand moves the picture? He is immutable, unchangeable, and eternal. He may change the lesson, vary the discipline, diversify His dealings, but He will never change in His love, falter in His faithfulness, or falsify His word. Life shall change- others shall change- most of all, we shall ourselves change; but our covenant God and Father never changes.
Is our barque amid the breakers? Our Father is at the helm. Does the sword's point press our heart? A Father's hand holds it. Is the cup brimmed and bitter? A Father's love has mingled it. Has the bright and hopeful picture of yesterday dissolved into the somber and despairing one of today? A Father is behind the scene, ordering and controlling all things after the counsel of His own will. Thus, be your daily life what it may, it is just what He makes it. If our nest be pierced with a thorn, He has planted it; if it be soft with down, he has lined it. God makes people, and places, and scenes exactly what they are to us, and with this assurance we may calmly receive all at His hands as sent in love.

A few words of exhortation in conclusion. Thank God for the hedge. He planted it- He encircled you with it, and for your highest well-being present and future. A truer word Satan never uttered than that which he spoke to God of Job, "Have you not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side?" When God thus hedges a man, the gates of hell shall never prevail against him; nor can Satan touch him without God's permission. But there are often providential hedges in one's path, which, at the first blush, seem to wear an aspect militating against us. But be still. When God plants a hedge around us, we have as much reason to thank Him as when He breaks it down- as much when He closes, as when He opens, our path. That thorn-bush is but interposed between you and some impending, unseen, unsuspected evil from which God would shield you.
Oh, little do we suspect how much one evil is sent to prevent another and a greater! When our purposes are frustrated, our plans reversed, our hopes disappointed; or, when some sudden, distressing calamity overtakes us, then we begin to exclaim, "This is against me." Oh, could we see, as our Father does, the end from the beginning, could we unravel that mysterious web, decipher the meaning of that unlooked-for trial, unfold the blessing veiled and shaded in that somber cloud- in a word, could we see from what calamity we were saved, from what temptation we were shielded, from what sin we had been kept, from what fatal injury to our happiness and usefulness we have been preserved, we should bless God for the hedge, nor think the discipline too severe, or the mode too painful by which hopes, now crushed, would spring again into brighter bloom, in sweeter and undying fragrance. "Light is sown for the righteous; and gladness for the upright in heart."
Be cautious, then, of coming to rash hasty conclusions as to God's dealings. "I said in my haste," says David. It is the dictate of true wisdom and of sound faith, patiently to wait until God explains His own providences. This He will do in His good time. "God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain."

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1