2 Corinthians 4:8-12
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;…
The mystery of evil has many aspects. There is one that is contained in that sad word "waste." The germs of life that wither before they are sprung up, the lives often so full of power and promise that we see cut off in their prime, the gifted minds that are sunk in unconsciousness or madness. But there is another consideration that is still more practical, and that comes home to all men individually. How much that was born with each one of us must pass unused and undeveloped into the grave! The profession on which a young man has set his heart may be really the one best suited to him, and if he might enter on the preparation for it with his enthusiasm, his success might be morally certain, and the natural growth of character assured. But other wills have to be consulted beside his own; there are money difficulties which are thought to be insurmountable, or there is a fear of some loss of caste, or of some problematical moral consequences which are apprehended. And so the first flush of hope and resolution is checked by an untimely frost, and the leading sapling is nipped. Will the tree grow straight afterwards? That is the question. Or the life of the affections has been in some way warped or stunted. Some early disappointment, the discovery of some unknown defect for which no one living is to blame, some hardly avoidable error, makes us conscious of failure and limitation here, where the longing for the infinite is most insatiable. From this point onwards what is the life to be? These are marked instances of what we all find out at some point in our course — that feeling and energy have to be adapted to circumstance; that while desires and aims may be boundless, opportunity and time and human power are limited. And it is here that the difference becomes apparent between the true and false resolution and enthusiasm. We have attempted the impossible. The possible remains. But does there remain in us the strength and will to do it? Disappointment will have a weakening effect for a while, but it will only be for a while if we have any strength in us. The effect is various. The more speculative and dreamy temper discovers that the world is out of joint, and begins spinning theories of a new and regenerate condition of society, in which every nature shall grow without painful effort into the fulness of its ideal form. The more practical lose sight of their ideal altogether, and fall into a narrow, dull routine. The bolder nature becomes cynically embittered, the softer loses heart and subsides in caution and timidity. These are the subterfuges of weakness, and we must arise and shake ourselves from these if we would be spiritually healthy and strong. Suppose, then, the discovery to have been made, that of many plans only the one that seemed the least interesting can be pursued; that of many powers of which we have been conscious, only some of the more ordinary can find their natural fulfilment; that of all to which our hearts once clung, all but some poor fragment has been taken out of reach. Imagine the great soldier, struck down in middle life and doomed to drag out the rest of his time in feebleness and inaction. What then remains for us? If we are true to ourselves, perhaps the most fruitful portion of our lives. It is true that the desire granted is a tree of life, that there are some kinds of growth which can only come through the intensity or the continuance of joy. But it is also true that still deeper sources of life and growth are opened in times of sorrow and gloom for those who have recourse to them aright. Let us return to Him who, by the finger of His providence, has shown us the limits of our appointed way. Let us devote ourselves anew to do and suffer according to His will, and we shall find springing by the strait and narrow road many an unlooked-for blessing. If love and truth, humility and deep contentment be there, if the finite being is rooted in the infinite, there will be enlargement even in the least hopeful lot. The gifts that, with concurrent circumstances, might have adorned the literature of a nation, or made a lasting name in painting, or music, or some other path of art, may be concentrated on the training of one or two children, so laying up a store of usefulness for the coming time. The same energy which in some lives is seen breaking forth victoriously in all the brilliance of success has wrought not less heroically in others, underground, as it were, unsuspected and unseen except by very few, in a struggle with adverse fortune or adverse health. Viewed "under the form of eternity," the one life is no less complete and no less successful than the other. Both pass into the hidden world with equal gain. If there be the fixed determination to do what the hand findeth to do, even though it may seem poor and mean, to do it trusting in the eternal strength and wisdom of Him who ordereth all things according to the good pleasure of His will, we need not fear that any experience, any aspiration, any love, any effort of our past lives will be utterly lost to us. To act in the present is not necessarily to break with the past. We learn to take up mangled matters at the best. We perhaps find out a way of turning to account even the accidents of life, and weaving them into the fabric of our design. Nor is experience, whether of success or failure, ever profitable for ourselves alone. The narrowest and most deserted life need not be lived wholly in isolation. If failure and sorrow have left the heart still fresh and sweet, as it will be if it have clang to a Divine support, then, wherever there are human beings, a way will be found of pouring the oil of consolation and the wine of gladness into other lives. There is so much that wants doing in the world, so few hitherto who have been roused to do even what they eaR. It is terrible to think that we may miss doing the little that is laid to our hands. Let us not waste time in vain regrets, or in vague dreams of what experience has clearly shown to be impossible, but let us gather up the fragments that remain. Though sometimes we may be cast down, let us know that we are not destroyed.
(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)
Parallel VersesKJV: We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;