Today's 'thought' comes from Charles Spurgeon. It's a reminder to me (and maybe to you too if you happen to be like me), because I do find that I frequently focus so intently on present struggles, difficulties or trials that it clouds out both my ability and my need to be thankful for the abundance of God's blessings in the past, and to trust Him fully for the restoration of such things in the future. As Spurgeon puts it in the first line of today's selection: "Our memory of God's goodness is often crushed by pain."
Spurgeon's thoughts are a good reminder of what our attitude and focus must be during such times. And it's helpful to know he doesn't speak as a person shielded from all pain and sorrow. From the age of 22 he wrestled with memories of 7 people who died at a preaching service he held at at the Surrey Music Hall.
With 10,000 people in attendance to hear the young preaching sensation, a heckler yelled, "Fire!" In the ensuing rush for the doors people fell from a balcony stairway as a handrail gave way, while others were crushed by the crowd. As one biographer writes: "Plunged into a pit of anguish, [Spurgeon] sought comfort from God. None came. Tears and doubts filled his waking thoughts, and nightmares filled his sleep. He opened his Bible in search of strength; it only deepened his grief. His prayers seemed to bounce off a sky of brass... Those who loved him tried to protect him from the slander of the press... "My thoughts," he said, "are a case of knives, cutting my heart in pieces."
I share that to let you know that Spurgeon was no stranger to hardship and suffering, giving greater weight to his wise words found here. Enjoy.
"Shall we accept good and not trouble from the Lord?" Job 2:10"Our memory of God's goodness is often crushed by pain. When you suffer sharp pain, or weary aches, or a high fever, you tend to forget the days of health and strength. You only remember the sharp intervals of weakness and sorrow. When you stand over the grave of a loved one, you are likely unable to forget the blessing of the loan. When a dear one is taken, a precious loan has been called by its Owner. We ought to be grateful to have been allowed to borrow the comfort they gave. We should not complain when the Owner takes what He kindly lent-- the husband or wife of all these years, the child who nestled in your embrace, the friend that you enjoyed for half a lifetime, the brother who was such a comfort all his days. When these loved ones are gone, do not look at their going, but thank God that you had them. Bless a taking and a giving God, who only takes what He gave.
We live too much in the present. We strike a mark of oblivion across the happy past, and we look with dread upon the unknown future. We dwell on the trouble of the present and forget a past full of the Lord's mercy. You are growing old and feeble, and you cannot do what you once did. But bless the Lord for your years of vigor. Your mind is weak, but bless God that there was a time when you could serve Him without fatigue. Perhaps your funds are low and you are afraid of poverty. Be grateful that you have had enough with some to spare for many long years. Perhaps you are now sad. Recall the days when you praised the Lord on resounding cymbals and stood on the high places of the earth. Do not let memory fail because of present crushing sorrow. May the Holy Spirit help your infirmities and bring His loving kindness from past years to your memory... Remember what God has done for you and then say, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). When you are praying, if you cannot see the comfort He offers you today, recall that He comforted you yesterday. If there are not present manifestations of divine favor, remember the past... if in six troubles He delivered you, will you not trust Him for seven? (Job 5:19) If you get to sixty troubles, will you not trust Him for sixty-one?"
Trials are like a small coin held up to the eye. If you hold it 1/4 inch away from your eye, you can see nothing else. But if you hold it a few inches away, and then an entire arms length away, you can notice so much more! You can see all the many things that were totally blocked from your view when it was held so close and therefore consumed your entire focus.
That's Spurgeon's advice to us. Move the coin away from your eye. Stop focusing exclusively on your trial (or trials). There is so much else that needs to be seen and considered. Make use of your memory as well, and recall all those past times of contentment, blessing and sweet communion with the Lord.
And remember the truth of Scripture: The Jesus you have trusted in is the same as He was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow and forever. If He loved you yesterday, He loves you today, and will always love you. His love for His own, as the Scriptures tell us, is "everlasting" (Ps. 103). It's a love for us that existed long before we did, a love we only became aware of at a certain point in time, and a love that will have no end. Like God -- who was and is and ever will be -- so is His love for His children.
Those are things we need to recall in those times when pain threatens to crush our memory of God's goodness. Trusting His promises in difficult times can be a struggle like no other, but it is part of what it means to be a person of faith.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff