Would Our Way Be Better?
We often think life would be better if things were in our control. We think we could direct our affairs so as to get more happiness and greater good out of life. Sometimes it seems to us that many things go wrong, and that the consequences to us are very harmful. It must be confessed that there is in the world a great deal of discontent with the ways of God’s providence. Not many people seem to be quite satisfied with their circumstances, and there are many who think that the divine dealings with them are not in accordance with that love which they are told directs the affairs of all God’s children.
Would it be better if we could direct all our own affairs? Sometimes we are tempted to think so. If we could do so, no doubt many of our circumstances would be quite different. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, blue skies, with no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers, without thorns or any rough places.
All this has a very pleasing aspect for us when we think of it lightly and in a superficial way. Would not that be better than as we have it now? Would we not be happier, and would not life mean more to us in blessing and good if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful? So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world would be to have the direction of the affairs and the shaping of the experiences of our lives put into our own hands.
We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life—there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.
Our desires and our real needs are not always the same. We want pleasure, plenty, prosperity—but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize. We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the greatest service to God and man.
We should always remember that the object of living here is not to be comfortable, to get along with the least trouble, to gather the most we can of the world’s treasures, to win the brightest fame. We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God’s will that belongs to us. We cannot therefore work out our own course, for we do not know what the divine purpose for us is. We cannot choose our own circumstances and experiences, for we do not know the pattern set for our lives.
There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world, and do not drift through it, like waifs on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life—something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good that love Him.
Our part in all this is accepting God’s will for our lives, as He makes it known to us day by day. If we thus consent to the divine way for us, we shall fulfill the divine purpose. It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours, since He is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. The way may be painful and hard, but in the pain and the hardness there is blessing.
One is called apart from active life and shut up in a sick-room. It seems to him that his time is being wasted. There are many things that need to be done, and which he might have done, while lying there with folded hands in his darkened room. People to whom his life was a continual blessing miss him when he comes not. He seems in his illness to be leaving a great blank where there ought to have been many good deeds and gentle ministries. Besides this loss to others and to the work of the world, the sickness is most costly to the sick man himself. It drains his finances. Its burden of suffering is great. What is there to compensate for all this loss and cost and to make the long illness really a blessing? Is there anything?
If we were directing the affairs of our own lives, we would not have included the sickness. Is it really possible that God’s way is better than ours would have been?
Of course we may not claim to know all the reasons God has to allow the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what His design for us in these trials is. However, even without discovering any of those reasons in this life, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love and whose wisdom also is infinite.
But we can think of at least some ways in which it is possible for blessing and good to come out of a sick-room experience. The Master has other work for us, besides what we do in our common occupations. We have other lessons to learn, besides those we get from books and friends and current events through life’s ordinary experiences. There is a work to be done in us, in our own hearts and lives, which is even more important than anything assigned to us in the scheme of the world’s activities. There are lessons which we may learn much better in the quiet, shaded sick-room than outside, in the glare of the streets and amid the clamor of earth’s strifes. Our shut-in days need never be lost days. Whatever they may cost us in money or in suffering, we need not be poorer when they are over, than if we had been busy all the while at the world’s tasks.
Or let us consider sorrow. We would not have it in our plan, if we shaped our own lives. It seems only harmful. It takes away our brightest joys and breaks our sweetest happiness. Can we think of any way in which the work of sorrow may leave us better or richer than if it had not come to us? Yes, for we can see that there are blessings we never can reach unless we are willing to pass to them through pain and grief. Today it may seem that it would be better if we could miss life’s sorrows and have only joys; but when we get home we shall see that the best days of all our years have been the days we thought the saddest and found it the hardest to pass through. When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans and spoiled our pleasant dreams.
Therefore it would not be better if we could have our own way. When we thought we were choosing wisely, we would find we had lost a heavenly good simply to get some worldly trinket which we could keep only for a day. When we thought the path we were taking would lead to lasting good, we would discover that it ended only in darkness and sorrow. It should be reason for measureless gratitude that our lives are not in our own poor feeble hands, but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father. “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15)
We need only to accept God’s way and go as He leads, and at the end we shall find that in not the smallest matter have we ever been unwisely led, but that at every step we have been brought to some good. We do not know what the future, even the nearest hour of the future, may have for us—but we know that we cannot drift beyond our Father’s love and care, and that all that may seem dark or disastrous will reveal joy and blessing at the end. “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” (Isaiah 54:10)
“Yesterday, when I said, ‘Thy will be done,’
I knew not what that will of Thine would be,
What clouds would gather black across my sun,
What storm and desolation waited me;
I knew Thy love would give me what was best,
And I am glad I could not know the rest.
“ ‘Thy will be done,’ I say, and to the scroll
Of unread years consenting set my name;
Day after day their pages will unroll
In shining words that prove Thy love the same,
Until my years are gathered into one
Eternal, sanctified, ‘Thy will be done.’ ”