One of the most important and perhaps one of the most difficult lessons a sanctified soul has to learn, is, that the spirit of heaviness is entirely compatible with the spirit of holiness; that a person may be entirely sanctified and “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time,” and yet be “in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
Recently in making a trip across the continent, the Holy Spirit seemed to teach me the lesson of the tunnel Before starting on my trip I was obliged to go up to the altar of the railroad company and make a consecration of about all I had and even consent to put my very life into their hands. In return they handed me a little slip of paper — a ticket — which in itself, as to the value of the paper, was really of no value; but on that paper was printed a promise from the railroad company to carry me to my home and loved ones. As I could feel nothing about the matter, I was obliged to take the promise by simple faith, and consent to leave myself in their hands and obey the rules of the company I was obliged to be at the depot at the time the company specified, and take the train they were pleased to send, show my ticket to a colored porter, get into the coach he told me, etc. All this I did in faith.
The train had gone but a short distance on its way, when lo! suddenly I found myself in great darkness. I knew it would be perilous for me to throw away my ticket, or leap from the train — so I simply hung on to the promise, sat still and kept on believing; directly I was again flooded with light, and even basking in the sunlight. This experience was repeated a number of times, when I began to muse about the matter; why should I thus be plunged into darkness, and have my reading interrupted, etc., when the light was so much preferred by me?
My first discovery was, though in darkness for a moment, I was still aboard the train, and still going. The promise was holding good. The darkness did not for a moment disprove the fact that I was on the train, nor that I was on the right train, nor that I was going in the right direction. All I had to do, was to sit still and “keep on believing.” Though I could “‘see no way out,” and did not “know the way through,” I soon learned that there was no occasion for fear, and that I was coupled onto a power that could carry me through the darkness as well as the light.
But “why the tunnel?” I queried. “The tunnel is simply a short cut to a desired destination,” seemed to be whispered by the Spirit. “Oh, I see it! then blessed be the tunnel,” was the answer of my heart. And so I discovered that the tunnel was at least as much to my interest as it was to the interest of the railroad company. And I soon realized that the longer the tunnel the farther I was up the road and the nearer I was to the place I wanted to go, when I again emerged from the darkness. As this fact dawned upon me, I felt like giving thanks to the railroad company for the tunnel.
I reasoned, “The railroad company evidently knew that I was in a hurry to reach my destination; that I would not have time to go around and around all those mountains, or even to cross them by ascending them gradually, so in their great kindness, in order to get me on the other side of the mountain and to my loved ones more speedily, they took the pains and expense of boring that tunnel and quickly carrying me through.”
And does not this explain why the fiercest temptations are often permitted just at the time that we have desired and sought a new experience of saving grace? Just when you tried so hard to be good, and sought, and perhaps professed a new experience, the obstacles seemed to multiply, the opposition became more intense, and everything seemed to go wrong. The Lord had simply taken you at your word, and supposing you wanted to get up the road quickly, He meant to pass you through a few tunnels and so grant you the answer to your prayers. He knew all about the tunnels, as He himself had passed that way before you. All that was necessary for you to do, was to stay aboard, cling to your ticket (the promise) and keep on believing.
Great trials simply make way for great grace. The fiercer the battle, the greater the victory. No cross, no crown. Suffice it for you to know that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Perhaps none of us could be trusted with constant prosperity without becoming self-centered and self-sufficient. Our trials are reminders and monitors of our own weakness, and utter dependence upon God. David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy word.” “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” Even Paul must have “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet” him, lest lie “become exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations.” (11. Cor. 12:7.)
Of course, “a thorn in the flesh” is not a pleasant thing; it is the something you did not desire; something you had not bargained for. Yet I presume everyone has that “something” in life, and, therefore, we should learn to turn it to good account. A good sailor must learn how to make use of a head-wind and stem contrary tides. I have found by experience that the best way to get on with a “thorn in the flesh” is to hold still. If one twists and wriggles and offers resistance to the same, it simply increases and aggravates the sore; but by holding real still it will not hurt near so much and will finally heal over.
God has said, ‘”When thou passest through the waters, I WILL BE WITH THEE; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isa. 43:2.) So the deeper the waters through which you may be called to pass — while you float, the higher they will lift you, and the nearer to heaven they will bring you. The hotter the fire, the more it will lighten your load, by consuming every encumbrance that might impede and retard your progress.
When we reach the other shore we will doubtless see that some of our greatest blessings came to us in the form of trials — blessings in disguise. They detach us from the world, wean us from human dependencies, teach us lessons of humiliation, and develop the iron graces of faith and patience. The darkness is as necessary as the light. While God permits the enemy to hedge up our pathway at times, so that we cannot see our way through, He never permits him to put a roof over us so as to prevent our looking up. If there are thorns to pierce your feet, remember they first pierced His brow. Instead of complaining because of the thorns on the roses, thank God for the roses on the thorns. disappointments are frequently His appointments. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”
“If all were easy, if all were bright,
Where would the cross be, and where the fight?
But in the hardness God gives to you,
Chances for proving what HE can do.”
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (Jas. 1:12.)