Burdens by J R Miller

All the passages below are taken from J R Miller, Intimate Letters on Personal Problems.


Dear friend,

Whenever God puts us in any place he does so intelligently, with some purpose of good for us. There are some lessons he wants us to learn, which we can learn in no other place quite so well as where he sets us. Or there are duties to do in that particular place and we are the best person to do them. At least, we should be satisfied that we are never in our place by accident  but that God has placed us where we are, for some good reason.

Then when we have special difficulties or hindrances or obstacles or handicaps we have the same comfort, that these are parts of God's plan for helping us. He is always setting us lessons to learn. The lessons are not always easy, either sometimes they are very hard. But if we accept the divine teaching and take up the duties which he gives to us in our hard place we shall always find the best blessing and the sweetest comfort.

While we cannot, therefore, change the life conditions or circumstances of our friends, we can sometimes help them to do the work a little more bravely, to live a little more sweetly in the hard conditions, and to make a little more of their own life where they are. That is all I hope to do for you.

Emerson says, "Our best friend is he who makes us do our best." Our best friend is not one who lifts the burdens and makes life easy for us. This is nearly always a mistake. If a child comes home from school with some hard problems or hard lessons and her big sister sits down and does the examples or works out the lessons for her, she may think that she has been very kind but she has not. She has hurt the child, robbing her of the new wisdom and strength which she would have found in struggling through the lessons herself. So it is with our friends, when we do things for them or lift away their burdens for them. We take from them the opportunity of growing stronger and brighter and better.

The way in which I want to help you, therefore, is not by changing your condition, which, I suppose, I cannot do but by trying to help you to be stronger and braver, gentler and sweeter, more earnest and more determined to do your duty. With regard to yourself I may sum up all my wish for you in a single sentence  "Always keep sweet!" If you always keep love in your heart, patience, gentleness, self-control, forbearance however hard the condition may be, however unjust your treatment may seem to you to be you will always be victorious and thus will grow into spiritual strength and beauty.

An old Scripture promise reads, "Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you." Psalm 55:22. Every burden you have, you may cast on the Lord, that is, may lay it on him in prayer and by faith. But notice that God does not promise to lift the burden away all he promises is to sustain you, that is, to give you strength to do the work, to bear the burden, to meet the difficulty, to master the hindrance or the obstacle.

I am sorry you are to have such a busy time the next few days but I hope that you will be made strong for it. Keep quiet and restful in your own heart and the work will not be half so hard, nor the exhaustion half so great. It is fretting  and worrying which gives people nervous prostration and breaks them down it is hardly ever work which does it. If we would learn to work quietly, with the peace of God in our heart, without any fret---we would never break down.

You ask if it is true that "no Christian ever loses control of himself for an instant."

That is probably not true. Of course, the aim of all Christian life is never to lose self-control, even for an instant but in my rather long experience of life I have not yet seen the person who had quite attained this perfection. Moses seemed to have come very near to it. For forty years he did not lose his meekness or his patience. But at last even he, in some moment of great stress and strain spoke unadvisedly, losing his temper and growing angry. Even John, the beloved disciple, once wanted to call down fire upon a village which refused to receive his Master. Please take this, therefore, as the definition of a Christian in the matter to which you refer:

First, every Christian desires to have perfect self-mastery. That is what Christ wants every one of us to attain. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 2:22, 23.

Second, this matter of self-control is an education. It begins the moment one accepts Christ and starts to follow him. But the process is slow. While we are always to try to control ourselves, turning to Christ for help at every point of temptation, probably we shall all find, even at the end of a long life, that we have not yet attained, neither are we yet perfect.

Third, therefore a Christian is one who is striving earnestly and faithfully to keep perfect self-mastery. However often he may fail, he is not to be discouraged, always looking forward, and determining that sometime and somewhere, although years and years hence, the lesson must be learned and the victory won.