Songs in the Night of Pain by J R Miller
All the passages below are taken from J R Miller, “Intimate Letters on Personal Problems.”
I know well that it is hard not to get discouraged when your sufferings continue so long, and when it looks as if you will have to carry the burden a good while longer.
But my deep interest in you which draws me very close to you, makes me want to help you a little if I can. I would like to put into your heart, good cheer and encouragement. This I am sure the Master himself would seek to give you if he were writing to you today as I am. I like those words or Christ’s, “Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” It is a great comfort to you, to know that nothing is hidden from him, that he understands all about your condition and circumstances, and knows how hard it is for you to bear all that you are now called upon to bear. But the fact that he knows, helps to make you strong.
You say, “Yes, he knows — but he does not change things, does not relieve me of my sufferings.” Well, my child, this is precisely where your faith comes in. You know that he could change all this — if he knew that it were best for you. The fact that he does not relieve you of your suffering — shows that there is some mission which he wants that suffering to work in you, some lesson he would have you learn while enduring it, some new power of usefulness and service which he would have you attain through these long experiences of trial.
Have you read “The Sky Pilot.” If you have, do you remember the beautiful story of Gwen’s Canon? This is one of the finest bits of writing on Christian faith, that I have read for a long time. Gwen could not understand why God loved her — and yet allowed her to suffer so. Yet she understood well why her father did not interfere with the doctors when they hurt her so in their treatment. She said her father let the doctors do it, because they hoped to make her better again. There was the whole reason for her.
The reason is not the same for you, for you love Christ and are trusting sweetly in his love. Yet there is a phase in this story which seems to come in beautifully for you too.
You remember that Jesus told Pilate when he boasted that he had power to crucify him or release him — that he could have no power at all unless it were given him from above. That is to say, it was God who gave Pilate power to cause Jesus such humiliation and suffering. The Father could have easily taken away that power — but, that his Son should do his work of love in the world, Pilate received the power to send him to the cross. The thought is that nothing hurtful can come into our lives, if we are God’s children — without the Father’s permission. He never gives such permission without some good reason. He never allows us to suffer through anger or vindictiveness on his part. There is always a mission which the suffering has to fulfill.
This is a very round-about way to say that some day you will understand all this experience of yours, as part of God’s wonderful love for you. I must not attempt to give God’s reasons. Yet I can suggest some things that possibly he may mean for you in this long trial. One is that he has something very beautiful and very sacred for you for the future — some sweet service you are to render, some beautiful thing you are to do, and he permits you to suffer — that you may be trained for this work or mission. You remember that even Jesus reached his highest place through pain. He suffered, that he might be able to do more for us as a Savior.
Another possible reason, is that God wants to make you a blessing right now in your own church and to those about you who see you and watch your life. Nothing means more to the world than the patient endurance of trial by God’s children. If you were to complain and find fault and fret in your suffering — you would fail to be the beautiful witness for Christ that you wish to be. But the very fact that you endure it all so sweetly, so patiently, so cheerfully, even so songfully — makes your life a blessed influence to all the people of your church and to your friends who come to see you from time to time.
Then there is something else which means a good deal. I am sure that those who suffer patiently and quietly, acquiescing in God’s will — are being prepared for the highest place in Heaven and for the most beautiful and noble service there. You remember that little picture in Revelation of the company which John saw, wearing white robes and bearing palm branches in their hands. They seem to be a specially happy company. One would think that they had been earth’s happy ones, and that they had not known suffering and trial. But when John asked who they were the angel said, “These are they that come out of the great tribulation.” That is, they are the earth’s suffering ones.Because of their suffering and trial in this world — they occupy the highest places in the heavenly kingdom, wearing white robes, waving palm branches, and telling of their victory over pain and suffering.
I have written you this long letter to say that there is a secret of undiscourageableness which may be yours, and which is yours. I know it is hard to suffer day after day — but your Father knows and still permits it to continue, because he would make you a sweeter woman, a more noble witness for him, because he would prepare you for larger service and helpfulness, and because he is fitting you for the higher life that lies beyond. Do not be afraid. Keep on singing your songs of joy, whatever your experience of pain may be.