Friday, July 15, 2011

Under the blanket of snow...

And then suddenly - snow. And all our pleasant things are laid waste, or so indeed it seems, for we cannot see them anywhere; and all our newborn hopes are deep under the snow. For hopes had begun to be: a hope of healing, perhaps, if the trial be of the flesh; of a reversal of decision if it be something that lies in the power of another; or some tough on the wheel that turns our earthly affairs, if it concerns our circumstances; of some break somewhere, some natural human joy, some relief, some comfort in the aching sense of loss - and now the snow has fallen and covered everything.
We see no sign of them. They are all under the blanket of snow, and there is an insidious push towards "the wasteful luxury of depression," or some other deadly form of spiritual indifference. What can we do? If the snow be not something against which we are meant to engage in spiritual warfare, a manifestation of the power of the prince of darkness whom we must always resist, then I know of only one answer: In acceptance lieth peace.
Things may be so that it is not easy to know whether we should resist or accept. And yet, if we wait a little, clearness will be given. Something will tell us. (Rather, Someone will tell us. The sheep know the Shepherd's voice.) Perhaps a verse of Scripture will be brought to mind and illuminated like a mountain peak in sunrise.
St. Paul dropped a shining thread that will lead us through the maze. He resisted injustice: Stripes - "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman?" Imprisonment - "I appeal unto Caesar."
But when stripes and imprisonment had to be endured, there is acceptance. He does not think of himself as Caesar's prisoner: "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ." The steel chains of Caesar are his Lord's chains of gold. He is expecting deliverance ("I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you"), but we do not ever find him wrestling for his liberty with the rulers of the darkness of this world, who were behind the powers that had imprisoned him. His wrestling, laboring, agonizing, in prayer, was for others, not for himself. And even though he did not see the answer to all those prayers, he was so peacefully minded that he could lead others into peace.
And so we come back to the though which underlies this chapter. There is no strength to resist the ravaging lion as he prowls about seeking whom he may devour, unless our hearts have learned to accept the unexplained in our own lives, and the delays and disappointments and reverses which often come where our prayer for others seem to fall into silence and we see not our signs, and all is under snow.
Accept the snowfall as the appointed providence for the winter months, and wait till the voice which the winds obey calls to His south wind, "Blow upon My garden."
To accept the will of God never leads to the miserable feeling that it is useless to strive any more. God does not ask for the dull, weak, sleepy acquiescence of indolence. He asks for something vivid and strong. He asks us to co-operate with Him, actively willing what He wills, our only aim His glory. To accept in this sense is to come with all the desire of the mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose, and the minister in the name of the Lord our God there - not otherwhere. Where the things of God are concerned, acceptance always means the happy choice of mind and heart of that which He appoints, because (for the present) it is His good and acceptable and perfect will.
And if it seems impossible to live so, "Rest upon God to do for you more than you can understand."
There is nothing cloudy or nebulous about a life on these peaceful lines. If the trial be illness, there is the prayer of faith, the obedience of faith, and a steadfast working together with the power of healing. If it be the long strain of uncertainty, that weariest of all straining things, there is an eager and attentive and yet peaceful waiting, like the waiting of the little ship near the shore that was ready at the slightest sign to set sail with the Master; ready, too, to wait there till He made that sign. If the sorrow be an absence that must continue for a while, there is the refusal of disheartening, weakening thoughts and the settling of the will to lay hold upon words of everlasting consolation. Unreserved acceptance opens the way for the turning of the captivity - "whoso offereth thanksgving glorifieth Me and prepareth a way that I may show him the salvation of God." It makes for the quickening of life under the snow, and for the serenity which flows from interior peace.

O thou beloved child of My desire,
Whether I lead thee through green valleys,
By still waters,
Or through fire,
Or lay thee down in silence under snow,
Through any weather, and whatever
Cloud may gather,
Wind may blow -
Wilt thou love Me? trust Me? praise Me?

This comes before the shouting song of flowers and the yellow corn.
The snow-time is full of quiet secrets too, for we are carefully keeping secrets with our God about the growing things under the snow, secrets like those a child keeps with its mother, little private understandings not to be spoken aloud. A glance, a smile, a touch of the hand - that is their speech.
Sometimes there are beautiful thing that would not have been if there had not been snow. "There was never any prisons of suffering that I was in, but still it was for the bringing multitudes more out of prison." said George Fox after his bitterest snowstorm. These inward cherishings of joy lead to what the older Friends called "a cool and tender Frame of spirit." There is no futile restlessness if we have hope that another may be helped by something we have found under the snow.

There are some for whom snow must mean such dense darkness that the mind cannot conceive of any light piercing through. As well hope to cage a rainbow and carry it down to them. Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for Me? Ah, Lord God, behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched-out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee. I know that Thou canst do everything. And yet?
That unspoken question has racked many a heart, especially when some distress has made the thought of others in greater distress intolerable. We forget that something good may be happening for their help, something almost unbelievably good.
Through the dark and silence night
On Thy radiant smiles I dwelt;
And to see the dawning light
Was the keenest pain I felt.

That was written by Madame Guyon, who suffered in every sensitive fiber of her being. The words may seem too high for earth. But it is not for us to set a limit to what God is prepared to do when He is training a soul to endure, not accepting deliverance.
O Lord, Thou art wonderful. Thou canst make a radiance anywhere. There is nothing too hard for Thee.

Suffering, hunger, poverty, baffling circumstances cannot of themselves make anything but confusion. But if there be the touch of the Hand, all these things work together for good, not for ill, not for discord, but for something like the harmony of music.
So the ruin is not out of sight, and thoughts wander round it at times: If it be loss, there is still an aching absence; if it be difficult circumstances, they still dominate the landscape; if it be limitations, they still confine us.
But to stop there is to lose all. What if the crash of hopes, the heartbreak, this that piles itself up as the ruin in the picture of life, does truly make more manifest what our Book calls the Beauty of the Lord? If that be so, we should not wait till we are where life's poor ruins will appear as the tumbled bricks of a child's castle before we let our hearts take comfort from such words as these: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Rotherham understands God's thoughts to mean His plans: "I know the plans which I am planning for you, plans of welfare and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Thoughts of peace for our prayers, for our intercession for others which seem to be ineffective; a future and a hope for the prayers that we feared were covered by the snow, and for those others that appeared to fall to earth like the falling stars that break and scatter into nothingness as we watch them - even those prayers are folded up in the thoughts of peace that He thinks toward us.
Hammer this truth out on the anvil of experience - this truth that loving thoughts of God direct and perfect all that concerneth us; it will bear to be beaten out to the uttermost. The pledged word of God to man is no puffball to break at a touch and scatter into dust. It is iron. It is gold, that most malleable of all metals. It is more golden than gold. It abideth imperishable forever. If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our Strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again: we shall never know the blessing of the unoffended. Now is the time to say, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise," even though as we say the words there is no sense of exultation. "It is possible to gather gold, where it may be had, with moonlight," by which I understand something less helpful than daylight would be in the search and the finding of gold. By moonlight, then, let us gather our gold.
~ Excerpts from Gold by Moonlight, by Amy Carmichael

God gave me Amy Carmichael's writings for whenever I have had no words to describe the innermost turmoil of the soul. She walked through snow, by moonlight, in her soul and with others. And yes, she gathered much gold to share abundantly with others. Her words are refreshing and humbling to me, as they seem to so perfectly depict the present circumstances and trials. The heaviness seems lighter when you allow truth to shine forth. Even when our intercession for others seem to be lost, covered up, and forgotten, His voice will break through the night and cause the wind to blow upon His garden. He alone calls life forth from death. O most gracious Lord, we wait.


Nolan said...

The way Madame Guyon describes it is so beautiful and poetic. There is so much gold in this excerpt, and visual essence of the sanctified life in Christ. I can see why you say that her writings are excellent for when you have no words to describe. And especially during times when it's difficult to see things in that perspective, but it's the bigger picture through the LORD's eyes that we must look through.