TIMES OF SOUL-DISTRESS, SPIRITUAL DARKNESS, AND CONFLICT ARE IN GOD’S HAND
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)
edited and rearranged by Michael Jeshurun
“My Times are in Thy Hand.” [Psalm 31:15]
What confirmation would the precious truth contained in these words derive from the personal experience of the man of God who penned them? Reviewing the past of his eventful history, he would trace the guiding and overshadowing hand of his heavenly Father in all the circumstances of the checkered and diversified scene; and as memory thus recalled the strange and momentous events of his life, with what overpowering solemnity would the conviction force itself upon his mind, that for the form and complexion of that life how little was it indebted to himself!
Circumstances which chance could not originate, events which human sagacity could, not foresee, and results which finite experience could not determine, would at once lift his grateful and adoring thoughts to that God of infinite foreknowledge and love, whose overruling providence had guarded with a sleepless eye each circumstance, and whose infinite goodness had guided with a skillful hand each step. With this retrospect before him, with what intensity of feeling would the aged king exclaim: “My Times Are in Thy Hand.”
But if David felt this truth- that all his interests were in God’s keeping, and under His supreme direction- so consolatory, as life drew near its close, how much more cheering may it be to US just entering upon a new year of life, all whose history is, to our view, wisely and beneficently enshrouded in obscurity, and all whose events, from the least to the greatest, are happily beyond our control. “My times are in Thy hand.” Who can give us the heartfelt, soothing influence of this precious truth but the Holy Spirit by whose divine inspiration it was uttered? May He now unfold and apply with His sanctifying, comforting power this portion of his own Holy Word to the reader’s heart!
The declaration that “our times are in the Lord’s hand,” implies that the future of our history is impenetrably and mysteriously veiled from our sight. We live in a world of mysteries. They meet our eye, awaken our inquiry, and baffle our investigation at every step. Nature is a vast arcade of mysteries. Science is a mystery, truth is a mystery, religion is a mystery, our existence is a mystery, the future of our being is a mystery. And God, who alone can explain all mysteries, is the greatest mystery of all. How little do we understand of the inexplicable wonders of a wonder-working God, “whose thoughts are a great deep,” (Psa 36:6) and “whose ways are past finding out!” [Rom 11:33]
To God NOTHING is mysterious! In purpose, nothing is unfixed; in forethought, nothing is unknown; in providence, nothing is contingent. His glance pierces the future as vividly as it beholds the past. “He knows the end, from the beginning.” (Isa 46:10) All His doings are parts of a divine, eternal, and harmonious plan. He may make ”darkness His secret place; His pavilion round about Him dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies, and to human vision His dispensations may appear gloomy, discrepant, and confused; yet is He, “working all things after the counsel of His own will,” and “at the brightness that is before Him, His thick clouds pass.” and all is transparent and harmonious to His eye.
And WHY this obscurity thus investing all our future? Would it not make for our present well-being; would it not be a satisfaction and a blessing, could we pull back the mystic veil, and gaze with a farseeing and undimmed eye upon “our times,” yet awaiting us this side the grave? Remembering the past, you are, perhaps, ready to say: “Could I but have foreseen, I would have fore-arranged. Had I anticipated the result of such a step, or have known the issue of such a movement, or have safely calculated the consequences of such a measure, I might have pursued an opposite course, and have averted the evil I now deplore, and have spared me the misery I now feel.” But hush this vain reasoning! God, your God, O believer has in wisdom, faithfulness, and love, hidden all the future from your view!
“You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years.” How has He guided, counseled, and upheld you! He has led you by a right way. In perplexity He has directed you- in sorrow He has comforted you- in slippery paths His mercy has held you up, and when fallen He has raised you again. From seeming evil He has educed (brought out) positive good. The mistakes you have made and the follies you have committed in the blindness of your path, and in the sinfulness of your heart, have but led you to a closer acquaintance with, and to a stronger confidence in God. They have opened up to you new and more glorious views of His character and His government; while in leading you closer to the feet of Jesus in self-knowledge and self abhorrence, they have unlocked to you spring of spiritual blessings, fresh, sanctifying, and, unspeakable.
Beloved, God has placed us in a school in which He is teaching us to lay our blind reason at His feet, to cease from our own wisdom and guidance, and lean upon and confide in Him as children with a parent. The goodness of God to us, combined with a jealous regard to His own glory, constrains Him to conceal the path along which He conducts us. His promise is, “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them” (Isa 42:16)…Dear child of God, your afflictions, your trials, your crosses, your losses, your sorrows – all – ALL are in your heavenly Father’s hand. They cannot come until sent by Him. Bow that stricken heart, yield that tempest-tossed soul to His sovereign disposal, to His calm, righteous sway, in the submissive spirit and language of your suffering Savior, “Not my will, but Thine, be done (Luk 22:42)!
My times of sadness and of grief are in Thy hand.”
TIMES OF SOUL-DISTRESS, SPIRITUAL DARKNESS, AND CONFLICT ARE IN HIS HAND. Many such are there in the experience of the true saints of God. Many the hard-fought battle, the fiery dart, the desperate wound, the momentary defeat in the Christian’s life…But it is in the Lord’s hand. No spiritual cloud shades, no mental distress depresses, no fiery dart is launched that is not by Him permitted, and for which there is not a provision by Him arranged. There is nothing that the Lord has taken more entirely and exclusively into His keeping than the redeemed, sanctified souls of His people. All their interests for eternity are exclusively in His hand. In the infinite fullness of Jesus, in the inexhaustible supply of the covenant, in the exceeding great and precious promises of His Word, He has anticipated every spiritual exigency of the believer.
How precious is your soul to Him Who bore all its sins, Who exhausted all its curse, Who travailed for it in ignominy and suffering, and Who ransomed it with His own most precious blood. Guarded, also, by His indwelling Spirit is His kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace within you. Oh, endeavor to realize that, whatever be your mental exercises, spiritual conflicts, doubts and fears, your “times” of soul despondency are in the Lord’s hand.
Lodged there, safe are your spiritual interests. “All His saints are in His hand” (cf. Deu 33:3). And He to Whose care you have confided your redeemed soul has pledged Himself for its eternal security. Of His own sheep He says, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John10:28-29). With like precious faith and humble assurance, you are privileged to exclaim with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day!” (2Ti 1:12).
Ah! As soon shall Christ Himself perish, as one bought with His blood. No member of His body, insignificant though it may be, shall be dissevered. No temple of the Holy Spirit, frail and imperfect though it is, shall be destroyed. Not a soul to whom the divine image has been restored and the divine nature has been imparted, upon whose heart the name of Jesus has been carved, shall be involved in the final and eternal destruction of the wicked. Nothing shall perish but the earthly and the sensual. Not one grain of precious faith shall be lost, not one spark of divine light shall be extinguished, not one pulsation of spiritual life shall die!
Oh, think of this, you who have fled all sinful and trembling to Jesus, you who cling to Him…as the ivy to the oak: NEVER shall you lose that hold of faith you have on Christ, and never will Christ lose that hold of love He has on you. (see Jer 32:40) You and Jesus are one, indivisibly and eternally one. Nothing shall separate you from His love, nor sever you from His care, nor exclude you from His sympathy, nor banish you from His heaven of eternal blessedness. YOU are in Christ, the subject of His grace; and CHRIST is in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). All your cares are Christ’s care, all your sorrows are Christ’s sorrow, all your need is Christ’s supply, all your sicknesses are Christ’s cure, all your crosses are Christ’s burden. Your life—temporal, spiritual, eternal—is “hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).
Oh, the unutterable blessings that spring from a vital union with the Lord Jesus! The believer can exultingly say, “Christ and I are one! One in nature, one in affection, one in sympathy, one in fellowship, and one through the countless ages of eternity! The life I live is a life of faith in Him (Gal 2:20). I fly to Him in the confidence of a loving friend, in the simplicity of a little child, and I reveal to Him my secret sorrow. I confess to Him my hidden sin. I acknowledge my heart backsliding. I make known to Him my needs, my sufferings, my fears. I tell Him how chilled my affection is, how reserved my obedience is, how imperfect my service is, and yet how I long to love Him more ardently, to follow Him more closely, to serve Him more devotedly, to be more wholly and holily His. And how does He meet me? With a hearkening ear, with a beaming eye, with a gracious word, with an out-stretched hand with benignity and gentleness all like Himself.” Confide, then, dear reader, your spiritual and deathless interests in the Lord’s hand…
To those who, depressed with a painful foreboding at their final dissolution, are all their lifetime subject to bondage, how consolatory is the reflection that the time of the believer’s death is peculiarly in the Lord’s hand. It is solemnly true that there is a “time to die” (Ecc 3:2). Ah! Affecting thought—“a time to die!”—a time when this mortal conflict will be over; when this heart will cease to feel, alike insensible to joy or sorrow; when this head will ache and these eyes will weep no more! [It will be the] best and holiest of all: a time “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1Co 15:54), and “we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1Jo 3:2)…If this be so, then, O Christian, why this anxious, trembling fear? Your time of death, with all its attendant circumstances, is in the Lord’s hand. All is appointed and arranged by Him Who loves you and Who redeemed you—infinite goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness consulting your highest happiness in each circumstance of your departure. The final sickness cannot come, the “last enemy” cannot strike until He bids it.
All is in His hand. Then calmly, confidingly leave life’s closing scene with Him. YOU CANNOT DIE AWAY FROM JESUS! Whether your spirit wings its flight at home or abroad, amid strangers or friends, by a lingering process or by a sudden stroke, in brightness or in gloom, Jesus will be with you! Upheld by His grace and cheered with His presence, you shall triumphantly exclaim, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me!” (Psa 23:4), bearing your dying testimony to the faithfulness of God and the preciousness of His promises.
“My time to die is in your hand, O Lord, and there I calmly leave it”…In WHOSE hand are the believer’s times? In a Father’s hand. Be those times what they may, times of trial, times of temptation, times of suffering, times of peril, times of sunshine or of gloom, of life or death— THEY ARE IN A PARENT’S HAND. Is your present path lonely and dreary? Has the Lord seen fit to recall some fond blessing, to deny some earnest request, or painfully to discipline your heart? All this springs from a Father’s love as fully as though He had unlocked His treasury and poured its costliest gifts at your feet…
In a Redeemer’s hand, also, are our times. That same Redeemer Who carried our sorrows in His heart, our curse and transgressions on His soul, our cross on His shoulder, Who died, Who rose again, Who lives and intercedes for us, and Who will gather all His ransomed around Him in glory is your Guardian and your Guide. Can you not cheerfully confide all your earthly concerns, all your spiritual interests to His keeping and control? “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1Pe 5:7)? “Oh, yes!” faith replies, “in that hand that still bears in its palm the print of the nail are all my times. ‘I will trust, and not be afraid’! (Isa 12:2)
Let us, in conclusion, trace the practical influence that this truth should exert upon our minds…Let this precious truth, “My times are in Thy hand,” divest your mind of all needless, anxious care for the present or the future. Exercising simple faith in God…“Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5). Learn to be content with your present lot, with God’s dealings with and His disposal of you.
You are just where His providence has, in its [mysterious] but all-wise and righteous decision, placed you. It may be a painful, irksome, trying position, BUT IT IS RIGHT. Oh, yes! It is right! Only aim to glorify Him in it. Wherever you are placed, God has a work for you to do, a purpose through you to be accomplished, in which He blends your happiness with His glory. And when you have learned the lessons of His love, He will transfer you to another and a wider sphere…
STRIVE, THEN [BY FAITH], TO LIVE A LIFE OF DAILY DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. Oh, it is a sweet and holy life! It saves from many a desponding feeling, from many a corroding care, from many an anxious thought, from many a sleepless night, from many a tearful eye, and from many an imprudent and sinful scheme…Oh, yes! beloved reader, thank God that your times, your interests, your salvation, are all out of your hands, and out of the hands of all creatures, supremely and safely in His. Forward in the path of duty, of labor, and of suffering. Aim to resemble Christ more closely in your disposition, your spirit, your whole life. Soon will it be said, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (John 11:28)…Patient in endurance, submissive in suffering, content with God’s allotment, zealous, prayerful, and watchful—be found standing in “thy lot at the end of the days” (Dan 12:13).
TRUST GOD IMPLICITLY FOR THE FUTURE! No sorrow comes but shall open some sweet spring of comfort…No affliction befalls but shall be attended with the Savior’s tenderest sympathy…Let your constant prayer be “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Psa 119:17). Let your daily precept be “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1Pe 5:7). And then leave God to fulfill, as most faithfully He will, His own gracious, precious promise, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deu 33:25). Thus walking with God through this valley of tears until you exchange sorrow for joy, suffering for ease, sin for purity, labor for rest, conflict for victory, and all earth’s checkered, gloomy scenes for the changeless, cloudless happiness and glory of heaven. Amen!
Praise the LORD!