Turning Northward # 4
There are human lives which may be made to shine in the fairest beauty that Christian culture can produce. They may be freed from all that is course and unrefined. They may be nurtured into gentleness of manner and sweetness of spirit. Yet in certain experiences of testing and temptation -blemishes are revealed, undivine qualities are brought out, unhallowed tempers and dispositions are disclosed. The trouble is in the heart itself. Sin is still in the heart. The only way to be made perfect is to have the very springs of the life cleansed. "I long to be pure all through." That is the kind of men and women we should pray to become.
It was the lifelong prayer of Frances Willard, "O God, make me beautiful within!" Think what spiritual beauty there would be in any church, what healing for the world - if all its members were thus made pure, through and through - if all were really beautiful within.
It is to this that we are called each new year, for example, and each birthday. We are summoned to leave our routine Christian life, the commonplace godliness which has so long satisfied us, and turn northward. We are called to be saints - not when we are dead and our bodies have been buried out of sight - but now, while we are busy in the midst of human affairs, while we live and meet temptations every day, while men see us, and are touched and impressed by what we do. Shall we not give up and leave behind our conventional godliness, our fashionable holiness, our worldly conformity - and be holy men, holy women, turning northward to get nearer to God?
We need to be always watchful lest we allow our life to deteriorate in its quality as we go on from year to year. This is especially one of the temptations of advancing old age. There seems less to live for, less to draw us onward and upward, and inspiration is apt to grow less strong. The best seems behind us, and zest for toil and struggle grows less keen. We yield to weariness, we relax our discipline and self-restraint, we do not mind so much the little slips, the small neglects, the lowering of tone in feeling, in sentiment, in conduct. We are losing our life's brightness and beauty - and we know it not! We allow ourselves to become less thoughtful, less obliging, less kindly, less forgetful of self, less toward the mistakes of others, less tolerant of others' faults and weaknesses. People to whom we have been a comfort in the past, begin to note a change in the degree of our congeniality and our spirit of helpfulness. We are not interested in others' needs and troubles, as we used to be. Friends apologize for us by saying that we are not well, that we have cares and sufferings of our own, or that we are growing old. But neither illness nor age nor pain should make us less Christlike!
Paul tells us that though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man should be renewed day by day. The true life within us should become diviner continually in its beauty - purer, stronger, sweeter, even when the physical life is wasting away.
To all men there come, along the years, experiences that are hard to endure. Disappointments and misfortunes come, in one form or another. Business ventures do not always succeed. In some cases, there are years of continual and repeated disaster. Ill health saps the energy and strength of some men, leaving unequal to the struggle for success,and compelling them to drop out of the race.
Life is hard for many people, and there are those who do not keep brave and sweet in the struggle. Some lose heart and become soured in experiences of adversity. Nothing is sadder than to see a man give way to disheartenment and depression - and grow selfish, or cynical, or gloomy, or soured in spirit.
But this is not worthy living for one who is immortal, one who is a child of God. The hard things are not meant to mar our life - they are meant to make it all the braver, the worthier, the nobler. Adversities and misfortunes are meant to sweeten our spirits - not to make them sour and bitter.
We need to think of these things. There should be a constant gaining - never a losing in our spiritual life. Every year should find us living on a higher spiritual plane than the year before. Old age should always be the best of life - not marked by emptiness and decay, but by richer fruitfulness and more gracious beauty.
~J. R. Miller~
(continued with # 5)