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"See, my boy," said the father, "what a splendid rainbow there is; we shall soon be able to go out and do some gardening."
"Oh, how pretty! how pretty!" exclaimed the child, pointing to the bow in the sky. "Now I am glad that it rained, as we should not have seen the rainbow if there had been no rain."
"No; but a little time ago you were vexed that there was a shower."
"Yes, papa; but I didn't know it would bring such a beautiful rainbow."
There was not very much in what the child said; but there was quite sufficient to teach some of his elders a lesson. Let us see if we can draw one from it.
Are not some of us very much inclined to make the most of our troubles, and to forget that,
"As health to bodies bitter draughts impart,
Sometimes a small disappointment is magnified into a great trial, while, if we did but know it, that same disappointment was really for our good. As there would be no rainbows if there were no rain, so our pleasures would lose half their joy if we never experienced troubles great or small.
Who is it that is most thankful for the blessings of health and strength, and is most likely to thank God that he is well? Is it not the man who has known sickness, and understands what suffering is? Most certainly. The sickness was a trial while it lasted, but if it was the means of teaching a lesson of gratitude, and thus bringing a soul into loving communion with the Father of all mercies, it has yielded precious fruit.
"Nothing could have happened more unfortunately," is an expression often on some persons' lips, but in most cases this is a very great exaggeration, and no more to be believed than the child's hasty exclamation, "It always rains when I want to be in the garden." Very possibly the event, than which "nothing could have happened more unfortunately," will prove a real good, and, like the disappointing shower, be the means of producing a beautiful rainbow.
"Many of the trials of good men," says one writer, " look like miseries, which yet, on the whole, appear to have conduced greatly to their happiness; witness the many prayers which they poured out in those calamities, the many seasonable and shining deliverances which succeeded them, and the many hymns of praise they sang to God their deliverer; so they seem to have been cast into the fire on purpose that the odour of their graces might diffuse itself all abroad."
We all know that some persons are naturally of a more cheerful temperament than others; to them nothing seems to come very much amiss; they make the best of everything, and seem always happy and contented. Very thankful should such persons be that this is the case with them; and very careful ought they to be, too, that they do not judge with too great harshness their less happily constituted brethren; for what to one person may appear but a passing shower, to another may seem a terrible storm.
But while we would judge our more desponding neighbours very leniently, and make all allowance for natural temperament or constitutional weakness, we would give them a word of kindly counsel.
In a great many cases this tendency to look at the dark side of every circumstance, to be always fearing the worst, and to be constantly imagining that something dreadful is going to happen, might be lessened, if not entirely overcome, by keeping the body and mind actively employed.
All the while the little boy stood looking out of window, doing nothing but watch the rain-drops as they pattered against the glass, or fell upon the thirsty ground, the little shower appeared a very heavy one, and he fancied that it always rained when he wanted to be out; but as soon as other employment was found, he forgot the rain, and at once became happy and cheerful, and very shortly was in a state of mind which enabled him to enjoy to the utmost the glorious rainbow and pleasant sunshine.
So, when we have nothing to employ our thoughts but our own vexations and anxieties, they naturally appear larger and more numerous than they would if our minds were occupied on other subjects.
"And how are we to keep ourselves thus employed?" does some one ask. Nay, this is a question I cannot answer. Every one must bear his own burden, and every one must know his own affairs best; but this I do know, that there is work for all, if they are only willing to do it; no one need be idle. Look around you; look out of yourselves, and you will find something to do; and if it is only very humble work, so long as it keeps you from dwelling upon your own anxieties, you will feel the better for having it to do.
The most wretched of beings are those who have nothing to do but think of their own trials. I once knew a person who, through an accident, was confined to her room, and who, not being a woman of intelligence enough to satisfy her mind by reading, and being too indolent to occupy herself with needlework, was constantly harping upon one string, and that string was her own troubles; and upon these she would dwell until she fancied herself a martyr, and every one about her a persecutor. If she had occupied her time in working for others—and there were plenty about her who would have been glad of a little help which she might easily have given—she would have been far happier herself, and have helped to make others happy too; the little showers would not have been magnified into destructive rains, and the bow of promise might have been seen even through the clouds.
In contradistinction to this case, I know of a person who for twenty years or more was so confirmed an invalid as to keep her bed; yet those who knew her best declared that they had never known her to murmur; she had the love of God in her heart, and she occupied all her time, not in complaining about her lot, but in doing what she could to help those around her; it was not much her poor partially paralysed hands could do, but she was constantly at work, and seemed ever in a cheerful mood; she could look through the dark clouds and see the rainbow tints beyond.
After all, that is the true secret of happiness. If we had always to remain here, and for ever to struggle on through the rough ways of mortal life, we might be excused if we sometimes gave way to fretfulness and complaining; but if we are seeking "a city yet to come," if we can look forward with confidence to the "rest that remaineth for the people of God," we have no right to murmur; the shower will soon be past, the glories of heaven revealed, and we shall be satisfied when we can ever remain in the presence of our Father. G. H. S.
She other day I watched for some time a little boat which was making its way across a stormy sea. The sailor who was its only occupant rowed vigorously, but for a long time his small vessel seemed to make but little way; it was tossed up and down in the stormy waves, sometimes mounting high on the green, curling breakers, then almost lost to sight in the trough of the waves. I watched it anxiously, and felt quite thankful when at last it reached a part where the sea was calmer, and finally entered the little harbour near which I was standing, where various vessels were lying. It seemed such a strange contrast—the striving of those anxious moments in the wild sea, to the tranquillity and safety of the haven. The sailor evidently rejoiced in it, and rested quietly, letting his little boat rock gently to and fro, while he reposed after his exertions.
There was something in that scene which made me feel as if a parable had been worked out under my eyes; and my thoughts flew to some of my old friends, in their various homes, whose stormy voyage was over, who were quietly waiting in the peaceful haven of old age till they should be called to the shore. It is a very sacred time, that restingtime of old age, and should be sacred both to the old themselves and to the young, who have the happy privilege of being with or helping the aged. For, like as the sailor was tossed about in the stormy sea, so, doubtless, all those who reach old age have at some time or other of life experienced the rude buffetings of the winds and waves of trouble and adversity. In those days their minds and energies were given up to battling for life, and they had little leisure to look on to the day of rest. But now that peaceful old age has crept on, and you, old friend, have no longer strength to,work, but must sit still and let other and more active limbs work for you, while you are sitting ovei your knitting, or calmly enjoying the warmth of your little fire, there is many and many an hour of unemployed time which you can fitly use both in looking back and in looking forward. May I help you? It is always a joy to me to have a chat with my old friends, and I want to help you in the best way, by guiding your thoughts to the things "concerning your peace."
First of all, dear aged friends, will you try and look back carefully with me? See what there is to be sorry for in your past lives, so that now, while there is yet time, you may lay your sins on Jesus, that Lamb slain for you; and have each sin washed away in His precious blood. Believe me, it is better far to search them out now, one by one, than to rest content with the vague thought that "God is merciful." He is merciful, and praised be His holy name for it! but He is also a just God, and He will judge us for each unrepented sin. Search all out, then ; go back in your own mind to early days, and to the manifold temptations of middle life, ask for the help of God's Holy Spirit, and, as each sin rises before you, pray God to forgive it.
Try to take a portion of your life daily, and think it over