From the Editor: Charles Spurgeon will use the term consolation here, which is an old-fashioned form of the word comfort. Consolation, by the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as: the comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment.
As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so the consolations of Christ abound. Here is a blessed proportion. God always keeps a pair of scales: In one side, he puts his people’s trials, and in the other he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition. And when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV). This is a matter of pure experience.
Some of you do not know anything at all about it. You are not Christians, you are not born-again, you are not converted, you are unregenerate and, therefore, you have never realized this wonderful proportion between the sufferings and the consolations of a child of God.
Oh, it is mysterious that when the black clouds gather most, the light within us is always the brightest! When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the heavenly captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolation of Christ!
Let me show you how.
Oh, it is mysterious that when the black clouds gather most, the light within us is always the brightest!
1. Trials make us Humble Enough to Receive Consolation
The first reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. There is nothing that makes a man have a big heart like a great trial. I always find that little, miserable people, whose hearts are about the size of a grain of mustard seed, never have had much to try them. I have found that those people who have no sympathy for their fellows—who never weep for the sorrows of others—very seldom have had any woes of their own.
Great hearts can only be made by great troubles.
The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart. He finds it full. He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty. Then, there is more room for grace! The humbler a man is, the more comfort he will always have.
I recollect walking with a farmer one day—a man who was deeply taught, although he was a plowman and really, farmers would make a great deal better preachers than many college gentlemen—and he said to me, “Depend upon it, my good brother, if you or I ever get one inch above the ground, we shall get just that inch too high.” I believe it is true. For the lower we lie, the nearer to the ground we are—the more our troubles humble us—the more fit we are to receive comfort! And God always gives us comfort when we are most fit for it. That is one reason why consolations increase in the same ratio as our trials.
2. Trials Exercise Our Character and Make Us More Godly
Then again, trouble exercises our graces and the very exercise of our graces tends to make us more comfortable and happier. Where showers fall most, there the grass is greenest. I suppose the fogs and mists of Ireland make it “the Emerald Isle.” And wherever you find great fogs of trouble and mists of sorrow, you always find emerald green hearts—full of the beautiful verdure of the comfort and love of God.
O Christian, do not say, “Where are the swallows gone? They are gone—they are dead.” They are not dead, they have skimmed the purple sea and gone to a far-off land. But they will be back again by-and-by!
Child of God, say not the flowers are dead. Say not the winter has killed them and they are gone. Ah, no—though winter has coated them with the ermine of its snow, they will put up their heads again and will be alive very soon.
Say not, child of God, that the sun is quenched because the cloud has hidden it. Ah, no—he is behind there, brewing summer for you. For when he comes out again, he will have made the clouds fit to drop in April showers—all of them mothers of the sweet May flowers.
And oh, above all, when your God hides his face, say not that he has forgotten you! He is but tarrying a little while to make you love him more. And when he comes, you shall have joy in the Lord and shall rejoice with unspeakable joy! Waiting exercises our grace. Waiting, tries our faith—therefore wait on in hope. For though the promise tarry, it can never come too late!
3. Trials Draw Us Close to God
Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles is this—then we have the closest dealings with God. I speak from heart knowledge and real experience. We never have such close dealings with God as when we are in tribulation.
When the barn is full, man can live without God. When the purse is bursting with gold, we somehow can do without so much prayer. But once your gourds are taken away, you need your God. Once cleanse away the idols out of the house; then you must go and honor Jehovah!
Some of you do not pray half as much as you ought. If you are the children of God, you will have the rod and when you have that rod, you will run to your Father (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-7).
It is a fine day and the child walks before its father. But there is a lion in the road—now he comes and takes his father’s hand. He could run half-a-mile before him when all was fine and fair. But once bring the lion, and it is “Father! Father!” as close as he can be. It is even so with the Christian. Let all be well and he forgets God. Take away his hopes, blast his joys, let the infant lie in the coffin, let the crops be blasted, let the herd be cut off from the stall. Let the husband’s broad shoulders be in the grave, let the children be fatherless—then it is that God is a God, indeed!
For that is the way to be happy—to live near to God.
Oh, strip me naked! Take all I have from me! Make me poor, a beggar, penniless, helpless! Dash that cistern in pieces, crush that hope, quench the stars—put out the sun, shroud the moon in darkness and place me all alone in space, without a friend, without a helper—still, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord” (Psalm 130:1 NIV).
There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains, no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul through deep trials and afflictions. Hence, they bring us to God, and we are happier. For that is the way to be happy—to live near to God. So that while troubles abound, they drive us to God and then consolations abound.
The Gift That Keeps Us Tethered to God
Some people call troubles weights. Truly they are so. A ship that has large sails and a fair wind, needs ballast. Troubles are the ballast of a believer. The eyes are the pumps which fetch out the bilge-water of his soul through tears and keep him from sinking. But if trials are weights, I will tell you of a happy secret. There is such a thing as making a weight lift you. If I have a weight chained to me, it keeps me down. But give me pulleys and certain appliances and I can make it lift me up. Yes, there is such a thing as making troubles raise me towards heaven!
A gentleman once asked a friend concerning a beautiful horse of his, feeding about in the pasture with a clog on its foot, “Why do you clog such a noble animal?” “Sir,” he said, “I would a great deal sooner clog him than lose him—he is given to leap hedges.” That is why God clogs his people. He would rather clog them than lose them, for if he did not clog them, they would leap the hedges and be gone. They need a tether to prevent their straying and their God binds them with afflictions to keep them near to him—to preserve them—and have them in his Presence.
Blessed fact—as our troubles abound, our consolations also abound!