The ordinary stresses of life can get us down, but when the extra-ordinary ones hit we certainly aren’t proud of our troubles or ourselves. Instead, we are suddenly weak…. and others look upon us with pity.
I have found that after the shock wears off, it becomes hard for me to think straight. Emotional reactions to stressful situations aren’t usually the best, wouldn’t you agree? As far as thinking and applying biblical principles goes, very little besides God’s steady, unwavering love gets past the feelings overwhelming me. So, when I can’t think straight, I go straight to my bookshelves. When I am in trouble, I waste no time on “how to” books. I run to warm-hearted pastors who can help me think biblically. This week it was William Jay.
William Jay preached at the same church in Bath, England, for more than sixty years. He was a generation ahead of Charles Spurgeon. He was known for his kind, warm-hearted approach to the doctrines of the Gospel. His focus was on the “ocean of God’s love” as Martyn Lloyd-Jones would say a century later. Jay, like Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones, sought to engage the mind with biblical truth, touch the heart with God’s love, and spread out the pattern for living that is in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I turned to Jay’s devotional, Morning Exercises which I quote below.
The main point of his teaching is that we should be proud of our pain and troubles… and even how weakened we appear… because as God gives us grace to deal with them, we are made to feel the “ocean of God’s love” for us. For instance, just getting elderly should be something we are proud of because God’s grace will be sufficient until our death. Cancer and its treatment is humiliating when your hair falls out! You may look frightful, but the nurses’ kindness to you will remind you of how much God loves and sustains you. There has been nothing in my life more humiliating than becoming invisible to others as an aging widow! But, God has been faithful to provide the most unexpected people and ways to remind me that I am His friend. This focus on the love of God changes everything for me. I am proud of my troubles when they lead me to His love!
The following is a quote from Jay’s devotional book, Morning Exercises.
“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” 2 Cor.11:30(KJV).
“If I must boast, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:30 ESV).
We may consider these infirmities under two classes. First, as outward and natural. Thus they include bodily weaknesses and indispositions. Some, by reason of a healthful and firm constitution, know little of these infirmities, and can scarcely sympathize with those who are the subjects of them. But Paul was no stranger to them. “I was with you,” says he to the Corinthians, “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” They also include other external afflictions, whatever lowers a man’s condition and weakens him in the opinion of the world, who always judge after outward appearances. If it were necessary to prove this, we might refer to the apostle’s sufferings, as recorded in the preceding verses, and to which he obviously alludes; and also to what he immediately subjoins as an illustration, in his escape from Damascus by the wall in a basket, and the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him; ending with his noble avowal, ” Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake ; for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
There is something, wonderful in this. For all these are viewed as disadvantages, and give rise to emotions of grief and shame, rather than of joy and glory. People glory in their beauty, not in their deformity; in their strength, not in their weakness; in their dignity, not in their meanness; in their praise, not in their disgrace; in their successes, not in their disappointments. But Paul says, ” If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Let us make a distinction here. Absolutely considered, these things are evils in themselves, and it does not become a Christian to pray for them, or go out of his way to meet with them. But when he is called to suffer them according to the will of God, he should remember that there are purposes to be answered by them which render them relatively valuable and excellent. If medicine be regarded only as to its taste, we say it is offensive, and we should decline it; but when the necessity and usefulness of it are perceived, and we think of the health to be restored, and the life to be prolonged by it, we not only consent to take it, but even thankfully pay for the otherwise disagreeable remedy. ” Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous ; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” So it is here: Paul glories in things which concern his infirmities. What are these? We may consider them as preservatives or preventions. Thus, when Israel was going astray after her lovers, says God, ” I will hedge up her way with thorns, and make a wall that she shall not be able to find her paths.” And as restorers: thus David says, ” Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.” I was sick; he bled me and I recovered. And as probations, to evince and display the reality and degree of our religion, the tenderness of God’s care, the support of his grace, and the truth of his word. Of this quality were Job’s sufferings. And as preparatives for usefulness here, and heaven hereafter. How these views of faith are sufficient to alter our estimate of the dispensation, and to change our feelings under it.
But, secondly,we may consider these infirmities as inward and spiritual. Thus they comprise all those weaknesses and deficiencies of grace under which the best now labor, and which lead them to pray, “strengthen O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.” Something is wanting in their faith, hope, courage, patience, and spiritual understanding. Even Paul could say, I have not attained; I am not already perfect. But are not these infirmities matter of humiliation, rather than of glorying ? Yes, and the believer blushes and groans over them. Nor will an apprehension of his security reconcile him to his remaining imperfections. Yea a persuasion of God’s constant love towards him will induce him the more to bewail them. Yet there are things which concern these infirmities for which he feels thankful, and in which he rejoices. Four of these may be mentioned.
First, the means of grace are things which concern our infirmities. They are rendered necessary by them, and are designed to relieve them. In heaven they are laid aside ; there they are needless. But the Christian now cries, Send us help from the sanctuary, and strengthen us out of Zion. And by waiting upon the Lord he renews his strength.
Secondly, the promises are things which concern our infirmities. To him that hath shall be given.” “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” “The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger .” When we read all this, let the weak say, I am strong. But for these assurances we must despond ; but now we read, and go on; read, and fight on; read, and suffer on. We rejoice at his word as one that has infinite great spoil.
Thirdly, the influences of the Spirit are things which concern our infirmities. How is a Christian to live or walk ? He lives in the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit. How does he pray ? In the Holy Ghost, The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” Observe the ground of the apostle’s hope with regard to himself, in the issue, of all his sufferings:” I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” And with him there is rich abundance, and in him all fullness dwells, and to him we have always a free and invited access.
Fourthly, the last thing that concerns our infirmities is the removal of them by death. A certain removal ; a removal nigh at hand; an entire removal. Everyone of them will be done away with, and for ever.
You can read my biography of Jay and his teaching. Just click Books on the site’s Heading Bar, then “Warm-hearted Calvinists” then click Jay. If you want a modern version of MORNING EXERCISES, my friend Susie Brennan has one Herehttps://www.createspace.com/4448973