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Our Chief Friend in the Sorrow of Death

I've actually been saving this one up. This one is a bit heavy, and quite long, and DEEP. A gentle word of warning: IT MAY NOT BE FOR EVERYONE. But it has a very particular ministering word for a very particular group of people: those who have been through "the valley of the shadow of death." Written by one who had been down that road and knew it well. For those who have been there, and are willing to venture down again for a spell to that dark place in their heart of hearts, and dwell a bit on the deeper things (I mean, nobody even writes this way anymore!) I do believe the following will be richly rewarding:

"It is ten years this month since the Lord called away our son, then 18 years of age, to Himself. It seemed almost unaccountable to me that He should have deprived me of him when he was so thoroughly devoted to Him, and therefore could have been such a help and comfort to me.

It is very easy for me to weep with you. I never realized the exit of a saint until I saw our dear boy pass away. It then made a very decided mark on me. Stephen looking up steadfastly into heaven came before me in quite a new way. And, thank the Lord, it grows upon me: the distance seems shorter. The Spirit leads to the brightest spot, and the Father allows the wave of death to overtake us here so that we may be partakers of His holiness. It is HIS doing. Surely, from the bottom of my heart, I desire and pray that this immeasurable sorrow may be only the night before your brightest day. The Lord comfort you in His own blessed way.

Your chief friend is the one who is found near you in sorrow. Anyone can share in your joy, but there is really only One who can enter into the nature of your sorrow, and He, blessed be His Name, is very near you in your desolation. He proves to us that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting (Eccles. 7:2). The silence of death is a terrible reality; though, through divine grace, you can anticipate the great day when we shall all surround our Lord, and be with Him forever.

There is no sorrow so great as the sorrow of death, and this is the more so as the one removed is so very near and dear to you. There is a desolation about death that no one can understand who has not been in it. But your desolation is the Lord's opportunity of making known to you the deep interest He takes in you, not merely in your bright hours, but in the moment when you are well-nigh crushed with sorrow.

It imparts the deepest sense of His interest that He should draw near to me when absorbed with my own sorrow, to so console me with Himself that He becomes more to me than my sorrow. This His sympathy effects. It is an effect never to be forgotten, or rather the impression He will give you of His love will never be forgotten, so that your deep affliction through His grace will be turned into the deepest blessing, "the dry ground into watersprings," "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

There are sorrows that the heart thinks that it only knows; and this is true, speaking naturally, and yet there is One who knows well the deepest, and far more than the deepest sorrow ever in our hearts. Sorrow is to me not only the deepest feeling known to the heart, but it is, I might say, the sublimest, because it is entirely one's own. No one else can have the same. How aptly it suits one in sorrow to "sit alone." How truly the heart can say, "My sorrow lies too deep for human sympathy," and yet, when the Lord Jesus joins you in this great solitude you will find in Him, as Mary did, that not only He knows your sorrow, but that His sorrow is deeper, beyond any comparison. "The Man of Sorrows."

The darkness of sorrow is deep indeed, but I pray that the deepest joy may be known to you with the Lord Jesus Himself. The deepest sorrow here, but the deepest joy with Him in company with Himself. Surely when we are in spirit apart from this place, and with the Lord Jesus at the other side of death, we taste a joy and a solace which bear us above the deepest anguish here. There is a blessed comfort for the heart in sorrow when you are drawn to His side where He is. Nothing mellows anyone so much as sorrow does . . . when the heart has found sympathy in it from the Lord Jesus, Himself (II Cor. 1:3-4).

I do not think that physical suffering weans the heart from the present scene to the same extent that sorrow does. Bodily suffering too often engrosses one's personal attention; one feels so helpless, and there is such a constant effort to remedy it, and indulgence often is excused on the plea of consideration for one's weakness. But in sorrow, we grow into the sense that we are in the valley of the shadow of death. When there is suffering of body there is a longing to get well; and often resistance to the suffering, so that we are taught how helpless we are; but in sorrow on account of another, everything around us has lost its interest to us.

In physical suffering, there is inability to enjoy or to do things which others do. But in sorrow, everything has lost its enjoyment; there is a dark shadow on everything and every body. I am cut off in sadness and affliction from the present scene -- but at the very moment when all is a blank here, when I have descended to the depths, I FIND THE LORD JESUS BESIDE ME, WHO MAKES KNOWN HIS HEART TO ME WHERE NO ONE ELSE COULD REACH ME. "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

It is then one is really softened, because the heart knows in its saddest moments the love of the Lord Jesus; and hence, instead of being vexed and soured, you come out of it softened, because you have learned in your sorrow the greatest love; so that where the greatest darkness was, the greatest light has now sprung up. In illness, it is more relief; or His power and goodness one learns and looks for; but in sorrow, where there is nothing to cheer here, HE COMES IN AND MAKES KNOWN TO THE HEART THE GREATEST CHEER; so that the saddest moment connected with this earth becomes the happiest moment, because of His presence where there is fulness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16).

You will easily trace the effect of each on souls. In one, there is the knowledge of His hand and His power; they are receptive, and often dependent. In the other, in addition, the heart refuses to bind itself to anything here again. It has gone through the pains of death; it is not hardened, but it has received the greatest expansion through the heart of the Lord Jesus which reached it in its crushing loss.

The Lord Jesus came to Bethany when Mary and Martha were in the very depths of their sorrow. That was the time for Him. He waited until things were at their WORST. If He had not waited until the worst had come, His ability to relieve from the worst would never have been known.

He comes to you now, in this moment, to make you know that HE CAN COMFORT YOU EVEN IN THIS, THE SADDEST AND DARKEST HOUR; but you must RECEIVE the rays of His comfort; you must not simply cleave to your sorrow, and loss and bereavement -- you are simply to turn to Him to make up the blank. Look to Him, and you will receive a comfort from His heart that WILL compensate you for your great loss and sorrow. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." -- J. B. Stoney

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