Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is God in Everything?

(The following is an excerpt from Hannah Whitall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life.)

One of the greatest obstacles to an unwavering experience in the interior life is the difficulty of seeing God in everything. People say, "I can easily submit to things that come from God; but I cannot submit to man, and most of my trials and crosses come through human instrumentality. Or they say, "It is all well enough to talk of trusting; but when I commit a matter to God, man is sure to come in and disarrange it all; and while I have no difficulty in trusting God, I do see serious difficulties in the way of trusting men."

This is no imaginary trouble, but is of vital importance; and if it cannot be met, it does really make the life of faith an impossible and visionary theory. For nearly everything in life comes to us through human instrumentalities, and most of our trials are the result of somebody's failure, or ignorance, or carelessness, or sin. We know God cannot be the author of these things; and yet, unless He is the agent in the matter, how can we say to Him about it, "Thy will be done"?

Besides, what good is there in trusting our affairs to God, if, after all, man is to be allowed to come in and disarrange them; and how is it possible to live by faith, if human agencies, in which it would be wrong and foolish to trust, are to have a prevailing influence in molding our lives?

Moreover, things in which we can see God's hand always have a sweetness in them that consoles while it wounds; but the trials inflicted by man are full of nothing but bitterness.

What is needed, then, is to see God in everything, and to receive everything directly from His hands, with no intervention of second causes; and it is to just this that we must be brought before we can know an abiding experience of entire abandonment and perfect trust. Our abandonment must be to God, not to man; and our trust must be in Him, not in any arm of flesh, or we shall fail at the first trial.

The question here confronts us at once, "But is God in everything, and have we any warrant from the Scripture for receiving everything from His hands without regarding the second causes that may have been instrumental in bringing them about?" I answer to this, unhesitatingly, Yes. To the children of God, everything comes directly from their Father's hand, no matter who or what may have been the apparent agents. There are no "second causes" for them.

The whole teaching of Scripture asserts and implies this. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. The very hairs of our head are all numbered. We are not to be careful about anything, because our Father cares for us. We are not to avenge ourselves, because our Father has charged Himself with our defense. We are not to fear, for the Lord is on our side. No one can be against us, because He is for us. We shall not want, for He is our Shepherd. When we pass through the rivers they shall not overflow us, and when we walk through the fire we shall not be burned, because He will be with us. He rules over all the kingdoms of the heathen; and in His hand there is power and might, "so that none is able to withstand" Him. "He rules the raging of the sea; when the waves thereof arise, he stills them." He brings the counsel of the heathen to naught; he makes the devices of the people of none effect." "Has thou not known? has thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding."

And it is this very God who is declared to be "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." "I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler . . . Because thou has made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, they habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh they dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." "Be content, therefore, with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

To my own mind, these scriptures, and many others like them, settle forever the question as to the power of "second causes" in the life of the children of God. Second causes must all be under the control of our Father, and not one of them can touch us except with His knowledge and by His permission. It may be the sin of man that originates the action, and therefore the thing itself cannot be said to be the will of God; but by the time it reaches us it has become God's will for us, and must be accepted as directly from His hands.



I learned this lesson practically and experimentally, long years before I knew the scriptural truth concerning it. I was attending a prayer-meeting held in the interests of the life of faith, when a strange lady rose to speak, and I looked at her, wondering who she could be, little thinking she was to bring a message to my soul which would teach me a grand practical lesson. She said she had great difficulty in living the life of faith, on account of the second causes that seemed to her to control nearly everything that concerned her. Her perplexity became so great that at last she began to ask God to teach her the truth about it, whether He really was in everything or not. After praying this for a few days, she had what she described as a vision. She thought she was in a perfectly dark place, and that there advanced toward her, from a distance, a body of light which gradually surrounded and enveloped her and everything around her. As it approached, a voiced seemed to say, "This is the presence of God! This is the presence of God!" While surrounded with this presence, all the great and awful things in life seemed to pass before her,---fighting armies, wicked men, raging beasts, storms and pestilences, sin and suffering of every kind. She shrank back at first in terror; but she soon saw that the presence of God so surrounded and enveloped herself and each one of these things that not a lion could reach out its paw, nor a bullet fly through the air, except as the presence of God moved out of the way to permit it. And she saw that if there were ever so thin a film, as it were, of this glorious Presence between herself and the most terrible violence, not a hair of her head could be ruffled, nor anything touch her, except as the Presence divided to let the evil through. Then all the small and annoying things of life passed before her; and equally she saw that there also she was so enveloped in this presence of God that not a cross look, nor a harsh word, nor petty trial of any kind could affect her, unless God's encircling presence moved out of the way to let it.

Her difficulty vanished. Her question was answered forever. God was in everything: and to her henceforth there were no second causes. She saw that her life came to her, day by day and hour by hour, directly from the hand of God, let the agencies which should seem to control it be what they might. And never again had she found any difficulty in an abiding consent to His will and an unwavering trust in His care.

Would that it were only possible to make every Christian see this truth as plainly as I see it! For I am convinced it is the only clue to a completely restful life. Nothing else will enable a soul to live only in the present moment, as we are commanded to do, and to take no thought for the morrow. Nothing else will take all the risks and "supposes" out of a Christian's life, and enable him to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Under God's care we run no risks. 

Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts. Christians often feel at liberty to murmur against man, when they would not dare to murmur against God. Therefore this way of receiving things would make it impossible ever to murmur. If our Father permits a trial to come, it must be because the trial is the sweetest and best thing that could happen to us, and we must accept it with thanks from His dear hand. This does not mean, however, that we must like or enjoy the trial itself, but that we must like God's will in the trial; and it is not hard to do this when we have learned to know that His will is the will of love, and is therefore always lovely.

A very good illustration of this may be found in the familiar fact of a mother giving medicine to her dearly loved child. The bottle holds the medicine, but the mother gives it; and the bottle is not responsible, but the mother. No matter how full her closet may be of bottles of medicine, the mother will not allow one drop to be given to the child unless she believes it will be good for it; but when she does believe it will be good for her darling, the very depth of her love compels her to force it on the child, no matter how bitter may be its taste.

The human beings around us are often the bottles that hold our medicine, and compels us to drink it. The human bottle is the "second cause" of our trial; but it has no real agency in it, for the medicine that these human "bottles" hold is prescribed for us and given to us by the Great Physician of our souls, who is seeking thereby to heal all our spiritual diseases.

For instance, I know no better medicine to cure the disease of irritability than to be compelled to live with a human "bottle" of sensitiveness whom we are bound to consider and yield to.

Shall we rebel against the human bottles then? Shall we not rather take thankfully from our Father's hand the medicine they contain, and losing sight of the second cause, say joyfully, "They will be done," in everything that comes to us, no matter what its source may be?





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