by J.C. Ryle
“Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward!” Job 5:7
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” John 16:33
The testimony of Scripture, that “man is born to trouble,” is continually echoed by thousands who know nothing of the Scriptures, but simply speak the language of their own experience. The world, nearly all men agree, is full of trouble. It is a true saying, that we . . . come into life crying, pass through it complaining, and leave it disappointed.
Of all God’s creatures, none is so vulnerable to sorrow, as man. Body, and mind, and affections, and family, and property–are all liable in their turn to become sources and avenues of sorrow. And from this, no rank or class possesses any immunity. There are sorrows . . . for the rich–as well as the poor, for the learned–as well as the unlearned, for the young–as well as the old, for the castle–as well as the cottage.
And neither wealth, nor science, nor high position can prevent their forcing their way into our homes, and breaking in upon us sometimes like an armed man! These are ancient things, I know; the poets and philosophers of old Greece and Rome knew them as well as we do. But it is well to be put in remembrance.
What shall best help man to meet and bear sorrow? That is the question! If our condition is such, since the Fall, that we cannot escape sorrow–then what is the surest remedy for making it tolerable? The cold lessons of Stoicism have no power in them. Resignation and submission to the will of God are excellent things to talk about in fine weather. But when . . . the storm strikes us, and our hearts ache, and our tears flow, and gaps are made in our family circle, and our friends fail us, and our money makes itself wings, and sickness lays us low–then we need something more than abstract principles and general lessons. We need a living, personal Friend–a Friend to whom we can turn with firm confidence that He can help and sympathize with us.
We have One sitting at the right hand of God, as our sympathizing Friend, who has all power to help us, and can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities–even Jesus, the Son of God. He knows the heart of a man and all his conditions, for He Himself was born of a woman, and took part of flesh and blood. He knows what sorrow is, for He Himself in the days of His flesh wept, and groaned, and grieved. He has proved His love towards us . . . by suffering for thirty-three years in this world, by a thousand acts of kindness, by ten thousand words of consolation, and by finally dying for us on the cruel cross.
I can imagine no truth more suited to man’s needs than this.
Rules, and principles, and prescriptions, and instructions in times of sorrow are all very well in their way–but what the human heart craves is a personal friend to go to, to talk to, to lean back upon, and commune with. The risen Christ, living and interceding for us at God’s right hand, is precisely the Person that we need.
by J.C. Ryle