The year was 1905 and Civilla Martin and her preacher husband were spending some time in Elmira, New York. During their stay they made a friendship with a Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle. Mr. Doolittle was bound to a wheelchair but managed to regularly get himself to work. His wife had been bedridden for almost twenty years. What impressed the Martins was the cheerful attitudes of these friends. On one visit Rev. Martin asked what the secret was to their serenity.
Mrs. Doolittle answered, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!”
That answer so inspired Mrs. Martin that when she went home she wrote the words to the well-known gospel song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” People all over the world have been blessed by the song.
Suffering is part of life. For the believer, there is a purpose for suffering. The inspired apostle Paul explained. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:3,4). One’s experience is not to be wasted. It is to be a source of encouragement to others who will also find themselves in difficulty.
Port Matilda Camp is nestled at the foot of one of the Pennsylvania mountains that make up the Allegheny front. I had responded to the altar call and was kneeling at the front when I heard the desperate sounds of sorrow rise in the air. Missionary Harry Stanley, who was attending the camp, had collapsed. The ambulance came and took him to a local hospital. I went with his son Tom. When we got there, we learned that Bro. Stanley had passed away.
That’s when Tom said something I haven’t forgotten. With teary eyes and a quaver in his voice, he said, “At a time like this, I’m glad my feet are on the Solid Rock.”
Those words gave me an example of faith when it hurts. There is godly comfort during a time of deep distress. As the apostle wrote, God comforts us in all our tribulation.
Suffering at times seems more than we are able to bear. When families are torn apart and one spouse leaves, it is devastating. How many Christian families have suffered because for some reason one decides to leave the faith and the family? How many faithful believers walk the narrow way alone after having a companion desert them? These know what it means to have faith when it hurts.
African Christians are being killed at alarming rates. Families are shredded by evil groups who kidnap young girls and force them into marriage with a man from a false religion. These brothers and sisters of ours feel very keenly how much hurt can come along with faith. Their prayer requests are astounding. They do not ask so much for relief from persecution but that they will hold on to their faith through it all. Surely they can identify with Paul when he said, “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8b).
When Jesus taught His disciples some hard sayings, many of them left Him. The desertion was so great that the Lord asked His closest followers, “Will ye also go away?” That’s when Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
When we are hurting, when in tribulation, when in distress, are we to go to the devil? Will the enemy offer solace to the beleaguered soul? Will Satan give hope of eternal life? Peter understood well the implications of abandoning the Lord.
Yet Peter did not know his own heart. When Jesus was arrested, he forsook Him and fled with the other disciples. Moreover, he later denied that he even knew Jesus. He emphasized his denial by cursing and swearing.
What hope is there if someone has been unable to keep the faith when it hurt? Peter felt hopeless. He went out and wept bitterly. Imagine those days while Jesus’ body was in the tomb. Peter’s misery was multiplied. He knew there was nowhere else to turn. He understood that he had denied his Lord. His early resolve to follow Jesus unto death had been quickly dissolved. He was such a turncoat. And now Jesus had died and was buried.
But then came the first day of the week. The women had gone to the tomb and came back with reports that the stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was gone! Peter and John ran to the tomb and found the report true. John believed that Jesus had risen, but Peter doubted. Then came this special message from the women who had seen an angel. The message had a special twist. “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you” (Mark 16:7). Jesus singled out Peter. “And Peter!” What hope must have sprung up in Peter’s wounded heart. The Lord wanted to see him.
There are people who have had their faith fail because of some hurt. Perhaps someone reading this can identify with Peter. You may have denied the Lord. You may have broken the hearts of your loved ones. You may wonder if there is any hope for you. The answer is yes.
If there was hope for the prodigal son whose father saw him a great way off and ran to welcome him home, if there was hope for Peter who had blatantly denied the Lord only to find that Jesus had a special message of welcome for him, then there is hope for you. This verse from Will Thompson’s plaintive hymn says it well.
O for the wonderful love He has promised Promised for you and for me Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon Pardon for you and for me Come home, come home Ye who are weary come home Earnestly tenderly Jesus is calling Calling, “O sinner come home!”
There is no other place to go than to the Savior. He alone has the words of eternal life. There is great hope for any who will affirm their faith, even when it hurts.