But—meanwhile—there’s a meanwhile. There’s a waiting time, before the storm clears. And we must needs live through this waiting time. The road up to the hilltop where the air is bracing and sunshiny, that road leads through a valley.
It goes down before turning up. It may even go further down before the turn-up is reached. And the valley is apt to be damp and chill. Raw winds blow there. The sun doesn’t get through for days at a time, sometimes. And the fog of the valley wraps you about with a close clinging clammy fold.
And we are in this valley. The hill-top’s there, that we have been looking at, from which one can see all. The valley is only a part, the sun-lit hill is the greater part.
But we are so apt to get the valley mood, and let our eyes drop instead of keeping them lifted up to the hills. Well there is a bit of valley-truth for us valley-travellers to warm by.
Let us put another log on the fire, a good-sized log this time, one that is well-seasoned and will kindle quickly, and burn brightly and send out a good glow of heat. And let us clear the ashes a bit so that the fresh air can get to fire and log.
Here is the simple but wondrous bit of meanwhile truth, the valley truth, to cheer the lower road: there is Somebody by your side. When you’re alone; you’re not alone He’s there.
The angels of the Lord are round about. Yes; but this One, the Lord Himself is inside that angel-circle, nearer than they.
But our eyesight is a bit blurred.
Maybe it is like Mary’s in the garden. (Joh_20:1-18). Her tear-misted eyes thought she saw a gardener, but it was Jesus. And He had come there just for her. He spoke her name. Then she knew. And all changed.
Suppose you get still a bit . . . quiet . . . and listen. You’ll hear your name in the same voice. And there’ll come the same change as with Mary. One sound of His quiet voice will change everything for you. Reach out your hand sometime as you sit alone. He’s there by your side now.
We are bothered, sometimes, like the seven men in the boat that grey dawn on Galilee’s blue waters (Joh_21:1-14). A long night it had been, and they were tired in body and more tired in heart.
There seemed no outlook, nor uplook. Only a discouraging inlook and the despairing downlook. But they were wrong. That “seemed” wasn’t right. Jesus was there, close up.
He was talking with them, concerned about them, making a fire to warm their cold, and broiling fish to feed their hunger. What a Saviour to think of such things, just as a thoughtful mother would do! And His presence being recognized made outlook and uplook and glad-look.
Are you and I like them? ... eyes down . . . heart down? But He is here. Listen to Him. Sit still with Him a bit. Sing to Him a snatch or two of praise for what He is, and what He is going to do.
“I have not seen His face—
Not yet, not yet!
But oft beside my own
His feet are set,
And I’ll no strangeness feel,
No chill surprise,
That glad day when He bids
Me lift mine eyes.
“If I have felt His touch
I am not sure,
But when earth-sorrows grow
Past all earth’s cure,
Comes there such sense of Him
So close, so dear,
That mine own blood and breath
Seem not more near.
“I have not heard His voice,
That, too, I wait;
And not so much I pray
The opening gate,
And all that shows or sings
Dark Jordan past,
As but to hear Him speak
At home at last.” (William Hervey Woods.)
And as we sit in stillness, and say to ourselves, “He is here,” something else comes. We remember that He has been here before. This road I’m on—this is no new road to Him. And it was a rougher road then.
“Rougher? ” you say instinctively, without stopping to think, while your hand goes to your heart. Then as you think a bit you say softly: “Yes, it was rougher for Him." The pain cut deeper . . . yes, this same sort of pain. He knows. He understands. He feels. He feels with you. He suffers with you. He has come to help. Let Him. Learn to spend the day with Him. That will brighten this “little while between.”
“Let the little while between
In the golden light be seen.”
Lean on Him. He’s here. Readers of Robert Louis Stevenson will remember that in one of his books he tells the story of a ship at sea in a severe storm. Things had got into desperate shape.
And now the storm is driving the ship toward the coast, which means certain wreckage of the ship, and possibly death for most of crew and passengers.
The passengers are all below, and sternly forbidden to attempt the deck. The hatches are all fastened securely down. And there, huddled together, with only the dreadful noises of the storm and the distressing pitch and toss of the boat, and the close foul air that can hardly be breathed, the passengers are in great bodily discomfort and mental distress. They are surely going down.
Above, everything is tied up that can be tied, the decks are washed by the furious waves, and forward the pilot is lashed securely with ropes at the wheel, that he may not be washed away while he tries to guide the wheel and turn the ship out into safe waters. It is a most distressing scene.
Then a venturesome passenger manages to elude officers and crew, finds a way up on deck, and with great difficulty he creeps along the smooth slippery deck, holding as best he can here and there, until finally he manages to get within sight of the pilot.
Yes, the pilot is still there. That’s something. And as he gripped hard to the rail he thought he could half see through blinding dash of wave and spray that, slowly, little by little, the wheel was turning the ship out from the coast toward the deep water.
Just then the pilot seemed to feel the presence of someone, and glancing over saw the man so intently watching him. And a smile lit up his tired, set face for a moment.
Quickly as he could, the man crept back the length of the slippery deck, and down below; and as he reached the crowd of huddling passengers in the dark and damp of their close quarters cried out, “I have seen the face of the pilot; and he smiled.”
The story tells its own tale to us just now. It is a tremendous storm that is raging now. The ship seems headed straight for a rocky coast. The wreckage will be terrific beyond any experience yet, if the ship actually strikes the rocks.
And we’re huddled in most of us, where the outlook is so limited. Sometimes it seems as if there were no outlook. And the storm blinds our eyes. And our personal distress seems quite beyond words.
But listen, there’s a Pilot. His hand is on the wheel, steady and firm. And if we may, in the venture of a child’s simple faith, creep out and look, we can see His face.
For it is always turned toward us. And He is smiling quietly down into our bewildered eyes. And we can say, in the words of the venturesome passenger, “I have seen the face of the Pilot . . . and . . . He smiled.” And that will settle everything for us.
For He knows all. And He sees the sunshine after rain, and calm after storm. He has our loved ones up in the sunlight of the homeland with the Father.
And He Himself walks close by, saying in a quiet voice with a thrill of soft music in it, “Be of good cheer, I am here."
“After the wind . . . after the earthquake . . . after the fire, a still small voice (which was a sound of gentle stillness). ”—1Ki_19:11-12 with margin.
“Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease:
Take from our souls the strain and stress;
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the pulses of desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be done, let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire
O, still small voice of calm.”
John Greenleaf Whittier.
“Then are they glad because they are quiet; So, He bringeth them unto their desired haven.”—Psa_107:30.