Experience is the best teacher, and charges the biggest fee. It insists on being paid, day by day, as you go along. No book accounts allowed, nor credits.
You don't pay in cheap stuff like gold and engraved paper and checks. No, you pay in blood and sweat. You pay in your own life given slowly out, sometimes painfully out, under tense pressure.
But you get something. You get much. You get most. You get the one real thing, gold, real gold, the gold of character; you yourself, your changed self, that's what you get. You're never the same again.
Experience means what you go through, and what goes through you. Our knowledge is really limited to just that. We know only what we go through.
What is woven into the fabric of actual life, that we really know, and only that. The rest we only know about. And there's a whole solar system of difference between the two.
Bodily pain bends the most stubborn will. And that is saying a great deal. For there is nothing harder to bend than a stubborn will.
The will is never broken. It can't be. It can only be bent, and that means bent from within. No man's will, however obstinate, can be bended, however slightly, except from within. That is to say, by his own choosing to bend it.
Every man is an absolute sovereign in his will, from his mother's breast until the breast of old mother-earth enfolds him at the last. This is the way God made him.
But bodily pain, cutting, eating in, and then getting sharper-toothed, and persisting, tirelessly persisting, day in and day out, by night and day, awake and asleep, and when you can't sleep, that is the sorest pressure that can be brought to bear on a man's will. It is the whip with the ugliest lash and sting.
This explains much bodily pain, not all, but much. For there is nothing more mulishly stubborn, in earth or heaven or the depths below, than a stubborn human will. Perhaps you know that. And there is nothing so relentlessly persistent as bodily pain can be. It is a fierce conflict, many a time.
Often it is stubborn self-will and Love in fierce competition. The self-will refuses to bend even when it knows it should, that it's right to, and best to. For stubbornness can become a habit gripping a man beyond his own heart's wish.
And Love, with a breaking heart over the pain being suffered by that stubborn will, yet keeps the fire burning more fiercely, to save the man's life.
One can be strong enough to be stubborn, but not strong enough to bend. The will is really strongest when it uses its strength in bending to a higher, better, wiser, will.
But Love wins out. The exceptions are rare. The heart, after all, wins in competition with the will. It kindles gentle fierce fires under the will, and keeps them burning, tender and hot, till the will yields, mellows, bends, capitulates.
The one thing greater than a stubborn will is a true, tender, hot heart. Love wins. This is the great lesson in God's School of Suffering.
A man's strong point is apt to become his weak point, when he's out of full touch with God. A man may come to have the possible weakness of his strongest qualities. Away from the steadying touch of God's presence the pendulum swings clear to the opposite limit. Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed Him. His faith in God staggered not at the humanly impossible. Yet he quite failed God, twice, in going to Egypt and so imperilling God's world plan; and in the Hagar incident.
Moses was the meekest man, and no one ever lost his temper so badly and completely. David was one of the saintliest of men, and no man has given more opportunity to men to revile because of that ugliest moral blot in his life.
Solomon was the wisest man, at the beginning. He became the stupidest moral fool, and so continued to the end.
Elijah's boldness and daring made a record, yet he ran away with cowardly swiftness from a woman's threat.
Job was esteemed the most patient of men, but was there ever a greater exhibition of hot, intolerant impatience than in his replies to his critics? He was the humblest of saints, and quite unconsciously showed how proud a man could be.
One should keep a keen eye on his strong points. And the eyesight is keenest here when the knees are bent.
There is simply no telling what may happen to any of us when we lose full touch with Christ. The Spirit of God is man's native air. Away from that he certainly gets into bad shape, and does the queerest unlikeliest things.
Man is free, utterly free, in his will. That's God's tenderest touch. In that he is most like God. He becomes a slave, a rank slave, shackled and chained, to his will. It's a bit of the ugly trail of sin, the getting out of touch with God.
It's Christ's first will that we should be strong and well in body. But what a time of it He has getting His first will done.
Some of the saintliest of people, so lovable and gentle personally, have such stubborn wills. Let us hope it can be said truly that it is quite unconsciously that they won't yield their will to God's, in some cherished particular.
We all seem to be a bit set in our own way. Some saintly folk are so sure they know better than God, in certain things.
One tries hard to believe it is always an unintentional stubbornness. Maybe putting it so baldly will help the truth break in through that same saintly stubbornness.
And so there has to be a term of school. Many a dear saint supplies the scholar and the entrance conditions for the school of suffering.
And the discipline seems stiff and stern. And the fees are very high. And they are payable daily, and collected too. And the lessons seem hard and the time long.
But then Love is always the schoolmaster, real Love, tender and true, honest and courageous, uncompromisingly insistent on the highest ideals.
One hand tenderly and patiently is underneath strengthening and sustaining, while the other guides and steadies, limits and lessens, the discipline when possible. And the Schoolmaster 's eye watches the calendar hoping for an early graduation. And His heart watches with deepest concern the scholar, who alone fixes the graduation date.
We learn best by stories and pictures. The story is the picture for the ear. The picture is the story for the eye. We learn most through the eye, with the ear a close second.
There are three stories in this solitary old Book of God, pictured stories with the warm, vivid colouring of real human life, that come in here.
There's Job at one end, Paul at the other, and Jacob in between. Any one of them is quite enough to tell the story of Love's schooling, all three together pile things up to the irresistible point.