The Letters of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860
The exercise of faith
To Mrs. Turner, November 27, 1855.
My beloved friend in Jesus,
"Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you," but be comforted in knowing that the Lord's gold is always tried with fire, and that the trial often comes in a time and way least expected; like him of old who said, "When I looked for good, then evil came unto me; and when I waited for light, then came darkness. I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation." And thus it seems to have been with you in the change of your minister, which must have been very trying; but
"God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."
Still wait on Him in wrestling prayer, and before long the dark cloud will burst in blessings on your head. The Lord often puts a death upon means and ministers, because we are so prone to "look to them, instead of through them." "Power belongs unto God;" and the most suitable and efficient ministry is only a blessing as He makes it so. In order that we may learn this experimentally, and be taught to live in simple dependence upon Himself, He will sometimes cause the Brook of Ordinances to dry up for a season, by which I mean we shall feel no power in them, and the minister whom we have found most profitable shall bring no message from the Lord to our souls. I have been in this case, my dear friend, and have had to bless the Lord for it afterwards; for although very painful, yet the blessed Spirit does thereby teach us to profit, and bring us to say with David, "My soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from him."
I am grieved to hear that you are suffering serious bodily affliction; but if in it you find Jesus, it will indeed be to you a cup of blessing, as I have fully proved; for as the bitter waters of Marah were made sweet by the healing tree which Moses cast into them, even so the most bitter affliction is healed of its bitterness when by faith we apprehend a precious Jesus as the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. I think I told you how much I have enjoyed these words, "who heals all your diseases," as regards myself; not that my body is healed of the disease, or is ever likely to beóbut the disease itself is healed of all that would savor of wrath, curse, or bitterness; it is all sent in love, though disagreeable to the flesh; and the spirit seeing so much, so very much mercy in it, can feelingly and joyfully say, "It is well."
This, however, is only "by the working of his mighty power," for when I was first fully confirmed as to the nature of the malady, gloom overhung my mind, and I could not for some time feel as I desired. I have sometimes thought it was like the first dayóevening and morningónot the brightness firstóbut the shade. My soul did groan unto the Lord for a blessing in itóbut I could not for some time spread out my case before Him, or "fill my mouth with arguments." Yet He hears "the voice of our weeping," and our groaning is not hidden from Him; yes, it "enters into his ears." He knows what it means, and that we would say and feel if we could, "Your will, not mine, be done."
We may groan and sigh, and think we cannot prayóbut that groan and that sigh are prayer in His account, and He often answers them, as this unworthy heart can testify; for though in one part of this affliction my mind was enveloped in cloud, yet before long the blessed Sun of Righteousness did arise with healing in His wings. Then was sorrow turned into joy before Him, and gloom and darkness fled away at His presence. O beloved, He can take off the keen edge from everything to which our frame is subject, and turn the curse into a blessing, yes, turn the water of affliction into the wine of consolation. I have been led quite unintentionally to speak thus of myself; but perhaps those things flow most freely which we have ourselves tasted and handled; and as you are now a "companion in tribulation," may the blessed Spirit breathe into your soul some word of comfort or encouragement, that by His power you may be strengthened with might in the inner man unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness.
May I be allowed to say that whatever be the nature of your affliction you will find it weakening to look at it; but, looking unto Jesus, you will have, moment by moment, incomings of strength and supportónot a stock in handóbut just as you need it. When Peter looked at the waves, he soon began to fear and to sinkóbut while he looked at his Master, though they were still boisterous, yet all was well. So I find it, and so will you. When looking at this or that painful thing it is quite too much for usóbut when looking unto Jesus, and leaving all to Him, we are borne through the trial, and the very mountains become a plain; yes, and the floods which we thought would overwhelm us are made to divide that we may pass safely through.
May the Lord increase our faith, and cause us to live in the fullest privilege of those deep words, "You are not your own;" and may He be pleased so to nourish your faith by His word and Spirit that you shall find how sweet it is,
"To lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His."
Then you will say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." Whatever your present state may be, my heart would say to you, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Nothing! He can support and deliver; He can make you joyful in the affliction, and then bring you with joy out of it. If it be His holy will, may He soon command deliverance for you, saying, "I am the Lord who heals you."
I trust your soul is more at rest in Jesus. Oh! may He bring you fully into that liberty wherewith He makes His people free, which is such a liberty as the debtor has when his surety has paid all he owed; such a liberty as the prisoner has when he is told that the law has now nothing against him. "Who can bring an accusation against Godís elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us." (Rom. 8:33, 34)
But, say you, am I the character here spoken of? Read Rom. 7. There the character is described to whom belongs the "no condemnation" of Rom. 8, and I do think yours is there described; but as long as we look to our evidences for comfort we shall be full of disquiet, for we discover such weakness in our faith, such wavering in our hope, such coldness in our love, yes, such shortcoming in everything, that we cannot find here any rest for the sole of our foot as regards spiritual confidence. It must be all in Christ! "He is the rock, and his work is perfect," while our works are all broken and faulty. Oh! may the blessed Spirit set your feet upon this Rock, and establish your goings there. May He enable you to make the venture of faith, just as you are, with wants and woes, sins and fears.
"Venture on Him, venture wholly!
Let no other trust intrude."
And it is not only one ventureóbut many. The life of faith is continued venturing afresh, finding no more in self to encourage us at the last than at the first, remembering in the midst of all discouragements how "David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." And that is just what faith does. By reason of the flood of corruptions within and tribulation without, the poor soul can find no place of restóbut, by faith, she flies to the Ark, and the Lord pulls her in. I commend you to that precious Jesus who still "receives sinners, and eats with them."
And, wishing you every covenant blessing, remain in His warm love your unworthy but affectionate friend,
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