Reprinted from When Thou Sittest in Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Rest in God
God’s consolations are not written for the child of fortune.
He who sees the little stream of his life flow quietly, calmly along from one year’s end to the other might not for this reason put God’s Word aside; but in that Word he does not find his world, his life, the reflection of the condition of his heart.
A single part from the Sermon on the Mount, and from what John recorded, might do for him. Also here and there a mellifluous verse. But in its entirety, Scripture does not meet his case. All those wars, all those struggles, all those penitential psalms, all those war-songs, even in the Gospels those disputations, and sometimes even on Jesus’ lips those hard sayings of having to hate one’s father and mother, and then Paul with his polemics and hair splittings, and James with his attack upon the rich, and finally those dreadful prophecies in Revelation that everything shall be overturned—no, that is not his spirit.
According to him the whole Bible, from first to last, should breathe nothing but love, nothing but gentle, gracious tenderness.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. A few whose bark almost always drifted with sunshine before wind and tide were yet so strongly apprehended by the Holy Ghost that the storm which they were spared at sea from without was suffered in a violent manner in the sea of their own soul within, and who are therefore more and more aware of how Scripture addresses them.
But these ever remain exceptions; and without fear of contradiction it can be said that God’s holy Word in its pith and kernel, in its depth and height, throughout all ages, has really been tasted, understood, and enjoyed by those alone of whom it is so truthfully stated in(Dutch version), that “their heart became humbled by trouble,” that they “walked in darkness and through the shadows of death” and constantly faced “gates of brass.”
Inthe cloud of witnesses passes before your eye as a long procession of men and women who, “destitute, afflicted, and tormented, have wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” And they who even as these saints have drained the cup full to the brim of “labor and sorrow” find their own deepest thoughts expressed in Scripture.
With them only in full measure Holy Scripture is spiritually sympathetic.
This is especially true of the psalms of David, in which again and again all the waves and billows of the Almighty go over the head of God’s servant, and yet every time again the servant of the Lord lifts up his head from those waves, and asks: “Why art thou cast down, Omy soul?” till, quieted and restored, the soul turns itself again to the God of her strength, and declares: “Thou, Lord, seest it, for thou beholdest the labor and sorrow, that one may put it into thine hand” (, Dutch version).
The “labor and sorrow” are so broadly ramified in the earth.
You do not observe this in the note of gay levity in our streets, in our clubs and several societies, nor at our festal boards, simply because as a rule they who are cast down of heart keep themselves in the background, and mourn in solitude. Again, as a general thing, one shows himself outwardly brave, though storms rage within. And it is not the least tender who hide their grief and purposely allow no one to surmise it.
So here you must not go by appearance.
There is so much excitement, so much affected hilarity, so many mouths that laugh, when complaint is at the lips.
God has also opened in our human heart by grace an almost inexhaustible fountain of quiet hope and courage, which ever and again triumphs over disappointment.
But what even our marriage formula whispers with so great and solemn seriousness in the ear of bride and bridegroom: “Whereas married persons are generally subject to many troubles and afflictions,” is commonly far more true at heart than the language of flowers, which at every wedding prophesies only love and pure joy.
When one is young, he does not believe this. And elders do wrong when they impose the burden of their troubles too early upon the shoulders of the young.
If from the first the plant had to carry the whole burden, it would never be able to bend its stalks upward to full fruition. You see this with many a child that, loaded down too early by trouble and disappointment, was broken down before he had a chance to develop.
But though the young may have extension of time, acquittance of “labor and sorrow” comes to but very few.
As a rule, the thorns and thistles of life wound the feet of every one in turn, till he, too, has marked his track on the pathway of life with his blood and his tears.
Therefore it is so divinely blessed and comforting when our Father who is in heaven comes to us and testifies in His Word that He looks down upon us in divine pity, and beholds all our labor and sorrow.
Of course this is nothing to the external and the superficial, who knows nothing of the “hidden walk.”
Such an one knows from experience nothing of what it is to see the hiddenness of the Lord hover above his tent, and in turn himself to flee for refuge into his Fortress, his Rock, and his High Tower.
To him everything is flat, level ground, and lies enclosed within the narrow pales of his own narrow horizon.
Even though such an one still confesses that there is a God, that God does not live for him, and he not for that God.
God is to him a name, a sound, a term, but no full-blessed Reality, and far less a Fountain of all good, a Spring of eternal life.
But when from your own deep experience of soul at the reading of God’s Word you really understand something of the Love of God, of the majesty of His divine compassions, and of the fathomless depths of grace in His Father-heart, then, indeed, the blessed knowledge that your God beholds “your labor and sorrow” is everything to you.
When you are maligned, and God hears it; when you are insulted, and your God observes it; when by trouble you are brought low, and the grief of heart makes you succumb in distress, and you realize that you can shed no tear, but your God gathers it—by this simple knowledge your burden is already lightened by half, and in the midst of your trials, even though under your cross you fall to the earth, you can still glory in the “God who sees” and who is of impenetrable mercies.
But then these comfortings of your God must result in His honor and at least have this beautiful effect, that you put it into His hand.
For the psalmist links the one immediately to the other: “Thou seest it, for thou beholdest the labor and sorrow that one may put it into thy hand.”
This you do not do when you prefer to go on bearing the “labor and sorrow” yourself; when you take a certain delight, as it were, to bend low under it; and when you lack moral courage of faith to separate yourself from it.
Our nature inclines toward this.
Then our thoughts multiply themselves within us; we continually dwell upon our grievances; we muse, we brood over them; we think on them again and again; and at times it seems that we cannot part from that abyss of the woe of our heart.
The deep, somber stream draws and entices us, and it sometimes seems as if that stream opens itself before us, that we should cast ourselves into its gaping abyss and sink away in it.
Just watch the heavy-hearted, the melancholy, the atrabilious sufferers, and ask, how more than one at length came to put violent hands on themselves.
And all this is against God’s appointment.
He comforts, but to the end that your bowed-down soul shall be relieved, to take the burden of woe from you upon Himself, and, as regards your labor and sorrow, to reveal Himself to you in Christ as your merciful High Priest.
When God the Lord beholds your “labor and your sorrow,” you turn in upon yourself.
Then you do not stare yourself blind upon the cross that lies before you in the way, but you inquire into the purpose for which God appointed you that cross.
This can be connected with your own sin and guilt, so that a golden trace of God’s righteousness runs through it, to discover you to yourself, and to humble you before your God.
Or it can be that your Father who is in heaven chastises you as child, to make your poor faith the richer, or to press out the grape that ripened on your branch into the cup of His glory.
You shall put it into His hand means also that, amid your labor and sorrow, God appears before you, stretches out His hand to you, and says to you: “Place your sorrow upon Me, put it here into the hand of my divine compassion, and let me bear it for you.”
There is also this blessing in it, that all too often in our labor and in our sorrow other people are involved, who brought this labor and sorrow upon us.
When this is the case, the heart readily inclines to resentment and reproach. So that love becomes minished and feelings of bitterness cross each other in our heart.
And this goes on, and becomes ever worse, the longer we carry the burden of our labor and sorrow ourselves.
Something from which so frequently thoughts of revenge and of retaliation germinate.
And with an eye to this, God’s Word says to you that you do not stand alone, that you are not forsaken, that all things are known unto the Lord, and that He shall set all things right, so that also what people do unto you, you should not retaliate, but put into the hand of your God.