Affliction Sermon Illustrations

Affliction Sermon Illustrations

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Recently I heard of an affliction which has befallen an old friend in the ministry. He has had sorrow upon sorrow. First of all, his sight failed him; then his child was crippled; then came the death of his wife—and now this last sorrow, the death at college of a promising son, upon whose sympathy and help the father leaned. What could one say to such a man? All I could say to him was that the Lord must love him more than most of us, because it is written, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6).—Clarence E. Macartney

When Aaron Burr's beautiful daughter, Thedosia Burr Alston, lost her boy of twelve at Charleston, South Carolina, her heart was crushed with sorrow. In a letter to her father she wrote as follows: "There is no more joy for me. The world is a blank. I have lost my boy. My own child is gone forever. Alas! my dear father, I live, but how does it happen? Of what am I formed that I live, and why? Of what service can I be in this world, either to you or anyone else, with a body reduced to premature old age and a mind enfeebled and wretched and bewildered? Yet, since it is my lot to live, I will endeavor to fulfill my part and exert myself to the utmost, though this life must henceforth be to me a bed of thorns!"

The letter was the expression of the first paroxysms of grief, the exposing of the desolation of a broken heart. But making allowance for that, there is still the evidence of a state of mind and heart when one feels, and has good reason to feel, that the song has gone out of life, and that whatever part is played thereafter must be by sheer determination and a sense of obligation.

Late on a May day I climbed Walnut Hills, leaving the smoke and grime and warehouses and noise and din of Cincinnati far below me. On the heights all was fair and quiet and lovely, with the flowers blossoming in the springtime, and my own heart soft and tender with the memories of my father and mother and their early associations with this same Cincinnati. I strolled through the grounds of the Lane Theological Seminary, thinking of Lyman Beecher and his greater son, Henry Ward, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, all associated with that seminary.

It was while her husband was a professor there that Mrs. Stowe got the material and the inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin. In her letters she tells how that Cabin was built out of the sorrows of her own life: "I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her. In these depths of sorrow which seemed to me immeasurable, it was my own prayer to God that such anguish might not be suffered in vain. There were circumstances about his death of such peculiar bitterness, of what seemed almost cruel suffering, that I felt that I could never be consoled for it unless this crushing of my own heart might enable me to work out some great good to others. I allude to this here, for I have often felt that much that is in that book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, had its root in the awful scene and bitter sorrows of that summer. It has left now, I trust, no trace on my mind except a deep compassion for the sorrowful, especially for mothers who are separated from their children."

This land of ours is linked together with a chain of homes for the refuge of those for whom men care but little—unfortunate and fallen girls and women. When the giver of those Crittenton homes died in the Far West and his body was brought across the continent to New York, at nearly every large city where the train that transported his dust stopped there were groups of girls and women with flowers in their hands and tears in their eyes.

As a boy in a California school, I heard him speak one day and marveled at his power. Now I understand. He had a daughter. She was the desire of his eyes. Life for him was the music of the brook. But the brook dried up: the child died. But in the grave of that child the heart­broken father gave his heart to Christ and consecrated his all—his vast wealth, his time, his strength, mind, soul, and body—to the ministry of compassion for homeless and unfortunate women more sinned against than sinning. Have you had losses, disappointments, total eclipses of the sun of joy? Let them lead you to Christ and, through him, to the healing of others.

On the third of October, just as Sherman was starting eastward to support the Union army in Chattanooga, defeated at Chickamauga, his oldest child, a boy of nine, died at Memphis. War does not stop for private sorrow, and while his wife turned northward to bury the child in the valley of the Hocking in Ohio, Sherman, mastering his anguish, but confessing to his wife that "the chief stay to his faltering heart was now gone," headed his divisions for the relief of Chattanooga.

This sentence in a letter written to a brother officer the day after the boy died tells the whole story of his sorrow and heroism: "The child who bore my name, and in whose future I reposed with more confidence than I did in my own plan of life, now floats a mere corpse, seeking a grave in a distant land, with a weeping mother, brothers, and sisters clustered about him. For myself I ask no sympathy. On, on, I must go, to meet a soldier's fate, or to live to see our country rise superior to all factions, till its flag is adored and respected by ourselves and by all the powers of the earth."

I stood recently by the coffin of a young man who had been cut off untimely—untimely, that is, as to man's view and measurement. After the young widow had poured out her soul in grief, and asked questions which no man could answer, I said to her, "God will give you strength and faith, and out of this will come good."

"No," she answered, "good will not come out of it!"

And, no matter how much God wills it, good will not come out of it unless she also wills it. That was what the apostle meant when he said that "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward  it  yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Heb. 12:11.)—Clarence E. Macartney

The trials come, sore disappointments vex,
Life oft appals, and reason will perplex;
Friends change, forsake; misunderstandings rise;
The foolish ride in triumph o'er the wise.
Yet faith looks onward, mists will pass away;
The afterward will come, of perfect day.

So hard the sorrow, weariness and pain,
The sighs escape, the tears will flow again;
What murmuring, what weakness, what distress;
And doubts arise, grim fears the spirit press;
Then faith lays hold of promises so bright.
The afterward will come, morn follows night.—A. Gardner

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