(extract from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon)
YOU know the story of Hagar—of her being sent out from Abraham’s tent with her son Ishmael. It was necessary that they should be sent away from the child of promise. God, nevertheless, had designs of good towards Ishmael and his mother. He still tried them. Whether we are saints or sinners, we shall meet with tribulation. Whether it is Sarah or Hagar, no life shall be without its affliction. To Hagar the affliction came in a very painful manner, for the little water that she had brought with her in her bottle was spent. She must give her child drink, or it would die, and then she, by-and-by, must follow. She laid the boy down, giving him up in despair, and began to weep what she thought would be her last flood of tears. Still there was no real cause for her distress. She need not have thirsted—she was close by a well. In her grief she had failed to see it. The distraction of her spirit had made her look everywhere except in the one place where she would have found exactly what she needed. God therefore spoke to her by an angel, and after having done that, He opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, which, I suppose, had always been there. When she saw it, she went at once to it, filled her bottle, gave her child to drink, and all her sorrows were over. It seemed a very simple remedy for a very sad case.
It is but an illustration of what is often happening in human life. Men and women come into sore trouble, and yet, if they could see all around them, they need not be in trouble. They actually come to death’s door, in their own judgment, and yet there really is, if they understood all things, no cause for their distress. They will escape out of their present trial as soon as ever their eyes are opened, for they will see that God has made provision for their necessities, prepared comfort for their griefs, and made such a way of escape from their fears that they need by no means give way to despair. I desire to speak to persons who are in trouble. There are three things I shall bring before them. The first is that it often happens with seeking persons, and troubled persons, that as in Hagar’s case, the supply of their necessities is close at hand—the well is near. Secondly, it often happens that that supply is as much there as if it had been provided for them and for them only, as this well seemed to have been. And, thirdly, no great exertion is needed to procure all that we need from the supply already made by God. She filled her bottle with water, a joyful task to her—and she gave the lad drink.
It often happens that when we are in trouble and distress, THE SUPPLY OF OUR NEED, AND THE CONSOLATION FOR OUR SORROW ARE VERY NEAR AT HAND. There is a well close to us at our feet, if we could but see it. We miss it, perhaps, yet not because it is far away, but because our eyes are not open. There is no necessity for God to make a well—that has been done. What is necessary is that He should open our eyes that we may see what is already there. How true this often is in providence with Christian people. We have known them to be in sore alarm at some approaching ill, or in the most fearful distress on account of some troublous circumstances which already surround them. They have said, “We don’t know what we shall do tomorrow.” They have inquired. “Who shall roll away the stone?” They know not that God has already provided for tomorrow, and has rolled the stone away. If they knew all, they would understand that their trial is purely imaginary. They are making it by their unbelief. It has no other existence than that which their distrust of God gives to it. While they are inquiring, “Where shall I find a friend? Who will come to the rescue?” the friend is already in the house, or, perhaps, will never be needed at all. While they are saying, “How can I get out of this dilemma?” God has already solved it, the riddle has been answered, and the enigma has been explained. They are troubled about an enemy whose head is already struck off—they are repining about a difficulty which has already been disentangled by the divine hand. We have known persons to be utterly surprised when God has delivered them. This proves that their faith was small. With calm trust there is quiet waiting. They might well have expected that He would do it. Among the surprises such persons have expressed has been this—that, after all, He should have delivered them by a means so simple. “How could it have happened,” they ask, “that I could not have thought of this? That I should actually have the blessing I crave hard by me, and yet not perceive it—that I should be thirsty, and crying out to God, in hope that perhaps He will open the heavens, and send a shower of rain, and all the while there is the well bubbling up with fresh water?” We have only to look to find it, and having found it, we have only to stoop down to take and drink for our refreshment.
Children of God—you who are troubled about providence, pray God to help you to trust when you cannot trace your God. Ask Him to give you, not what you wish for, but resignation to His wishes, ask to have His will casting its shadow over your soul, and let that shadow be your will from now on. O that we had learned, in whatever state we are, to be content, basing our confidence on this sure promise—He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is the best foundation for contentment that will ever be found. Oh, for grace to feel that if we cannot tell how God will deliver us, it is no business of ours to be able to tell, that if God knows, that is enough. God has not set us to be the providers. He does not intend us to hold the helm, and to pull the leading strings. ‘Tis ours to follow, not to lead; ‘tis ours to obey; not to prescribe for God. Your deliverance is near, O child of sorrow, or if it tarries for a while, it shall be but the richer blessing when it comes. Ships that are long upon the sea are, perhaps, the more heavily freighted. And when they come to the port, they will bring home a double cargo of blessing.
Those plants that come up quickly when they are sown in the ground last but for a little while; perhaps the blessing that is so long in springing out of the soil of your expectancy will last you all your life. Therefore, if the vision tarries, wait for it with patience. Though this is true of providence, I prefer rather to deal with the matter of spiritual blessings. It often happens that souls are disturbed in spiritual matters about things that ought not to disturb them. For instance, a large proportion of spiritual distresses are occasioned by forgetfulness or ignorance of the doctrines of the Bible.
We have frequently met with young persons who have made the astounding discovery that their hearts are desperately wicked. They were converted some time ago and made a profession of their faith. They did then really repent of sin, and they laid hold on Christ, but their experience was comparatively superficial. After a while the Holy Spirit was pleased to show them more of the hidden evils of their nature, and to permit the fountains of the great deep of their original depravity to be broken up—and they have been in perfect consternation, as though some strange thing had happened to them, and they have said, “Where is the comfort for this?” Now, if they had known at first that our nature is hopelessly evil, and that the scripture describes it as such, they would not have been surprised when they discovered that truth. And had they understood that the work of the Spirit is not to improve our nature, that He never tried to do it, and never intends to do it, but that He leaves the old nature to die, to see corruption, to be buried with Christ, and gives us a new nature which comes into conflict with the old nature, and causes an eternal war and strife within the Spirit—had they been acquainted with those truths when they found sin breaking loose in them, and felt the conflict within, they would have said, “This is just what I was told would happen. This is the experience of the children of God. This is what Paul speaks of in the 7th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and I am, after all, in the same way as the saints of God.” Forgetting this, they think there is no comfort for them in what seems to them to be the strangest of all human experiences, but which, indeed, is an experience common to the people of God. They are looking for the well of water when that very doctrine they have forgotten would furnish them with the refreshment they stand in need of.