Saturday, November 26, 2011

Whenever I see Harriet Beecher Stowe is the author of a piece, I read it eagerly. Her book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ was a mighty tool to help bring an end to slavery and her insights are so sharp, my admiration wells up whenever I read her words.

Now this piece on sorrow is penned when the horrors of slavery and the sorrow it brought, and still brings, caused her world to spin. She entered that world of sorrow and did battle there. Better for all the world she was in that “house of mourning”, and though principalities and powers had the world in the throes of evil, and she suffered much in battling those powers, she was used mightily by the “Infinite Sovereign”.

The battle rages on today with child trafficking, extreme poverty, substance abuse and oppression of every kind.

The good soldier called for these battle fields will doubtless find sorrow an important ingredient for preparation.


Sorrow is the great birth-agony of immortal powers, sorrow is the great searcher and revealer of hearts, the great test of truth; for Plato has wisely said, sorrow will not endure sophisms, -- all shams and unrealities melt in the fire of that awful furnace.

Sorrow reveals forces in ourselves we never dreamed of. * * * Behind every scale in music, the gayest and cheeriest, the grandest, the most triumphant, lies its dark relative minor; the notes are the same, but the change of a semitone changes all to gloom; -- all our gayest hours are tunes that have a modulation into these dreary keys ever possible; at any moment the key-note may be struck.

And yet sorrow is godlike, sorrow is grand and great, sorrow is wise and far-seeing. Our own instinctive valuations, woven into the laws of nature, show us that it is with no slavish dread, no cowardly shrinking we should approach her divine mysteries. What are the natures that cannot suffer? Who values them?

From the fat oyster, over which the silver tide rises and falls without one pulse upon its fleshy ear, to the hero who stands with quivering nerve parting with wife and child and home for country and God, all the way up is an ascending scale, marked by an increasing power to suffer; and when we look to the head of all being, up through principalities and powers and princedoms, with dazzling orders and celestial blazonry, to behold by what emblem the Infinite Sovereign chooses to reveal Himself, we behold in the midst of the throne, “a lamb as it had been slain.” Sorrow is divine. Sorrow is reigning on all the thrones of the universe, and the crown of all crowns has been one of thorns. There have been many books that treat of the mystery of sorrow, but only one that bids us glory in tribulation, and count it all joy when we fall into diverse afflictions, that so we may be associated with that great fellowship of suffering of which the Incarnate God is the head, and through which He is carrying a redemptive conflict to a glorious victory over evil. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. Even in the very making up of our physical nature, God puts suggestions of such a result.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ There are victorious powers in our nature which are all the while working for us in our deepest pain. It is said that, after the sufferings of the rack, there ensues a period in which the simple repose from torture produces a beatific trance; it is the reaction of Nature, asserting the benignant intentions of her Creator. So, after great mental conflicts and agonies must come a reaction, and the Divine Spirit, co-working with our spirit, seizes the favorable moment, and interpenetrating natural laws with a celestial vitality, carries up the soul to joys beyond the ordinary possibilities of mortality. * * * * It is said that gardeners, sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer flowering, deprive it, for a season, of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming to go down patiently to death. But when every leaf is dropped, and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tender foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers.

So, often in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop, before a new and divine bloom visits the soul.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, photo by Bader Al Obaidly

Still water - clear skies

He that attends to his interior self, --
That has a heart, and keeps it, --- has a mind
That hungers, and supplies it, -- and who seeks
A social, not dissipated life, --
Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent task,
A life all turbulence and noise may seem,
To him that leads it, wise and to be praised;
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies.

William Cowper, photo by Sally Mann