It will be helpful to study for a few minutes the principle of tenderness as an attribute in the nature of God. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." It is the father who sees his little child in deep pain that knows what pity is. It is that feeling which makes the father desirous of bearing all the pain. It was the pity or compassion of God for the lost in sin that caused him to give his only Son to suffer and die for them. When God saw the wretchedness of men, he had such a feeling in his heart that he could find relief in no way but in providing the only means of their rescue. Oh, think of this! The child of God never has a pain or a sorrow but that God has a feeling of pity. The knowledge that some one has pity for us and fellowships our suffering goes far toward alleviating our pains. Recently while I was in deep soul-suffering, I received a letter containing these words: "We suffer in spirit with you." This was a great relief. If in a time of trial we could know how God was suffering with us, it would be a great consolation.
Again, we read, "As one whom his mother comforteth so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Who is it that knows not the comfort of a mother? When we hear of a young man's meeting with a sad accident away from home, we have great pity; but when we learn of his mother's having gone to him, we feel better. Ah, the comfort of a mother is surpassed only by the comfort of Jesus. "If Mother were only here!" says the troubled daughter. Nothing else so fittingly represents the nature of the comfort that God gives as the comfort of a mother. O child of God, you will never have a sorrow nor a pain but that the tenderness of God will cause him to come and comfort you. Let us lift up our hearts and praise him for his mercy and comforting love. A mother may forget to comfort her child, but God will never forget.
The tenderness of God is revealed in these touching words: "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings." The imagery is homely, but oh! so impressively sublime. I can not do better than to use here the words of another. "Was ever imagery so homely invested with such grace and such sublimity as this at our Lord's touch? And yet how exquisite the figure itself of protection, rest, warmth, and all manner of conscious well-being in those poor, defenseless, dependent, little creatures, as they creep under and feel themselves overshadowed by the capacious and kindly wing of the mother bird. If wandering beyond hearing of her peculiar call, they are overtaken by a storm or attacked by an enemy, what can they do but in the one case droop and die, and in the other submit to be torn to pieces? But if they can reach in time their place of safety under the mother's wing, in vain will any enemy try to drag them thence. For rising into strength, kindling into fury, and forgetting herself entirely in her young, she will let the last drop of her blood be shed out and perish in defense of her precious charge, rather than yield them to an enemy's talons. How significant all this of what Jesus is and does for his helpless child!" Under his great wing he tenderly, lovingly gathers his little ones and there they are secure. He is a safe retreat.
From the song of Moses we learn still more of God's tender care. "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." This metaphor beautifully expresses the care and the tenderness of God toward his children. The eagle is noted for her great attachment to her young. Her care is extraordinary. When the little eaglets have attained age and strength to leave the nest and learn to fly, the mother bird bears them up, when weary, on the top of her wing.
These all express to our hearts the wonderful tenderness of God to his children. But there is nothing in the material world that forms a full and perfect analogy for the things in the spiritual world. These are too high.
If we do not have the tenderness of God in our hearts, our life comes short of being a full and true life. The Bible tells us to "be kind one to another, tender-hearted." There is no true holiness of life without tenderness. As we get deeper into God, we become more tender of heart.
There are some things that will prevent this tender-heartedness. Just a little feeling of resentment, a little desire for retaliation, or a secret wish for something to befall those who have done us an injury will callous the heart and harden the affections. When we have been slighted by some one or misjudged, oh, how Satan strives to get us to thinking much about this, and to work a "hurt" feeling into our heart. Even to think about the meanness of others will bring a harshness and coldness into the inner life. That which we condemn in others will, if we think and talk much about it, creep into our own hearts.
You say you are saved and sanctified. Thank God for such a blessed experience; but you have much yet to gain. You have not yet attained to the full depth of anything. There is yet a tenderness of heart you can reach only through many and varied experiences. There is tenderness of voice, tenderness of manner, tenderness of feeling, tenderness of thought, you will attain to only through much and deep communion with God. It is those intimate and familiar talks with Jesus that fashion us into his glorious image. A brother minister related to me a few mornings ago his experience of the night before. He lay awake, he said, for a long time and had a sweet talk with the Lord. So intimate was the communion that, turning over to go to sleep, he said, half unthinkingly, "Good night," as if parting from a dear friend. Such close union with Jesus gives us clearer visions of his character and stamps his beauty upon our souls.
Have you not seen those who are harsh, rough, and unfeeling in their speech and manner. No one wants to be like them. We are glad to get away from them. They measure a person by their standard, and if he is not what they think he should be, they speak about him in an unloving and unfeeling manner. We feel that something coarse and flinty needs to be taken out of their nature. We do not say they are not sanctified, but they are too bitter and severe. They need to be bathed in the love of God; they need to be immersed in the sea of his gentleness. We have seen, on the other hand, those who were so feeling, so quiet, tender, and gentle, that their presence was like the breath of a sweet spring morning. There was a tenderness in their eye, a softness in their voice, a pathos in their feeling, that cast over your soul a sense of delight.
There is much for us to gain. But we can gain it only at the end of the bayonet. If we would win, we must fight. There is no victory without battle. One brother, after gaining a decisive victory, said, "The devil is dead." He was so victorious and free that he thought the devil must be dead. In a short time, however, the brother learned his mistake. The prince of the power of the air still lives, and we still have our humanity. If we are not prayerful and watchful, we become disposed to contend for our way; to feel a little bitter if we are trampled upon. Jesus tells us to "resist not evil." We are not only to not resist evil outwardly, but to have no resisting feeling in our hearts. If we would have holiness of life, we must have tenderness of spirit. If you desire your life to be like the oasis in the desert, where the weary traveler is refreshed, be tender of heart, be compassionate, bear every trial with patience, endure all suffering without a murmur, commune much with God, and he will bring you out into that tenderness of soul that will make your life, everywhere you go, like the atmosphere of heaven.