Make us glad according to the days wherein you have afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
Our prayer should be for —
I. PROPORTIONATE GLADNESS; that our God who has filled one scale with grief would fill the other scale with grace till they balance each other. I have been told on the Scotch lakes that the depth of the lake is almost always the same as the height of the surrounding hills; and I think I have heard that the same is true of the great ocean; so that the greatest depth is probably the same as the greatest height. Doubtless, the law of equilibrium is manifest in a thousand ways. Take an instance in the adjustment of days and nights. A long night reigns over the north of Norway; in these wintry months they do not even see the sun; but mark and admire their summer; then the day banishes the night altogether, and you may read your Bible by the light of the midnight sun. Long wintry nights find compensation in a perpetual summer day. There is a balance about the conditions of the peoples of differing lands: each country has its drawbacks and its advantages. I believe it is so with the life of God's people: therein also the Lord maintains a balance. "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." The good Lord measures out the dark and the light in due proportions, and the result is life sad enough to be safe, and glad enough to be desirable. A step further, and we have it thus, sorrow often prepares for joy. It might not be safe that you should enjoy worldly prosperity at the outset of life. Your adversities in business are meant to teach you the worthlessness of earthly things, so that when you have them you may not be tempted to make idols of them. In the spiritual life God does not run us up with glittering virtues all of a sudden; but deep prostration of spirit and thorough humiliation prepare the under-courses; and then, afterwards, stone upon stone, as with rows of jewels, we are built up to be a palace for the indwelling of God. Sorrow furnishes the house for joy. Once again, let me say to you, there is such a connection between sorrow and joy that no saint ever has a sorrow but what it has a joy wrapped up in it. It is a rough oyster, but a pearl lies within those shells if you will but look for it. Once more: the day will come when all the sorrows of God's sending will be looked upon as joys. Perhaps in heaven, among all the things which have happened to us that will excite our wonder and delight, our furnace experience, and the hammer and the file will take the lead. Sorrow will contribute rich stanzas to our everlasting psalm.
II. PECULIAR GLADNESS.
1. Gladness at the sight of God's work. When we are in deep tribulation it is a sweet quietus to survey the handiwork of our Father in Heaven. His work in providence, also, is often a consolation to us. Let us but see what God has done for His people and for ourselves in years past, and we are cheered. Trouble itself, when we see it to be God's work, has lost its terror. A certain Persian nobleman found himself surrounded by soldiers, who sought to take him prisoner; he drew his sword and fought right valiantly, and might have escaped had not one of the company said, "The king has sent us to convey you to himself." He sheathed his sword at once. Yes, we can contend against what we call a misfortune; but when we learn that the Lord hath done it, our contest is ended, for we joy and rejoice in what the Lord doeth; or, if we cannot get the length of rejoicing in it, we acquiesce in His will.
2. Gladness at the revelation of God to our children. No better comfort can be found for bereaved mothers than to see their sons and daughters converted.
3. Gladness at beauty bestowed. Sorrow mars the countenance and clothes the body with sackcloth; but if the Lord will come to us and adorn us with His beauty, then the stains of mourning will speedily disappear.
4. Gladness at our own work being established. To build up the Church and win souls for Jesus is first of all God's work, and then our work. Why should a Christian work to win souls? Answer: because God works in him to win souls. God works to set us working: our work is the result of His work.
(1) The text prays for our work that it may succeed: "Establish Thou the work of our hands." Oh, if God will but prosper us in our work for Him, how happy we shall be! It is web weather just now, the damp of sorrow is on all things, and so the seed sown in tears is speedily reaped in joy. Is not this something to comfort us? Let us pray God to send us more of it, that by conversions our work may prosper.
(2) Then we pray that our work may be lasting, — that is the chief point.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.