When a blade of wheat springs up, and all is promising well, sometimes the wheat-fly pierces it, and lays its eggs within. Then the grubs come out and devour it all. Now we might suppose that with its only stem thus nipped in the bud the wheat would be destroyed. But it is not so. The seed corn possesses an inherent power of recovery and what at first seems fatal to its fruitfulness proves to be for its greatest good. The plant, by the death of its first shoot, has time for its new lateral feeders to become more firmly established in the soil; and, in place of the one ear that was destroyed, from its stronger root, now puts forth many.
It is often thus in the life of the Christian. All his plans and purposes are suddenly undermined. God in mercy sends a worm, as He did to Jonah's gourd; then it withers away in a night, and all seems lost. But it is not so. He who has "the root of the matter" in his heart, finds that root of faith and love now rendered stronger and firmer by the painful process.
Moses was far more fit for his mighty work after forty troubled years of disappointment and humiliation, spent as a humble shepherd in the lonely deserts of Midian, than upon the morning of that day when he first assayed his people's deliverance with all the prestige of Egypt's royalty. David, hunted as a partridge in the mountains and reduced almost to despair was nearer the throne of honour than when he formerly dwelt at ease, the flattered favourite of Israel's king.
Peter indeed thought himself well able to defend his Master on that evening when, moved by love, zeal, and courage, he uttered the eager resolve, "Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended." But the night of failure, shame, and anguish that followed his self-confident cry, and the after-days of darkness, left him a wiser, stronger, braver man. He, who had once quailed in the presence of a maidservant, bore a fearless testimony to his Saviour before that very court which had crucified Jesus and was openly bent on the destruction of His followers.
The lives of most of God's servants have been alike trying and eventful. The divine rule of promotion is, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." The reason for this is given by the Apostle Paul and it serves to solve much of the great mystery of pain. "Tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby." In God's good time the blighted purpose and disappointed life prove a tenfold increase of true Christian fruitfulness, which could not have been otherwise attained