We’d Choose the Sunny Side

sunflower field under blue sky during sunset

Samuel Rutherford would have been a great pen pal. The 17th century Scottish pastor did his best work, like John Bunyan, with pen in hand while imprisoned for the gospel. His opponents tried to silence him. What they ended up doing was extending his ministry reach centuries through his letters. Spurgeon gave them the highest compliment a man putting pen to paper could receive, saying of them they were “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”

In one of Rutherford’s letters, he writes to a friend, vulnerably communicating his resolve to accept the difficulties God had assigned him:

I am now brought to some measure of submission, and I resolve to wait till I see what my Lord Jesus will do with me. I dare not now…speak one word against the all-seeing and over-watching Providence of my Lord. I see Providence running not on broken wheels; but I, like a fool, carved a Providence for mine own ease, to die in my nest, and to sleep still, till my grey hairs, and to lie on the sunny side of the mountain….

[But] being removed far from my acquaintance, my lovers and my friends, I see God hath the world on His wheels, and casts it as a potter doth a vessel on the wheel. I dare not say that there is any inordinate or irregular motion in Providence. The Lord hath done it. I will not go to law with Christ, for I should gain nothing of that” (Letter to the Laird of Carleton, March 14, 1637).

If I may, the 2022 version of Rutherford would be something of the following:

In the midst of this great trial, I remind myself that God is the one behind it. I’m not sure what he is doing. But I wait patiently. If I was the one ordering my life, I would have myself on the sunny side of life. But that is not what God has for me. He is the potter. I am the clay. I will not charge God with injustice. There is no truth in that. I resolve myself to the fact He has done it.

If we were writing our story, the “sunny side of the mountain” is where much of it would be spent, frolicking in the field and smelling the flowers. But it is the inclement side where God does his best sanctifying work.

In the same letter, Rutherford memorably concludes, “I have learned some greater mortification, and not to mourn after or seek to suck the world’s dry breasts.” There’s a visual. And then this, “Faith is the better for the free air and the sharp winter-storm in its face. Grace withers without adversity.”

So, if you find yourself on the biting side of the mountain now, some reminders. God has you there. He is weening you from the world. And he is refining and molding you more into the image of his Son.

We may prefer to “lie on the sunny side of the mountain.” But God knows better. We need the stormy side.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
February 17, 2022

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