Chapter Five, John Ploughman’s Talks: Plain Advice for Plain People, 1869, Charles Spurgeon, English preacher and author, (1834-1892)
Patience is better than wisdom: an ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains. All men praise patience, but few enough can practice it. It is a medicine which is good for all diseases… When one’s flesh and bones are full of aches and pains, it is as natural for us to murmur as for a horse to shake his head when the flies tease him, or a wheel to rattle when a spoke is loose. But nature should not be the rule with Christians, or what is their religion worth? If a soldier fights no better than a plow-boy, then off with his uniform. We expect more fruit from an apple tree than from a thorn, and we have a right to do so. The disciples of a patient Savior should be patient themselves. ‘Grin and bear it’ is the old-fashioned advice, but ‘sing and bear it’ is a great deal better. After all, we get very few cuts of the whip, considering what bad cattle we are; and when we do smart a little, it is soon over. Pain past is pleasure, and experience comes by it…
Impatient people water their miseries and plow up their comforts; sorrows are visitors that come without invitation, but complaining minds send a wagon in which to bring their troubles home. Many people are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed; they chew the bitter pill which they would not even know to be bitter if they had the sense to swallow it whole in a cup of patience and water. They think every other man’s burden to be light and their own feathers to be heavy as lead… no one’s toes are so often trodden on as theirs, the snow falls thickest round their door, and the hail rattles hardest on their windows. Yet, if the truth were known, it is their fancy rather than their fate which makes things go so hard with them,… and they would be well off if they could but think so. A little sprig of the herb called ‘content,’ if put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor’s turtle soup…
To be poor is not always pleasant, but things can always be worse. Small shoes are apt to pinch, but not if you have a small foot; if we have little means it will be well to have little desires. Poverty is no shame, but being discontented with it is. In some things, the poor are better off than the rich. A poor man’s table is soon spread… Plenty makes one expect perfection, but hunger finds no fault with the cook. Hard work brings health, and an ounce of health is worth a sack of diamonds. It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. It is not the quantity of our goods, but the blessing of God on what we have that makes us truly rich… ‘Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith’ (Proverbs 15:16). A little wood will heat my little oven; why, then, should I murmur because all the woods are not mine?
When troubles come, it is of no use to fly in the face of God by hard thoughts of providence; that is kicking against the pricks and hurting your feet. The trees bow in the wind, and so must we. Every time the sheep bleats it loses a mouthful, and every time we complain we miss a blessing. Grumbling is a bad trade, and yields no profit, but patience has a golden hand. Our evils will soon be over. After rain comes clear shining; every winter turns to spring; every night breaks into morning… If one door should be shut, God will open another; if the peas do not yield well, the beans may; if one hen leaves her eggs, another will bring out all her brood. There’s a bright side to all things, and a good God everywhere. Somewhere or other in the worst flood of trouble there always is a dry spot for contentment to get its foot on…
Friends, let us be patient, and not then catch ‘the miserables.’ And let’s not give others the disease by wickedly finding fault with God. The best remedy for affliction is submitting to providence. What can’t be cured must be endured. If we cannot get bacon, let us bless God that there are still some cabbages in the garden. Whatever comes to us from God is worth having, even though it be a rod. We cannot, by nature, love trouble any more than a mouse can fall in love with a cat, and yet by grace Paul found glory in tribulations also. Losses and crosses are heavy to bear, but when our hearts are right with God, it is wonderful how easy the yoke becomes. We must go to glory by the way of the Cross; and as we were never promised that we should ride to heaven in a feather bed, we must not be disappointed when we see the road to be rough, as our fathers found it before us. All’s well that ends well; and, therefore, let us plow the heaviest soil with our eye on the harvest, and learn to sing at our labor while others murmur.
Proverbs 17:1 — Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Philippians 4:12 — I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want.
1 Timothy 6:6 — Godliness with contentment is great gain.
Dear Father, give us our daily bread, favorable seasons, and health. Preserve us from war, disease, and poverty. If your will is to test us a little by withholding your blessings for a while, then may your will be done. When our time and hour comes, deliver us from all evil. Until then, give us strength and patience. Amen.