Hannah Whithall Smith
The Lovely Will of God
Abstract: In this chapter taken from The Unselfishness of God, Hannah Whithall Smith explains why God's will is ALWAYS to be accepted as coming from His hand as a blessing. I don't agree with everything Smith says, but this chapter is a marvelous explanation on the blessed nature of God's will.
With my eyes thus opened to see the absolute goodness and unselﬁshness of God, I experienced a complete change of mind in regard to His will. In the past I had looked upon God’s will as being against me, now I had found out that it was for me. I had thought it was something to be afraid of, now I saw it was something to be embraced with joy. Formerly it had seemed to me that His will was the terrible instrument of His severity, and that I must do all I could to avert its terrors from swooping down upon my devoted head. Now I saw that it was the instrument of His love, and could only bring upon me all that was kindest and best. I realized that of course it was impossible for the will of unselﬁsh love to be anything but good and kind; and that since He has all knowledge and all wisdom as well, it must, in the very nature of things, be the best thing the universe could contain; and that no greater bliss could come to any of us, than to have that lovely unselﬁsh will perfectly done in us and for us.
To hide oneself in God’s will seemed to me sometimes like hiding in an impregnable fortress of love and care, where no harm could reach me; and sometimes it seemed like a bed of softest down, upon which I could lie down in a delicious and undisturbed rest. I never can put into words all that I began to see of the loveliness, the tenderness, the unselﬁshness, the inﬁnite goodness of the will of God! I fairly reveled in its sweetness. It was not that life was to have no more trials, for this wise and loving will might see that trials were a necessary gift of love. Neither was it essential that we should be able to see the Divine hand in every trial, since my common sense told me that He must still be there, for a God who is omnipresent could not help being present somewhere, even in a trial, and, being in it, He would of course be there to help and bless.
We are not wise enough to judge as to things, whether they are really in their essence joys or sorrows, but the Lord knows; and, because He loves us with an unselﬁsh and limitless love, He cannot fail to make the apparently hard, or cruel, or even wicked thing, work together for our best good. I say “cannot fail” simply because it is an unthinkable thing to suppose that such a God as ours could do otherwise.
It is no matter who starts our trial, whether man, or devil, or even our own foolish selves, if God permits it to reach us, He has by this permission made the trial His own, and will turn it for us into a chariot of love which will carry our souls to a place of blessing that we could not have reached in any other way. I saw that to the Christian who hides in the fortress of God’s will, there can be no “second causes,” for nothing can penetrate into that fortress unless the Divine Keeper of the fortress shall give it permission; and this permission, when given, means that He adopts it as being for our best good. Joseph was sold into Egypt by the wickedness of his brethren, but God made their wickedness the chariot that carried Joseph to his place of triumph over the Egyptians.
We may be certain therefore, more certain than we are that the sun will rise tomorrow, that God’s will is the most lovely thing the universe contains for us; and this, not because it always looks or seems the best, but because it cannot help being the best, since it is the will of inﬁnite unselﬁshness and of inﬁnite love.
I began to sing in my heart continually Faber’s lovely hymn:-
“I worship Thee, sweet Will of God,
And all Thy ways adore;
And every day I live it seems
I love Thee more and more.”
One verse in this hymn especially delighted me, because I so often found it practically true.
“I know not what it is to doubt.
My heart is always gay;
I run no risks, for, come what will,
Thou always hast Thy way.”
The ﬁrst time I realized it was as follows. It was three days after the birth of a darling little girl baby, for whom I had longed unspeakably, and who seemed to me the most ineffable treasure ever committed to mortal care. My nurse had been suddenly taken ill, and was obliged to leave, and we had been forced to get in a strange nurse whom I did not know, and whose looks I did not like. It was in the days when trained nurses were far less common than now, and I felt sure this one was unusually ignorant. I could hardly endure to have her touch my precious treasure, and yet I was not allowed to care for my darling myself.
It was wintertime, and there was a blazing wood ﬁre on the hearth in my sick room. On the ﬁrst evening of her arrival, the nurse, after settling me in for the night, sat down close to the ﬁre, taking my darling baby on her knees. Pretty soon she fell sound asleep, and I was awakened by her snores to see my darling lying perilously near the ﬁre on her slanting lap, while her head nodded over it in what seemed to me like a drunken slumber. I tried in vain to awaken her, but my voice was feeble, and made no impression, and I expected every minute to see my darling baby roll off her lap into the ﬁre. I could make no one hear, and I knew to get out of bed and go across the cold ﬂoor might seriously injure me. But my anxiety was so overpowering that I sat up in bed and was just trying to rise, when these word ﬂashed into my mind: “I run no risks, for come what will, Thou always hast Thy way.” And with it came a conviction that my baby could not run any risks for she was safe in God’s care. With a sense of inﬁnite peace my head fell back on my pillow, and my soul sank back on the sweet and lovely will of God. I saw that my darling was cradled in the arms of Almighty love, and I went to sleep without a care, and waked up to ﬁnd her being comfortably tucked in beside me for her needed meal.
It was lovely beyond words to have had such a practical insight into the beauty and the blessedness of the Will of God!
I have had many such insights since, and I have learned to know beyond the shadow of doubt, that the will of God is the most delicious and delightful thing in the universe. And this, not because things always go as I want them to go, neither because of any extra piety on my part, but simply because my common sense tells me that the will of unselﬁsh love could not be anything else but delightful. The reason heaven is heaven is because God’s will is perfectly done there, and earth would necessarily be like heaven, if only His will could be perfectly done here.
I had been used to hear Christians talk about consecration to the will of God as being such a high religious attainment that only a few extra devout souls could hope to reach it. But with my discovery of the inﬁnite unselﬁshness of God, I came to realize that consecration to Him was not an attainment but a priceless privilege; and I cannot but feel sure that if people only knew the loveliness of His will, not a devout few only, but every single soul in the universe would rush eagerly to choose it for every moment of their lives.
This seems to me to be not an extra degree of piety, but only an extra degree of good common sense. If I were lost in a trackless wilderness and could see no way out, and a skillful guide should offer to lead me into safety, would I consider it a hard thing to surrender myself into his hands, and to say “thy will be done” to his guidance? And can it be a hard thing to surrender myself to my Heavenly Guide, and to say “Thy will be done “ to His guidance? No, a thousand times, no! Consecration, or as I prefer to call it, surrender to God, is the greatest privilege offered to any soul in this life, and to say “Thy will be done” is one of the most delightful things human lips are allowed to utter.
An old writer has said that God’s will is not a load to carry, as so many think, but a pillow to rest on, and I found this to be true. My soul sank back upon it with a sweetness of contented rest that no words can describe. At other times, to say the words “Thy will be done” seemed to me like a magniﬁcent shout of victory, a sort of triumphant banner, ﬂung forth in the face of the whole universe, challenging it to combat. So vividly did I realize this, that it drew from me the only verse of poetry I was ever able to write, which, however poor as poetry, was the heartfelt expression of a very real and inspiring fact.
“Thy wonderful, grand Will, my God,
With triumph now I make it mine,
And Love shall cry a joyous Yes,
To every dear command of Thine.”
But time would fail me to tell of all that my soul discovered when I discovered the goodness and unselﬁshness of God. To say that He is enough is to give an absolute and incontrovertible answer to every doubt and every question that has arisen or can arise. It may not seem to our consciousness that any prayers are answered, or any promises fulﬁlled, but what of that? Behind every prayer and behind every promise, there is God,—the bare God, if I may so express it; and, if He exists at all, we know He must be enough.
How often I had repeated the lines:
“Thou, oh Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I ﬁnd.”
But never until now had I known what they meant. They had seemed to express a beautiful sentiment, but now I saw that they simply stated a fact. I had begun to discover that He actually was all I needed; and that, even inﬁnitely more than all, beyond what I could ask or think, was stored up for me in Him.
In a sense my search after God was ended, for I had discovered that He was enough! I have had many blessed and lovely things to ﬁnd out about Him since, but I had then reached Himself,—the real God, behind all the seemings, and my heart had entered into its rest. I had discovered that nothing else really matters,—neither creeds, nor ceremonies, nor doctrines, nor dogmas. GOD is; GOD is UNSELFISH; and GOD IS ENOUGH!