Psalm 84: 11 “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
George Mueller is one of the men from church history who has most inspired me to trust God. He is famous for his work with orphans and his dependence upon the Lord in prayer. His autobiography is filled with 100s of pages of prayers and the record of God’s faithful answers (he claims over 50,000 answers to prayer). John Piper’s biographical sketch of Mueller is a deeply edifying study if you’d like an introduction to his life.
Undergirding Mueller’s life of faith was a deep trust in the goodness and sovereignty of His God. Mueller trusted God to provide in way that many would call foolish, and even presumptive. But Mueller was never left lacking in what he needed. God was good to him.
But God’s goodness to Mueller did not excuse him from heart wrenching trials. He suffered the loss of three children, endured seasons of unrelenting physical pain, buried his father without seeing him come to know Christ, and outlived two wives whom he loved very much.
As most of us know all to well, few things reveal what we really believe about God like pain. Somehow pain strips us down to who we really are. When sickness or strife or betrayal or death of loved ones come, normal comforts seem to lose their luster. Comfy couches and bursting bank accounts would all be traded in for a moment of relief. In those dark hours all we are left with is God Almighty.
And it is there, standing alone with God in that dark place, that we are forced to wrestle with what we really believe about Him. If God were really good and sovereign, as Mueller believed He was, then why would He bring such suffering into my life?
God’s goodness isn’t often questioned in days of ease. His benevolence is easily seen when the sun is shining and flowers are in bloom. But when the winter of woe comes, evidences of God’s goodness are more difficult to find. The dark clouds turn everything to gray. Cold winds of affliction bite and sting us. Our souls become numb in ways that tempt us to give up and withdraw from everyone, including God.
None of us are exempt from suffering. It is part of the required course in this life. One particular story, which John Piper mentions in his book Pleasures of God has long stayed with me as a buoy for my faith.
After 39 years of marriage, Mueller’s first wife Mary contracted rheumatic fever, which was a known mortal illness. During the last minutes of her life he read to her Psalm 84:11 “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Mueller said of the last phrase, “‘no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly’—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me.”
Mary died shortly after on February 6, 1870.
Within a few hours after her death, Mueller went to an evening prayer meeting in Salem Chapel where he lifted up prayer and praise to His God. One in attendance recorded these words, which forever marked him, “Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I ask you to join with me in hearty praise and thanksgiving to my precious Lord for His loving kindness in having taken my darling, beloved wife out of the pain and suffering which she has endured, into His own presence; and as I rejoice in everything that is for her happiness, so I now rejoice as I realize how far happier she is, in beholding her Lord whom she loved so well, than in any joy she has known or could know here. I ask you also to pray that the Lord will so enable me to have fellowship in her joy that my bereaved heart may be occupied with her blessedness instead of my unspeakable loss.”
On February 11th, some twelve hundred orphans and thousands of grieving friends joined Mr. Mueller in his grieving at her burial.
After recovering from a bout of sickness, Mueller preached her funeral sermon. His text was Psalm 119:68 which says “You are good, and do good.” As he preached, he laid out three simple, yet stirring points:
- The Lord was good, and did good, in giving her to me.
- The Lord was good, and did good, in so long leaving her to me.
- The Lord was good, and did good, in taking her from me.
Reflecting later on her passing Mueller said, “My heart was at rest and my heart was satisfied with God. And all this springs…from taking God at His Word, believing what He says.”
Do you believe that God is good and does good—to you?
There is no more important question for us to answer in this life. And there is no more certain truth to rest in during the dark days that are coming; or are here as you read this.
There is no better way to settle this matter in your heart than to consider how God has loved us in His Son Jesus. Romans 8:32 rightly says “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Jesus is the proof that God is good and does good. In Christ, God displayed His goodness by sending His Son to die for our sins and raising Him up from the grave. God loved us when we were unlovable in the most wonderful of ways.
God did not spare His own Son who did Him no wrong so that He could spare us, who did Him no right. God was against Jesus so that He could be for us forever. He was forsaken so we could be forgiven. If God gave us Jesus, what good would He withhold?
Mueller knew that through the sorrow of grieving loss, there was a sovereign and good hand that was guiding everything—even the pain. May God give us grace to believe the same.