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SORROW UPON SORROW.
For indeed he was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”—Phil. ii. 27.
How happy are we, that our sorrows are measured out to us by our Father in heaven! He knows what we can bear, and how much is for our good, and at what point sorrow would overwhelm us; and, because He is our Father and loves us, He will not allow our sorrow to reach that point; He will not let us be overwhelmed, "swallowed up with overmuch sorrow."
Paul was in affliction at this time. a prisoner at Rome for the Gospel, and there he had many personal trials, and many causes of anxiety. Epaphroditus had been sent from Philippi to minister to his wants, and while at
Rome had fallen ill, so ill that "he was sick nigh unto death." It was a great affliction to him to be ill so far from home, and to know that his friends at Philippi knew of it, and were grieving for him; and it was a great trouble to Paul, too, for it was to help and comfort him that Epaphroditus had come, and now it seemed likely that his coming would cost him his life. This would indeed be "sorrow upon sorrow," another grief added to those he had before.
But it was not so to be. God put forth His hand, and stopped the disease, so that it did not come to death; Epaphroditus recovered. This was of God. Paul traced it entirely to His mercy. "God had mercy on him," had compassion on him; and not on him only, but on Paul also. In healing Epaphroditus, He also took a load of anxiety from Paul. He would not that he should have sorrow upon sorrow."
I have often been struck with this passage, but never so much as now; for now it comes home to me, as describing my own case. my weak and helpless state, lying on a sick
bed, much troubled by my own illness, and with many things pressing on my mind, I heard lately of another trouble at a distance; one very dear to me was ill, dangerously ill, and I could not go to him; I could do nothing, nothing but pray. And now, And now, to-day, what do I hear? Good news; the danger is past, and he is pronounced to be on the way to recovery. A letter brings the news, but I take it straight from God; the feeling of my heart is, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. God has had mercy on him; "and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name."
O my God and Father, I thank Thee for this Thy mercy to me; I thank Thee that Thou wouldest not that I should have "sorrow upon sorrow;" I thank Thee that Thou dost keep my sorrows in Thine own hand, and measurest them out to me as Thou seest best. "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. No sorrow will be too great or too long, for Thy hand will portion it out to me; if Thou
sendest sorrow, Thou wilt never send "sorrow upon sorrow," never too much sorrow, too many sorrows, one upon another, so as to overwhelm me.
I receive this mercy from Thee with a grateful heart; and I take it as a pledge of mercies yet to come. As Thou dealest with me now, so wilt Thou always; for Thou changest not. I will not be afraid. I never shall be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow; Thou wilt preserve me from it.
A surgeon's hand may slip, and cut too deep; but Thy hand is sure, and it is the hand of perfect love. A doctor may mix the medicine too strong, or give an overdose; but Thou wilt make no mistakes. O Thou great Physician, O Thou Healer of soul and of body, O Thou Who dost order all things in mercy and love, I commit myself and all dear to me, and all that concerns me and them, I commit all to Thee. Still do Thou with Thine own hand mix for me the wholesome medicine of Thy dealings, the sweet and the bitter; and still do Thou measure out to me both sorrow and joy in Thine unfailing
wisdom and love. I would not manage my joys and sorrows for myself; I would leave all to Thee. I might mistake; Thou canst never mistake. I might appoint for myself too much sunshine, and too little cloud; Thou wilt do all for the very best. To Thee, O Father, do I leave all, in grateful trust and love. And do Thou, by Thy Spirit, help me to bear what Thou layest on me, and teach me to see Thy mercy in what Thou doest, and always to trust Thee fully, for Jesus Christ my Saviour's sake. Far from adding sorrow to sorrow, Thou wilt take sorrow quite away, and give back health and strength, if and when it seem good to Thee. Thou dost not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.