This Far and No Further
This illness does not lead to death.
From our Lord’s words we learn that there is a limit to illness. Here is a “lead to” within which its ultimate end is restrained and beyond which it cannot go. Lazarus might pass through death, but death was not to be the conclusion of his illness. In all illness the Lord says to the waves of pain, “You may go so far, but no further.” His fixed purpose is not the destruction but the instruction of His people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth and regulates the heat.
1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestined, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of Him who numbers the hairs of our head.
2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the purpose designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction is not haphazard—the weight of every stroke of the rod is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds and stretching out the heavens commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients that compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much nor be relieved too late.
3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. “He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”1 A mother’s heart cries, “Spare my child”; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hardmouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of comfort that He who has established the boundary lines of our lives has also determined the boundaries of our tribulation.
1) Lamentations 3:33
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