Last Saturday, the students at Ellerslie were doing a fundraiser where they raise funds for orphans by serving widows for the day. It is a great opportunity, and a creative fundraiser idea, and now I’ll shamelessly ask you to consider donating to the project here at Both Hands. It is a great organization that helps families come up with the money to adopt. However, through a series of seeming flukes, while one group was serving a widow in Estes Park, she invited us to go meet and spend time with another widow. To my wonder, and excitement I ended up have the privilege of meeting with this “other widow.” She just happened to be Major Ian Thomas’ widow.
Now, if you are unaware of who “The Major” is, he was what I like to call a “Legend of Yesteryear.” His preaching was filled with a growl for God’s glory, and he was a man ablaze with a passion to see that the lives of those he preached to understood that the power and triumph in the Christian’s life is not found in striving but in a resurrected and indwelling Christ. If you would like to get a sampling of the Major’s ministry, this sermon, “A Grain of Wheat,” and this book, The Indwelling life of Christ would be a great place to begin.
All that to say, my soul had a sacred hush about it as I entered this little apartment in which Mrs. Thomas now spends her final days. It was quaint, grandmotherly, and humble. Yet, there in her rocking chair, this shining saint sat joyful to once more impart a passion for Jesus to the next generation. She humbly declared that she merely “basked in the light” of her husband’s glory; for, he was the man of thunder, boldness and had left the world altered by the Gospel he preached. However, she, without the notoriety, prestige or platform was content to simply serve her husband in life, and in his death continue to serve him by proclaiming the Gospel he so cherished, loved, and championed.
I was brought to tears. I look at my generation and I feel the acute sense that we are missing the strong and manly voice of Gospel thunder which the Major (and others like him) boomed forth. I feel the burden and the weight of the baton being handed off to myself and my generation, and feeling so feeble in comparison! As M’Cheyne said of Edwards, so I say of the Major (and M’Cheyne and Edwards), “How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me.”
We need men who will thunder for truth and be unbendingly submitted to the Word of God. We need women who will faithfully lay down their lives to see the Gospel advanced through their own lives and through the life, ministry and leadership of their husbands. Thus, may we with Paul declare, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).” In essence, while I am alive, may Jesus be declared, preached, trumpeted, and shouted with my lip and my life. And then, when I pass from this world to the eternal, though I certainly will gain, may the legacy and testimony of my life be rich gain for the advance of the Gospel!
While we were talking and gleaning the wisdom that Mrs. Thomas was pouring forth, she shared something that deeply impressed my soul. At one point, in the midst of her stories, she paused and reflected, with wizened insight and said, “You know, now that I am at the end of my life, I can now look at all these stories and say, ‘Ah, Lord, I see now what You were doing all along.’ You see, life is like a jigsaw puzzle; but it is a puzzle without the picture and without the straight edge of the border to help us. We are always wanting God to give us the full picture of our life. But instead, we must trust that He is putting the pieces of the puzzle in the proper place. Now that I look back at my life I can now see why the Lord put that piece of the puzzle in that spot when He did. It was all in His infinite Wisdom!”
I then, with reverent voice, said, “It is like in that old hymn, ‘God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.” She lit up with surprise that a young whipper-snapper like me would know about hymns. How wonderful it was to sit at the feet of the hoary head of wisdom. Indeed, God knows the pieces of our life, and so often we may not know the way we are to go, but through it all, how sweet to know the Guide. Can you learn to trust Jesus with the puzzle of your life? His providence is such that He may even take you through the valley of death’s darkest shadow; however, behind that shadow is a bright a cheering smile of love, mercy, goodness and glory. He often chastises us, tries us, and leads us through difficulty; oh may we learn to kiss the rod of discipline as a precious gift of making us more like Christ and weaning us of earthly joys that we might find our sole pleasure in Him alone!
William Cowper’s hymn truly does point the way to finding joy and delight even in the midst of life’s stormy way! Oh, to walk with the saintly wisdom of Thomas’ 92-year-old widow: God is faithful to place the puzzle pieces precisely when and where they need to be. May we learn to trust Him with life’s puzzle of providence!
God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, And rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break, With blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain.
God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.