Our trials can’t extinguish God’s love.
Octavius Winslow on the Heavenly Father’s abiding affection for those in mental anguish.
One of the side-effects of suffering, regardless the form it takes, is its ability to blind the sufferer to everything else around them. This is especially true of afflictions of the mind. Mental health trials are incredibly impairing, obscuring all else but an ever-present despair, which can soon balloon into a depressive reality which clouds out all the others. The good news, though, is that the message of grace, hope, and love in the crucified and resurrected Christ is good and true even for those who can’t seem to put their finger on it. Even if you’re enduring a season of spiritual or mental anguish, the merciful accomplishments of the cross cannot be undone. In a series of lectures entitled, The Ministry of Home, renowned orator and expositor Octavius Winslow brings home the enormous effects of God’s gospel in very pragmatic ways. And, in the following excerpt, he pens words which bespeak the inextinguishable love of the Father, who persists in that love even in trial. Even when all else feels blindingly distressing, verging on utterly hopeless, the faithful love of God can never be snuffed out. He writes:
Any trial — be it spiritual or temporal — which implicates the mental powers, entails a burden which nothing short of supernatural power can sustain. The Lord has seen fit to send this cloud-veil upon your mind, which for a time shades your Christian evidence, obscures your hope, weakens your hold upon the Saviour, depresses you to despondency and drives you almost to despair. And now you question the sincerity of your christian profession, you doubt the reality of your conversion, and are ready to ignore the hope of heaven which you once so happily cherished. All this, however, is the effect only of a mind morbidly, nervously, and for a season, temporally unhinged; but whose spiritual regeneration, whose hidden life, and whose eternal safety nothing can touch. Creation illustrates this idea. The sun is eclipsed, but not annihilated. The stars are veiled, but not extinguished. Dark clouds may drape Christ from the believer’s eye, but nothing extinguishes, or can for a moment lessen, His great love to His saints. Mental depression may obscure your Christian evidences — those stars of the soul which smile upon it so cheeringly — but the Divine seal of the Spirit nothing can ever efface. The child of the light may walk in darkness and be a child of the light still, — for once a child, ever a child!
Such is the burden which the Lord invites you to cast upon Him! No saint or angel can sympathize with it as Jesus can. He passed through mental distress infinitely darker and more crushing than yours. And will he suffer you to succumb to this temporary eclipse, or permit you to sink beneath these dark waters? Will He suffer the enemy always to take advantage of your physical infirmities, thus to work upon your mental and spiritual feelings, producing so much gloom, disquietude, and distress? O no! In the exercise of His Divine power He will cry, — “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.” The darkness and the light are both at His command, and both, in the experience of His saints, work together for good. If ever the sympathy of Him who in the terrible and unparalleled darkness of His should exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,” flowed out toward you, it is now. And think you that this temporary darkness of the mind through which you are passing, lessens the love, or shakes the faithfulness, or impairs the power of your covenant God and Father? Impossible! Listen to His marvelous language: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” Cheer up, then, thou sad and desponding one! Why art thou cast down? Hope in God, for this long, dreary night of weeping shall, ere long and forever, merge into a bright morning of joy. (349–50)
Those words are true and steadfast, even if they might seem “too good to be true” for those enduring trials and tribulations at this very moment. If that’s you, I get it. Suffering has a way of making even in the truest truths seem far-fetched. But I’ll just echo what Dr. Winslow affirms, that notwithstanding your present anguish or affliction, absolutely nothing can stop God from loving you. His is a love that’s inextinguishable and inseparable (Rom. 8:38–39). If you are his, you are his eternally. Forever. Period. “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all,” the Lord says; “and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). The faithful love of the Father will never subside. Even if you can’t see it, it is there for you because he is there for you, always (Heb. 13:5). May you find resilience and resolve not in your ability or might or fortitude or grit but only in the dogged love of God which never abates.
Grace and peace to you, my friend.
Octavius Winslow, The Ministry of Home: Brief Expository Lectures on Divine Truth (London: William Hunt & Co., 1867).