Storms of Providence

In a sermon on taking refuge in Christ, Robert Murray M’Cheyne devotes a significant portion of his sermon to the subject of what he calls ‘storms of providence’ (natural disasters, tragedies, health issues, suffering, etc.). Surely storms like these would cause one to despair if there were no providential hand behind them, guiding and directing them. I live near numerous universities and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the topic of evil and suffering addressed so often. Maybe it is not the easiest answer to swallow, but like many difficult doctrines of God’s word it is quite clear and easy to understand. Not many people wondering about the problem of joy and prosperity. It seems to all come down to one’s view of God and man and what he thinks he deserves.

Back to M’Cheyne, following in the godly heritage of Job and Joseph he has no problem seeing God’s sovereign hand of providence behind suffering and affliction. Job’s response was that the Lord had given and taken away, it was the Lord’s hand that had afflicted him. Joseph’s response was that it was the Lord who had sent him to Egypt as a slave. And M’Cheyne himself would be visited by numerous storms of providence from the Lord’s hand in regards to his health, ultimately being taken home at the tender age of 29. M’Cheyne’s counsel and plea with his hearers was that they seek refuge in the only sufficient shelter, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the common aspects of these storms of providence is that they are all and always temporary. It is ‘one dark, dark cloud, and eternal sunshine beyond; one wild wave of vengeance, and an unbounded ocean of glory.’ It is Christ alone who can shelter us from the storm. A poem by M’Cheyne from 1837 expresses this sentiment of hope in Christ and expresses his dying hope. M’Cheyne writes:

Do you ask me for pleasure?
Then lean on His breast,
For there the sin-laden
And weary find rest.
In the valley of death
You will triumphantly cry-
‘If this be called dying,
Tis pleasant to die!’

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