“It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.” Lamentations 3:27.
When religion puts on her silver slippers and walks out with her golden earrings, everybody is quite content to go with her, but the honest, hearty Christian will follow Jesus Christ’s truth when she goes barefoot through the mire and through the slough, and when her garments are bespattered by unholy hands. Herein is the trial of the true, and the unmasking of the deceitful. It would not be good for us to be kept from persecution, slander, and trial; it is good for a man that he bears this yoke in his youth. A Christian is a hardy plant. Many years ago a pine tree was brought to England. The gentleman who brought it, put it in his hot-house, but it did not develop in a healthy manner. It was a spindly thing, and therefore the gardener, feeling that he could not make anything of it, took it out and threw it on the dunghill. There it grew into a splendid tree, for it had found a temperature suitable to its nature. The tree was meant to grow near the snow; it loves cold winds and rough weather, and they had been sweating it to death in a hothouse. So it is with true Christianity. It seldom flourishes as well in the midst of ease and luxury as it does in great tribulation! Christians are often all the stronger and better because they happen to be cast where they have no Christian companions, or kindly encouragements. As liberty usually favors the hardy mountaineers whose rugged hills have made them brave and hardy, so does abounding grace, as a rule, visit those who endure the great fight of affliction, and through much tribulation inherit the kingdom.
Once more, I believe it is good for young Christians to experience much soul-trouble. My early days of thoughtfulness were days of bitterness. Before I found a Savior I was plowed with the great subsoil plow of terrible convictions. Month after month I sought but found no hope. I learned the plague of my heart, the desperate evil of my nature, and at this moment I have reason to thank God for that long wintry season. I am sure it was good for my soul. As a general rule there is a period of darkness somewhere or other in the Christian life—if you do not have it at first it is probable you will not endure it again; but if you do not have it at first it is just as likely you will pass through the cloud at some other time. I meet with those who have tried the high-level railroad, and are greatly discouraged because the train does not run as smoothly as they expected. They have been living a whole fortnight—well, not quite without sin—but very near it. They have triumphed and conquered altogether, and gone up in a balloon for a fortnight. Of course they have to come down again—and some come with an awful fall! The best of them come, and say, “Dear pastor, I am afraid I am not a child of God. I feel so wretched, and yet I felt so happy and holy. I have said, “Yes, you see you went up, and so you had to come down. If you had kept down you would not have had to come down.” That going up in a balloon to the stars frightens me about some young people; I wish they would continue humbly to feel that they are nothing and nobody, and that Christ is everything. It is much better on the whole that a man should be timid and trembling than that he should early in life become very confident. “Blessed is the man that fears always” is a Scriptural text—not the slavish fear, nor yet a fear that doubts God, but still a fear. There is a difference between doubting God and doubting yourself; you may have as much as you like of the last till you even get to self-despair, but there is no reason whatever why you should doubt the Lord! “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth,” to be made to feel the weight of sin, and the chastening hand of God; and to be left to cry out in the dark and say, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him that I might come even to His seat.” These ordeals are of essential service to the newborn Believer, and prepare him alike for the joys and the sorrows of his spiritual life.
C H Spurgeon