A GODLY JEALOUSY

I must have first read this piece at least fifty years ago though I know I’ve read it dozens of times since then. I don’t know that I’ve ever read it without a sense of shame at my failures in life. But I also know that reading it made me want to be a better man and reading it again today brought the same feelings and the same resolve.
It reminds me of men and women I knew personally when I was a boy. My family was poor–but then, all the families around us were poor—and I saw every day the kind of thing the writer talks about here. Back then I didn’t see it as heroism—it was life and you had to muddle your way through it. Even as I write this, names and faces come quickly to me, and easily. Mrs. Montgomery, Mary Crosset, Bobby Tomelty, Billy Nut, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Mc Erlean.
Years later I began to see the glory of their endurance and gallantry and I began to be jealous that I hadn’t what they had. I feel that right now. I’m happy for them and I’m trying not to mope at what I think I’ve never had. God will help me (as He has–He must have always helped me or I wouldn’t still be here, resolving…). George Adam Smith, Scots theologian (died in 1942) wrote what follows.
“Temptation, too, is a bit of the destiny of man. Suddenly though the assault surge upon him, it is no accident. Solitary as he feels in his battle, he does not in fact fight alone. He is one of an innumerable army of warriors, and if for a little he will give play to his imagination, what an army it will appear. On that field no living soul is idle, or left to itself without orders, without a trust, without a pledge. Every one with his own temptation; every human figure interesting, pathetic and stimulating to look on. Some may be blind, some in panic, some forlorn.
But there are a nobler multitude. If God be hidden, they cling the more tightly to His bare word; if they sometimes feel He has left them alone, they cherish with the more passion—and by just the measure of the distance to which He seems removed—the conviction that He has trusted them to be alone.
Think of the dim multitudes who are fighting temptations more grinding and persistent with far feebler strength than yours. Think, for such are still left in the world, of those who prefer a life of exhausting poverty to daily opportunities of compromising with honesty or selling their purity for gold. Individualize them, my brothers, individualize them; and you will find a conscience and a rally in every one of them.
Think of the men, and they can be found in every city, who when the law had freed them from all obligation to pay their creditors, have as fortune came back to them used its favors to pay every one of their former debts, though it means a life of hard labor instead of one of comfort and ease.
Think of the women, you will find them, too, in every great city, who are battling for themselves and their children on a few shillings a week against temptations that say, “Yield to us and we can give you food and clothing enough for them and you.” You’ll find them holding out!
What starved garrison, that marched from its inviolate fortress with all the honors of war and to the admiration of its foes, ever deserved half the glory or for our hearts was charged with half the inspiration, which thousands of tempted souls deserve and can afford to us, who hold the fortresses of their lonely lives against the devils of dishonesty and greed and lust. And yet you have strong men whining to-day all the world over— and some of them parading their whines in literature—that the temptations of their strength are too great for them; and slipping off into the pleasant mire with the cry, I cannot help it. What forgetfulness! What cowardice!”
(Holy Father, lover of this entire human family of yours. Come to our aid and generate within us the gallantry you’ve generated in others—so many who did not even know your name—and deepen our faith and gratitude even by the struggle and when we don’t experience your presence in tangible ways enable us that we can cling to your bare word. This prayer in the gallant Lord Jesus who so loved strugglers.)

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