Poems of Martha Snell Nicholson


The Brightening Path of Pain

by Martha Snell Nicholson
[lightly edited]

Everyone needs to work in order to remain normal, and it is such a comfort that none of us are too ill to know the joy of accomplishment, the opportunity to win crowns, sheaves to lay at the feet of the Lord of the harvest. Years ago I was reading the Bible to a little boy of nine who had recently given his heart to Christ. He had had no Christian upbringing and thus the truth of the Word of God was new to him. I found that he caught the marvel of it in a way that shamed me at times. I was explaining about the five kinds of rewards, and read to him the verse, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness . . .” [2 Tim. 4:8]

His eyes grew bigger and bigger, and at last he fairly gasped, “Oh, are there going to be crowns too? I should think it would be enough just to save our souls!”

There is so much we who are the Lord’s can do. I have long had the habit of praying for those whose stories of sin and sorrow are spread all over the pages of our newspapers, even for the murderers awaiting execution. And, of course, I pray for all Christian work and workers everywhere.

Then there is that very quiet work of grace. All summer I have thrilled to a miracle in our back yard. We had a sapling fig tree, only knee high. We poured on the water, and it drank it in and spread its little branches to catch the sunshine. I took such pride in it and would stroke its straight strong trunk and limbs so unlike my twisted body. It grew so quietly, never a sound nor a stir, yet now it is six feet tall, and this fall gave us largess of gifts, great fat figs bursting with their own sweetness. So we, on quiet beds of pain, may drink in His Word, and open our hearts to His Holy Spirit until we too bear fruit.

It is such a blessing to know that God makes no mistakes, that this illness is not something that just happened to me. “Shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He hath no understanding?” [Is. 29:16]  No, the enduring is mine, to be sure, but the responsibility for it is entirely His, and what a difference that makes! Nothing can even touch the child of God without His permissive will. It is not necessary for me to know the reasons, for they are safe with our dear Lord, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” [Col. 2:2-3]

I am no wise theologian, but I have thought that surely God will be glad when this is all over and He will no longer have to watch His children suffer, when all tears will be wiped from our eyes, and a song put upon our lips. Until then cannot we “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Tim. 2:3] and spare Him the sound of our wailing?


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In Chronic Illness

background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source
Published May 2022.