Unconscious Girding

by George H. Morrison

I girded thee, though thou hast not known me" (Isa. 45:5b).

It was to Cyrus, king of Persia, that these words were addressed. They revealed to him the secret of his life. Cyrus had conquered Babylon, and granted liberty to captive Israel. From what motives of policy he acted it is perhaps impossible to say. But here the curtain is lifted for a moment, and back of all the conscious aims of Cyrus we see the conqueror in the hand of God.

Cyrus was a pagan. He bowed down to the ancient gods of Persia. He had never known Jehovah's name nor worshiped towards His holy Temple. Yet all the time, right through his youth and manhood and in his handling of victorious armies, God had been girding him, although he never knew it.

So we are taught that in every separate life, back of our striving there is a plan of God. We are being trained and disciplined and led when we never know anything about it. There is no chance or accident in life. Things we rebel against are in the ordering. Love and wisdom are girding all the time.

We see that with peculiar clearness in the various biographies of Scripture. Think, for instance, of the life of Joseph. When Joseph was seized and cast into the pit, it must have seemed to him a cruel fate. When he was carried off in slavery to Egypt, it must have looked as if God had quite forgotten him. Yet the hour was coming when in that very place, surrounded by his suppliant brothers, Joseph was to say, "It was not you who brought me hither: it was God." The pit and the slavery were not in Joseph's plan. To him they were cruel and terrible intrusions. Had he been given liberty of choice he certainly never would have chosen such things. And in every life, in your life and in mine, are things we never should have chosen for ourselves; and the question is, how do we regard them? Do we take up a quarrel against life? Are we angry because our plans are shattered? Do we feel as if some blind fury were at work against us? Do we resent such intrusions? My dear reader, there is a better way-it is the way that all the saints have trod-it is to believe that God is girding us, though we never know anything about it. His plans are larger than our plans. They include the bitter and the sweet. There is room in them for loss and sorrow. They embrace the cross as surely as the crown. And the beautiful thing is that this large ordering is the ordering of a Father's love, so that all things work together for our good.

One sees that often in the discipline of childhood, which is sometimes so hard to understand. Even an unhappy childhood may be meant. I had a friend who had an unhappy childhood. He was checked and repressed at every turn. Where other children are open and communicative, he learned to be secretive and silent. And he told me how terribly bitter was his loneliness, and how he used to envy other children, who could pour the tale of every day's adventure into a loving mother's ear.

But childhood passed and manhood came, and my friend became eminent in one of the professions. A hundred secrets were entrusted to him, to betray one of which would have been treachery. And then it broke on him, with sudden clearness, that in his secretive and silent childhood, God had been girding him when he never knew it. He never would have chosen such a childhood. It was the last thing in the world he would have chosen.

Just as that trouble which laid you aside from work is the last thing in the world you would have chosen. But the plans of Love are bigger plans than ours, and have room in them for things which we resent as intrusions on our happiness or usefulness. Living faith is universal faith. Living faith embraces everything. Living faith delights in holding everything within the circuit of the love of heaven. In disappointments, in accidental happenings, in illnesses, in hours of heart-break, Love is busy girding all the time.

This strengthening philosophy of life was continually proclaimed by the Lord Jesus. It is bound up with His doctrine of God's fatherhood. A father does not only clothe his children: he prepares them for the years that are to come. He does not alone supply the daily bread: he anticipates and trains for the tomorrow. That is why sometimes he denies things. That is why sometimes he rebukes and checks. That is why he sends the bairns to school, when the birds are singing and the fields are calling. Such things are hard to understand sometimes, and the little folk are tempted to rebel. But such things are in the father's plan, just because he is a father.

And when Jesus teaches us to say "Our Father," bound up with that is the liberating thought that Love is girding when we never know it.

I write this in the Highlands, where many tracks lead across the heather. Knee-deep in heather, as the traveler is, it is often difficult to see the track. But when he reaches yonder little hill, and looks back over the moor that he has crossed, how easily does he discern the pathway.

So here we know in part. We are not really here to understand. We are here to walk by faith and not by sight. We are here to keep on keeping on. And my trust is that when at last we climb the hill where Love has its eternal habitations, we shall look back and see with perfect clearness that everything was in the plan of heaven.

From Highways of the Heart, 1926
(Republished by Kregel, 1994)


George Herbert Morrison (1866-1928), was one of Glasgow's most prominent pastors. While working on his theological studies, he took time out to assist in the creation of the Oxford New English Dictionary under the supervision of Sir James Murray, and this undoubtedly influenced the eloquent, rich vocabulary he used in preaching and writing.

After completing his education, Morrison assisted the famed Alexander Whyte in Edinburgh, then led his own churches in Thurso and Dundee for a short time before accepting a call from Wellington United Free (Presbyterian) Church in Glasgow. During his 26-year ministry at Wellington, he preached to thousands and wrote numerous volumes of sermons and meditations. He refused many offers to serve on committees and in leadership positions that might have distracted him from his preaching and writing.

"It is essential that I have leisure to brood and meditate," said Morrison, and this is evident in the gentle, quiet, free-flowing style of his sermons. He presented his evangelical messages simply and sincerely.

Some of Morrison's numerous volumes include The Wing of the Morning, Floodtide: Sunday Evenings in a City Pulpit, The Gateway of the Stars, The Footsteps of the Flock, The Ever Open Door, The Return of the Angels, and The World-Wide Gospel.

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