All My Trials

Actually, I haven’t had all that many. I was fortunate enough to be born about halfway through the twentieth century, so I’ve missed two world wars and I’ve always had inside plumbing. What’s not to like about that? Yes, there have been accidents and illnesses and self-inflicted wounds, so to speak, since “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5.7) - but, on the whole, I have no cause to complain. 

Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about the old folk song/spiritual “All My Trials” recently. I say “old”, but no one seems to be able to trace it back to before the 1950s, so it may be one of those songs written to fit in with the folk revival that was taking place in America at that time.

"If religion were a thing that money could buy,/ Then the rich would live and the poor would die.” These were the lines that came into my mind. Why so? Yes, that’s right, it’s all there in the headlines… “Wealthy Americans flock to Martha’s Vineyard”, “Why I fled Britain to see out the pandemic in a remote African village”, “Why my North Cornwall holiday home makes the perfect place for a lockdown”, and so on, ad nauseam. 

These folk are not buying into a system of belief, of course, but they are taking advantage of their material prosperity to try and evade what they fear may be their fate if they stay amongst the rest of us. 

And that reminded me that people who buy into any man-made religion are, in effect, trying to purchase some form of paradise, trying to pay their way to heaven by giving of their money or their material goods, their efforts, their energy, their ceremonial observances, their clothing or their creeds, their prayers or their pilgrimages… It’s all the same. Man raises himself up to heaven, he pays for the place in the afterlife that he so fondly imagines is his. 

But the essential and eternal simplicity of the gospel still stands: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.23) ‘Good’ people don’t go to heaven: only the forgiven find a home there. Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.3) The poor in spirit know that they are entirely unable to earn salvation for themselves, and therefore they must seek a Saviour. 

The writer of Proverbs notes that: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself”. (Proverbs 22.3) But where is safety and security in such an uncertain world, a world where even billionaires are bound to die? You and I may be as poor as church mice, materially or spiritually speaking, but we can come to Him: “a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51.17) Jesus promises this: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6.3)