George MacDonald tells a story from his first pastorate, sometime near the year 1850, in the village of Arundel. It was a country parish, and he often made his calls on horseback.
On one occasion, he returned home from a funeral, weary in body and soul, fatigued by the day’s work. After a long ride, he had accompanied the mourners to the churchyard. He visited, ministered, prayed, and offered service. And now he returned – weary, in need of good food and rest.
As he neared his stable door, however, he felt a strange prompting. A sudden urge came over him – as if he needed to visit a poor widow, who, with her invalid daughter, lived in a lonely cottage in an outlying part of the parish. He fought the impression, naturally reluctant to make another visit. But the feeling grew stronger. He could not resist. So he turned the head of his horse around, and headed toward the cottage.
He was thinking only of the poor widow’s spiritual needs; but when he reached her little house, a sense of barrenness and poverty overtook him. So, he pressed a little money into her hand, and began asking about their circumstances. The widow told him that their supplies had been utterly exhausted since the night before. “What did you do, when your food ran out?” asked MacDonald. The widow humbly replied, “I just spread it out before the Lord.”
“Did you tell your case to any friend?” he continued.
“Oh no, sir,” she replied, with heavy brogue. “Naebody kens (knows) but Himself and me! I kent He would not forget; but I didna ken hoo He wad help me, till I seen you come riding over the brae (brow of hill), and then I said: “THERE’S THE LORD’S ANSWER!”
This answer struck MacDonald to the heart. Years after that, when he would face great trials and needs, the Lord would bring the faith of this widow to mind, encouraging him to trust in the loving care of his heavenly Father.
What lessons of faith, friends!
First, how often are we open to the call of God, if it doesn’t fit with our schedule or expectations? Are we too numb with busyness, entertainment, and distraction to hear the voice of the Spirit? Perhaps many of us would be willing to be the hands and feet of God, if only we heard His voice and sensed His guidance. The call is to become a person who listens and hears. “Be not like the horse or mule, which must be led with bit and bridle,” God tells us in Psalm 32:9. He instead wants us to be led with His eyes, understanding the counsel of His Word and Spirit.
Second, how often do we trust God, even when faced with absolute emptiness of resource, and no apparent help on the horizon? “Do not live like pagans,” Jesus tells us, “Don’t be consumed with anxiety of life, obsessing about food, possessions, and clothing.” Instead, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt. 6:7-34).