It is indeed a serious matter to face life with a handicap which cripples one and impedes his progress and thwarts desires which may be dear to his heart. And, especially now, as we stand at the threshold of a new year and hear of the promises of better days to come and see the hope, which as the poets say, “springs eternal in the human breast,” the thought of being crippled is vexatious.
Even at its best this natural life is a struggle and requires that we exert ourselves and employ all our faculties in order to gain our livelihood and, if so may be, make some material progress in this world. And then—crippled! Even the thought seems hard to bear.
It is also to be expected that we will see more physical cripples. For man with all his cunning and ingenious skill, inventions and scientific devices has unleashed these powers and turned them upon himself. The world again has been bathed in blood until both the so-called victor and the vanquished are well nigh exhausted either materially or economically or both.
Your soldier friend, son, husband or father perhaps, returns, and tears of pity fill your eyes and your heart sinks within your breast for he has lost an arm or a leg or is crippled and disabled in some other fashion. If he is her true love perhaps his questioning eyes ask if “she” will love him “this way” or he may ask himself if he has the right to expect that she shall. The husband or father comes home to a wife and children and, perhaps, his paramount problem is to seek such employment where his crippled body will not be too much of a handicap. And there are the inevitable dark days when he feels that he is “no good this way” and when he almost wishes that that bullet had struck just a few inches more to the right and pierced through his heart. Of course, we back home have been carefully instructed and know that we must behave in such a way that we never call attention to their defects either by word or deed.
These, my friends, are some of the pitiful aftermaths of man’s highly vaunted “progress” and it almost appears that those “glimmerings of natural light,” which some would seek to fan into a veritable flame, have well high been extinguished.
But wait, one moment please! These physical cripples, those deserving our sympathy and aid, are not alone in their misery; for we too are crippled even though our physical body be perfectly sound. And it is only the Christian who knows how truly crippled and handicapped he is.
Perhaps the most prevalent source of grief to him who has lost a leg is the memory of the time when he was sound in limb. He used to run up those steps two at a time. He used to climb those hills and trees with the other neighbor boys but now—let’s not speak of it. For it isn’t as though he was born that way and hence never knew the joy of having two sound limbs. So too, with the Christian. He was in Adam created good and upright, he was slain by sin, restored in Christ but he still walks with a limp. And it is a limp which he will never outgrow or overcome until this tabernacle falls away and he receives that new body in life everlasting. He must always be aware of his handicap and must know that he is liable to fall if he begins to gain confidence in self or feel that he has even one good leg upon which he can stand. And, rather than laugh, scorn or gossip about that cripple who has fallen, we should with compassion seek to instill in him again the confidence that those Everlasting Arms are about him; that he is not alone in his affliction but that we too are crippled and hobble along, sometimes very painfully and slowly, on the highway to heaven.
However, as with nearly all figures, conclusions may be drawn which are erroneous. One such would be to assume that this crippled Christian had at least a small part in his restoration. That he can at least say that he of himself and of his own free will went to the Physician’s office to seek aid in his calamity. Or that he, either emotionally or logically, deduced the fact that he needed restoration. To place such a construction upon the matter is to fail to understand that he was slain by sin and to that same extent minimizes the work of the Physician who has healed him. For it is not as with the physical cripple. You were not well except for that one leg. You were slain on that battlefield of rebellion against God.
You were spiritually dead! But now a new life works in those old members but those old members have not as yet been renewed, hence, you limp, stumble and sometimes fall and that sin-scarred body oftimes finds it very difficult to travel that road. It complains that the path is too narrow, rugged or steep and looks with longing eyes at that four lane super highway that leads to—hell!
And now one last note of caution which we may draw from this figure: Namely this, that we must be very careful upon what or whom we trust. The physical cripple spares no effort or expense to make certain that he obtains the very best artificial aids to help him overcome, in a measure, his affliction. He abhors all makeshift and incompetent devises. But, strange as it may seem, incompetent and makeshift devices are employed and hawked and widely advertised to aid the spiritual cripple. And instead of being raised from the dead by a sovereign God through a crucified Christ, we behold such caricatures as “character development”, “moral rearmament”, “high ethical standards” or a pleading, helpless, glorified carpenter who offers you his arm upon which you may lean if you but will!
Also in our practical everyday life we are very easily inclined to employ crutches and lean upon them so heavily that we forget the source of our only strength and comfort. The laboring man is oppressed and the just recompence of his labors is withheld and, instead of remembering that his cries are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts he sets out to avenge. He will lean upon his labor organization and seek at least his material salvation therein. The employer leans upon his capital and associations, which effectively boycott and kill his fellow employer who will not stoop that low. The soldier leans upon his rifle, trench-mortar or machine gun. The men of medicine lean upon their skill and scientific discoveries. And so we could continue.
We see then that each class has its crutch to which it clings. But, my friends, these are all as smoking flax and a bruised reed.
Away with those crutches, props, artificial limbs and helpless charlatan devices! While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.
But be of good cheer, Christian! And as you hobble along that highway remember that we, and all His Redeemed, are hobbling with you and praying for that time when we shall be delivered from these handicaps which cause us to hobble on the way to heaven.