I have had the pleasure of assisting my wife in documenting the graves in the Blanco Historic Cemetery. Each headstone has a story to tell. We are often struck by the sadness that must have been experienced by parents who had to lay to rest the bodies of their precious little ones. Some lasted but a few short days or hours after birth, having succumbed to some illness or malady that at the time could not be effectively treated.
There is a cemetery on a hill in an arid Utah town that shelters against the desert wind four unforgettable little markers. They are not marble, nor are they engraved with fine writing. The family who erected them could not afford such extravagance. No, they are squares of cement that were inscribed with a stick while they were still wet. And their message is simple: “Here lies the child of John and Mary Thomas, died 1875,” reads the first one. “Here lies the child of John and Mary Thomas, died 1876,” reads the second. The third and fourth are like the first two. The message is stark, but the experience in human suffering must have been profound.
I can’t help but wonder how John and Mary Thomas bore up under the sorrow of losing four small babies in their desert home. Did they become embittered, grim, give up on life, and cry in their sorrow, “Enough is enough!?” Or did they endure to the end with their hands in the hand of their Maker? How did they finish the fight? John and Mary have decades ago joined their children, and now all their suffering is but a memory.
The renowned scholar and writer James Talmage sought a quiet place where he could do his concentrated research and study. He found an upper room well removed from the noise and confusion of the city streets. There he spent many peaceful and busy hours with only one kind of intruder—the flying insects that would visit him when the windows were open during the summer months. Those self-invited guests were not unwelcome. Many times he would lay down his pen and, forgetting his studies, watch with interest the activities of his winged friends.
One day a wild bee from the neighboring hills flew into his room and the scholar enjoyed the hum of its flight. The little bee knew that it was a prisoner, yet all its efforts to find an exit through the partially opened casement failed. When James Talmage at last was ready to close up the room and leave, he threw the window wide open and tried to guide and then to drive the bee to liberty and safety, knowing that it would die as other insects had perished when left in the room’s dry atmosphere. But the more he tried to drive it out, the more the bee resisted. The bee’s peaceful hum developed into an angry roar, its daring flight became hostile and threatening.
Then suddenly the bee caught James Talmage off guard and stung his hand—the hand that would have guided it to freedom. The man left the room and the little creature that had by then sealed its own fate. A few days later he returned to the room and found the dried, lifeless body of the bee on the writing table. It had paid for its stubbornness with its life.
Now, to the bee’s short-sightedness and selfish misunderstanding James Talmage had been a foe, a persistent persecutor, a mortal enemy bent on its destruction; while in truth he was its friend, striving to redeem it—in spite of itself—from the death that awaited in the upper room with the window closed. (Retold from “The Parable of the Unwise Bee,” Improvement ERA, Nov. 1962, p.817)
Are we so much wiser than the bee as we contend against the trials that come our way in life? Isn’t it just possible that what we view as our deepest suffering, may, in fact, be the manifestation of the Lord’s very love for us? It is, after all, in the extremities of our existence, with all the insignificant and unimportant details burned away, that we can truly come to know our Maker and to discover those things of lasting value in life.
We were meant to run life’s race with hope and confidence, and when all seems lost, we must know that it is possible to dig down into the very depths of the human soul to find the strength and the inspiration to power us on. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
God bless us to “run with patience the race” and to “look unto Him” for the ability to do so.