Featured Article from Living Water Magazine


The circumstances in which we learn most are those which most expose our weakness.

As a rule, we are placed in circumstances which demand that which we are most defective in. We are set in such and such circumstances, not because we can fill them, or behave in them, better than any one else, but on the contrary, because we need to be invigorated by grace in the defects which they are fitted to expose. They disclose to us where we need grace, so that constantly we are failing where we are expected to excel. We are put there to cast us on the Lord, and to teach us that we can do nothing. If we could excel there, we should glory in our own success, but when we find that we are placed in the very circumstances that, perhaps, more than any others expose our weakness, we then see that we have no hope of being able to stand or succeed, unless we obtain grace to do so. I am not placed in the circumstances where I could excel most, but I am placed in those in which I can best know my need of grace, and best learn dependence. If I could get on without grace, I should grow elated with myself, but when I find that unless the Lord is at my right hand I shall fail, then I am humbled as to myself, but I am also deepened in dependence, which the demand of my circumstances has, in a way, forced on me; and having learned the blessing of dependence, instead of regretting the circumstances which made it necessary to seek help, I am the more cheered and encouraged to go on in them.

For learning or service every one is placed where there is demand on them. The child at school is not in the easy circumstances of home or the playground. The horse in harness is not in the easy circumstances of being in the stable or at grass. Nor are the teacher and the coachman in the circumstances where they can relax and enjoy themselves, but where they are tested, and where, unless they have quality, they are rejected or dismissed.

The circumstances we are placed in are the ones in which we can best learn and be most useful. It is not because we have nothing to learn or nothing to do for others. If we had nothing to learn, there would be no difficulty in the lessons required of us every day. The fact that there is difficulty in them proves that we are not proficient, and that it is necessary that we should be subjected to circumstances which disclose to us what we require to learn, or to draw from us what we can render. Your weakness is exposed that you may acquire strength, to render unto others - to comfort others, as you have been comforted of God; so that, whether learner or servant, you are always set in circumstances where there is pressure, and not ease. If the learner were to keep at the same lesson always he might feel his difficulty over, but so would his learning be over. If the horse remains at grass always, he is still a horse, but he is of no use to any one.

Are you learning? Are you useful? Whenever you are either, you will find that you are in exacting circumstances, and therefore not those where you are most at home and most at your ease; but the more you turn them to profit, the more you are learning of grace, and the more useful you are in sharing what you have acquired. You look too much for ‘home’, and for being at grass; school and harness are not before you as your daily exercise; if they were, you would find that exactions were the very things that put you in a position to learn more, and to serve better.

The Lord lead you to see that He places you where you are to learn and to serve, and that, unless you receive grace to meet your circumstances, they must expose your weakness.

J. B. Stoney (1814 – 1897)
From a letter published in 1873.
Extracted from LW152