I think the Christian treatment of trouble is splendidly illustrated by the oyster, into whose shell one day there comes a tiny grain of sand. By some strange circumstance, this tiny piece of quartz has entered into the shell of the oyster and there like an alien thing an intruder, a cruel, unfeeling catastrophe imposes pain, distress, and presents a real problem. What shall the oyster do?
Well, there are several courses open. The oyster could, as so many men and women have done in times of adversity and trouble, openly rebel against the sovereign providence of God.
The oyster, metaphorically speaking, could shake a fist in God's face and complain bitterly: "What should this have to happen to me? Why should I suffer so? What have I done to deserve this? With all the billions of oyster shells up and down the seaboard, why in the name of higher mathematics did this grain of sand have to come into my shell?" The oyster could conclude: "There is no justice. All this talk of a God of love and mercy is not true. Now, since this calamity has overtaken me, I'll throw away all the faith I ever had. It doesn't do any good anyway." Yes, the oyster could say that. So many men and women have in times of trouble.
But the oyster doesn't!
Or the oyster could say - again like some men and women when adversity strikes... "It can't be true! It isn't true. I must not permit myself to believe it." The oyster could say - as some of our very best people today are trying to say in the face of cruel circumstance: "There is no such thing as pain. It is an error of the mind, and I must, therefore, project my thoughts on positive planes of beauty, truth, and goodness, and if I fill my mind with such thoughts, then I shall know that pain is unreal."
But the oyster doesn't do that.
There is another attitude the oyster could adopt - a very commendable one - one that calls fora lot of fortitude and courage and determination. The oyster could say: "Now that this hard calamity has over taken me, this thing that hurts and cuts and stabs, this enemy that bruises and bleeds, now that this has come upon me, I must endure to the end. I must show them all that I can take it, and I won't give in. I will hold on if it kills me. I must remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn."
Now, there is something noble in that, something praiseworthy in that attitude. But the oyster does not do that because the oyster is at one and the same time a realist as well as an idealist. There is no point in trying to deny the reality that tortures every nerve, so the oyster doesn't try. In spite of all the denial, nothing can change the fact that the grain of sand is there. Nor would grumbling or rebelling do any good, for after all the protests and complaints, the grain of sand would still be there.
No, the oyster recognizes the presence of the grim intruder, and right away begins to do something. Slowly and painfully, with infinite care, the oyster builds upon the grain of sand - layer upon layer of a plastic, milky substance that covers each sharp corner and coats every cutting edge... and gradually... slowly... by and by a pearl is made... a thing of wondrous beauty wrapped around trouble. The oyster has learned - by the will of God - to turn grains of sand into pearls, cruel misfortunes into blessings... pain and distress into beauty.
And that is the lesson that we are to lean along this pilgrim way. The grace of God, which is sufficient, will enable us to make of our troubles the pearls they can become. It is no mere figure of speech. It is something more than a simile to say that one enters Heaven through pearly gates -one enters into the presence of the Lord through gates bedecked with pearls, and every pearl - a trouble, a pain, a heartache, a misfortune, which, by the grace of God, has been changed into a beautiful, lovely thing.