There was no silence like the silence that descended over the trenches of Western Europe on the morning of November 11, 1918. At exactly 11 AM, an armistice came into effect that brought a halt to all fighting on land, sea, and air. Never had silence been better appreciated than when that silence marked the end of the four brutal years we now call the First World War. In its own way, the silence was a song that told of the cessation of hostilities and the dawning of peace.
Matt Boswell and Matt Papa once wrote a hymn about the beauty of stillness, of calmness, of peace. “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor” is meant to comfort Christians in times of trial and suffering. Its lyrics tell about the fury of life’s storms when winds of doubt are blowing and sinking hopes are few. They tell about the tempests of temptation, the floods of unbelief, and the waves of death. Through it all they promise Christ as the sure and steady anchor and proclaim, that with God’s help, “I will hold fast to the anchor; / It shall never be removed.”
The hymn culminates in a stanza that speaks of the Christian’s confidence as he faces the inevitability of death, for each of these different forms of suffering and sorrow is in its own way pointing us to the final suffering, the final sorrow, and to all that lies beyond. “When these trials give way to glory, / As we draw our final breath; / We will cross that great horizon, / Clouds behind and life secure…” And then this:
And the calm will be the better
For the storms that we endure.
The silence that followed the Armistice at the end of the First World War was especially sweet to the soldiers because of the long and brutal clamor that preceded it. And in just that way, the calm of heaven will be especially sweet to the Christian because of the suffering and sorrow that we have endured before it.
I have often heard those who have endured hurricanes tell that they had never appreciated silence as much as they did in the moments that followed the storm. I have often heard those who have endured illnesses tell that they had never appreciated health as much as they did in the moments that followed their recovery. And in much the same way, the peace of heaven will be especially delightful because of the warfare we have experienced here. The health of heaven will be especially precious because of the sickness we have experienced here. The safety of heaven will be especially meaningful because of the danger we have experienced here.
And so, Christian, when you have to pass through times of difficulties, times of trial, times of pain, you can gaze toward that distant horizon believing and knowing that the struggles you are enduring now are not only deepening your longing for heaven but also seasoning heaven to make it even better, even sweeter, even more precious. For as the songwriters say, the calm will be the better for the storms that we endure.