Henry “Box” Brown was an African American slave who worked at a tobacco plant in Richmond, VA during the mid-1800s. He had always dreamed of escaping slavery. After his wife and children were sold to a slave trader his dream turned to desperation. But how could a slave hope to free himself from his wealthy master?
God gave him the answer. Henry believed that the Lord had told him to mail himself in a large, dry goods box to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. So Henry had the plantation carpenter construct a wooden crate – two feet by three feet – with just a few holes bored into it and the words “This Side Up with Care” painted on its side. With only a bottle of water in his possession, Henry squeezed into the crate that was addressed to abolitionist James Miller McKim.
But the journey soon proved very difficult. Conditions inside the cramped crate became so torturous that Henry began to doubt whether he had heard from God at all. Shippers frequently threw the box on its side, then upside down. Henry’s face swelled so that he felt his eyes were bulging from their sockets and the veins of his head as if they would burst. Unable to move or even stretch out, Henry struggled against the pain in his joints and the panic of claustrophobia. His misery became so great that he wanted to cry out for help lest he die a lingering and painful death. Yet after the 27-hour journey – which seemed to last an eternity – James McKim and his colleagues received the shipment and pried the crate open. Out of the crate burst Henry Brown, free from the confines of the box and forever free from slavery.
We have all heard the warning: “Things will get worse before they get better.” That was the experience of Henry “Box” Brown. His path to freedom became so desperate that it made him question God’s guidance. He went from slavery to intolerable confinement before he broke forth to a lasting liberation. The birth of a child follows this pattern. The full term baby departs the confining walls of the uterus through the extremely narrow passage of the birth canal before being born into the freedom God intended for the child.
And many of God’s saints can testify concerning the answers to their prayers (for themselves as well as for others). Bad situations became desperately worse preceding the answer where God turned their night into day. In a very real and profound way Christ uses failing health, aging, and terminal illness to prepare us for eternity. They are commonly the narrow and painful passages through which Christ leads us from our slavery to corruption and death into our ultimate healing and glorious freedom in heaven.
And we have the promise that no matter how intense the sufferings of this life may become, they weigh absolutely nothing when compared to the joy and glory that we will experience with Christ (Romans 8:18), who will wipe all tears from our eyes and erase all sorrow from our hearts (Revelation 21:4). So don’t lose heart when you pray for deliverance and your situation becomes worse. Millions of other believers have passed this way before you, walking hand-in-hand with Christ Who stood by their side every step of the journey through life’s dark valleys to heaven’s eternal day.
Dear Father in heaven, lead me through life’s dark valleys. Remind me that my light affliction is only for a moment. And that it will produce for me an incalculable and eternal glory and joy in heaven. Remind me, O Lord, that I am not alone. You are always with me and I am surrounded by a vast cloud of witnesses. They are those who, having completed the journey, testify that You will never fail me nor ever forsake me. Amen.
In article picture: The Resurrection of Henbry Box Brown at Philadelphia by Samuel Roswe