by John MacDuff
03 April, 2014
THE CRY OF DISTRESS
by John MacDuff
"In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears!" — 2 Samuel 22:7
It is related of King Asa, that an alarming and painful disease came upon him — he was afflicted with a grievous bodily calamity; and his illness continued to increase, "until his disease was exceedingly great." Yet, although on a former occasion he had gathered the people and had "entered into a solemn covenant with them to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart, and with all their soul" — we are told that, when sickness came upon him, he forgot his promise; and this is the melancholy declaration of Scripture, "Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians."
What a sad contrast between this sinful forgetfulness — and the heartfelt urgency of the royal psalmist! What wonder that the next thing recorded of the one is his death, and by the other, that "He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears!" Asa's cry of distress, being made only to man — brought no relief; the psalmist's prayer to the Most High God — was heard and answered.
Which of these examples have we followed? When pain and suffering have laid hold upon us, to whom, in our extremity, have we made our appeal? Has it been to feeble, impotent man, whose every effort is powerless without God's blessing? or has it been to Him who, in His holy temple, hearkens to the cry of the humblest, the weakest, of His children?
Alas! have we not to acknowledge that many a time in our distress — we have looked for help only to men? We have made our appeal to them, believing that they could deliver us, and we have wondered that the sickness was not removed — the disease not cured.
Asa's sin was not his having applied to the physicians — but his having neglected, first of all, "to seek the Lord." We have been guilty, not in having had recourse to means — but intrusting solely to their efficacy.
Whatever is our danger or disease, we can only hope for deliverance by immediately crying to our God for help. For is not this the end He has in view? He does not visit us with sore calamity, only to scare and frighten us away from Him — but that our danger may drive us to Him. He permits terror to lay hold upon us — that we may take refuge in His arms. He allows our faith to fail — that we may cling more confidingly to His almighty arm. He delays the removal of disease — that we may become more importunate in prayer — that we may become more patient, resigned, and submissive to His will. When these ends are accomplished — He speaks the word, He dispels our fears, He grants our desires, He answers our prayers.
"The cry of distress." Oh! who but a doubting, faithless one would ever imagine that the God of love would be indifferent when it came "into His ears?" He, our Father, our covenant-God — He "who has not spared His own Son — but delivered Him up to the death for us," shall He refuse to hear our cry when danger or calamity threatens to overwhelm us? Away with such doubts! "The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me," was the assurance of the Savior to His disciples; and still the same words are true regarding all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in love, that He lays His hand upon us — in love that He seems to deny our prayers — in love that He delays to send "help out of Zion." The Father of mercies is evermore compassionately intent upon the sufferings of His dear children — according to the depth and poignancy of their afflictions.
Our "cry of distress" He has indeed heard — but He delays to answer it, that we may learn to persevere in asking — that the passionate fervency of unchastened prayer may be deepened into the strong breath of humble supplication — that patience may have her perfect work — that we may still "wait upon the Lord, who hides His face" — that we may grow to trust His love, to know what He is to us, yes, what He is to all who wait upon Him. Oh! it is not that His ear is heavy, it is not that the tenderness of His sympathy is blunted — it is a part of His plan of faithfulness and wisdom. He is training His children — training them for the greatest dignity and the highest happiness.
And He best knows how to do it. We might rather choose comfort, health, an immediate answer to all our prayers; but we must be taught that holiness is of more importance than comfort; that fellowship with God more precious than health; and that "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." We must be brought to an entire and willing surrender of the soul to Him, that, in His own way, and by His own methods — He may cleanse it, may strengthen it, may renew it, may dwell in it, make it His eternally!
Suffering child of God! does your heart fail you? have you raised "the cry of distress," and received no answer, and are you beginning to doubt the love, the faithfulness of God? Oh, trust in Him still! He has heard you — your cry did enter into His ears. Cast yourself in the full assurance of faith upon Him — and all shall be well. It is He himself, who has stirred up your soul in the hour of extremity to call upon Him; and He has stirred you up to call — because He means to grant your desire, and this is His way of granting it. He has let this danger threaten you — -that you may draw nearer to Him — that you may open to Him your grief, your anxiety, your difficulties — that you may show Him your need — that you may plead with Him by His covenant of tears — and, flying from all others, and even from yourself — hide in His bosom.
Oh! you do not love yourself better than He loves you! You can not shrink from pain more than He dislikes your bearing it. And if He permits it still to continue, it is that a greater good may result to you in bearing it — that your heart may receive and retain deeper and sharper impressions of the likeness of your Lord. Oh, then, count the season of suffering a precious, blessed season, though it be dim and overcast — a season of promise and springing freshness — a token of His nearness, and of His purpose to cleanse you for His own — "Blessed are you who weep now."
He who is greatly tried, if he is learning obedience after the example of his Lord, is not far from the kingdom of God. Our heavenly Father is perfecting His own work — tracing the divine lineaments with His wise and gentle hand. He who perfected His own Son through sufferings, has brought many sons to glory by the same rough road, even by "the way of the wilderness and of the flood." He is bringing you home to Himself. Do not, then, shrink because the path is broken and solitary — because at times the cry of distress, "Lord, help me," is not answered by a word — for the way is short, and the end blessed, and your every footstep is marked by an eye of love — your every supplication "enters into the ears" of the Lord God Almighty. He knows your every prayer for guidance, deliverance, and help — your every effort to bear patiently and contentedly what He has laid upon you, and to profit by the visitation — to hear the rod, and Him who appointed it — to yield yourself always meekly, as the redeemed of Christ, to the hand of God, as of a loving Father. All these things, which man can never know, are known and valued by Him.
Still hope, still struggle on, still feel assured that you are not under a harsh rod of vindictive infliction — but under the watchful care of a "Father in heaven," who mingles for you joy and sorrow, as He sees best for you, and who will "neither fail you nor forsake you."
O merciful God, who sees all my weakness, and the troubles I labor under — have regard unto the prayer of Your servant, who now implores Your comfort, Your direction, and Your help. Grant me grace neither to grieve nor repine under this, Your chastisement. May I be enabled to regard my troubles as an exercise of my faith, and patience, and humility — and may I improve all my afflictions to the good of my soul, and to Your glory. You alone know what is best for me. Let me never dispute Your goodness or wisdom — but ever trust Your heart, even when I cannot trace Your hand. Oh, help me, good Lord, that I may cheerfully suffer and obediently do Your will, and choose what You chose, and observe the ways of Your providence, and revere Your judgments, and wait for Your mercy, and delight in Your dispensations, and expect that all things shall work together for good to those who love You. Grant this, O Father, through Jesus Christ our blessed Savior. Amen.