02 April, 2014
VAIN IS THE HELP OF MAN
Encouragements to Patient Waiting
by John MacDuff, 1864
"Do not put your trust in mortal men, in whom there is no help." — Psalm 146:3
In one sense, we are very dependent on each other. How does the infant cling to the arm of its mother! and how do we in sickness trust to the care and kindness of a faithful attendant! In every relation of life, we are comforted, upheld, sustained by those around us — and especially is this the case in the family of Christ. Every member feels it is his solemn duty to support the weak — to gladden the sorrowful — to console the mourner. If he does not, he has not the mind of Christ — he has not been drinking in the spirit of Him who came "to bind up the broken-hearted, and to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded spirit."
The help we are sometimes privileged to give one another, is very precious. The kindly look — how often has it chased sadness from the brow, even as the bright ray of sunshine chases the dark cloud from the heavens! The word of sympathy — how often has it sounded in the secret chambers of the soul — awakening gladness, where all was silence and gloom! And who shall tell how often God's sweet promises, whispered gently by the sick-bed, have calmed and tranquilized the troubled soul, even as of old, the words of Jesus, "Peace, be still," soothed the tempestuous billows — so that "immediately there was a great calm."
But in another and higher sense, it is true that "vain is the help of man!" We can only effectually help each other — when we are "instruments in God's hand." He makes use of us as His servants, and when we feel and realize our responsibility as such, then our feeble efforts are blessed, and we become "sons of consolation." Apart from this, of what avail is it that the physician prescribes; or that the minister visits the chamber of sickness? Health will not return at the bidding of the one — nor comfort flow from the exhortations of the other. It matters not that there is the exercise of the highest skill, and the utterance of the most thrilling eloquence. Still the burden of disease will bear down the body — and the load of anxiety oppress the spirit. But when the Divine blessing is given, and the Spirit pours forth His promised influence — all is changed. The pulse beats again with health — the soul is freed from its agitations and alarms!
Shall I, then, "trust in the son of man?" No, rather, shall I trust in Him who alone "has the issues of life and death!" My heart may be filled with gratitude and love to those who have been the "instruments in God's hand," and they may become dear to me — even as my own flesh; but I will not "put my trust" in them — I will look higher far — to Him who has promised to watch over me with a Father's care — and whose power nothing can withstand. I will look to Him who is seated as my Advocate and Elder Brother at the Father's right hand, and who has promised to 'undertake for me,' and to plead, in my behalf, the merits of His own most precious blood. I will look to Him who alone can carry home the truth to my heart, even the Comforting Spirit — at whose bidding, doubt and fear must vanish, and hope and joy take possession of my soul.
Yes, suffering child! it is ever well to look beyond the creature — to realize the fact that only one Arm is all-powerful — only one Heart is all-loving — only one Ear is always open — only one Eye is never closed — and that to Him, and Him alone, "the secrets and sorrows, the wants and desires of the heart," are known. Just as far as we trace God's hand in what our fellow-creatures do in our behalf, earthly love and sympathy and kindness will be helpful and comforting to us. When we forget or overlook this — we will fail to derive any benefit, or any lasting comfort from their efforts.
Besides, there are needs of the soul, and extremities of suffering and trial — when human help is utterly unavailing. It cannot come close enough to us. It cannot reach the seat of anguish. There are inner depths in our souls, of which we are at times painfully conscious, where only one Voice can be heard. God sometimes permits anxiety, fear, anguish — that we may be driven to Him by finding, short of Him, "no help in man." He would have us make Him our confidence, our refuge, our strength. He would have us know Him as our Father and friend — not know about Him — but know Him. It is this for which we are training. It is this which God is teaching us during our earthly sojourn — by disappointments and sorrows — by sickness and trial and bodily infirmities — by dangers without and fears within, by sore and agonizing extremities where human help cannot reach us — by one and all, He is drawing us to Himself and bidding us put all our trust in Him, "to acquaint ourselves with Him and be at peace."
And, surely, it is a comforting and blessed thought, that "He cares for us" — that all our concerns are important in His sight. Our fellow-men may refuse their sympathy — He never will. They may be distant from us in the hour of need — He is "a present help in the time of trouble." They may be occupied and engrossed with self — His ear "is ever open to ourcry." They may become wearied of helping us — He is ever "touched by our infirmities," and ever ready to heal our woes. Let us, then, with feelings of increasing love and gratitude, as we meditate on the care of our heavenly Father, reveal to Him all our wants and weaknesses, all our sorrows and anxieties, all our sins and shortcomings; assured that, of His infinite mercy, He will bestow upon us pardon, peace, help, hope, and joy.
Heavenly Father, I would draw near unto You with humble confidence, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. I thank You for all Your past goodness, for Your watchful providence, Your unceasing care. I bless You for the gracious offers of mercy which You have given me, and I pray that You would enable me to place all my confidence in Him whom You have sent to seek and save the lost. Oh, may His precious blood wash out the dark stain of sin from my soul. Blessed Savior, make me Yours in heart and soul. Oh, give me Your Spirit. Purify my nature and impress Your image on my heart.
Help me, O Lord, in this time of sickness, to look up to You as my only help. Keep me from all repining thoughts, and in remembrance of Your past loving-kindness, help me now to trust in Your goodness and to submit to Your will. Make me patient, humble, and resigned, and enable me to bring forth more fruit to Your glory. Strengthen me ever, to show the power of Your grace — in my humility, gentleness, love, and gratitude, to all who help my infirmities and show kindness to me. May I ever regard them as instruments in Your hands, and able to bring me comfort according to Your pleasure. Give me, O God, a simple, entire dependence upon You — and enable me in all things to commit my way unto You, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.