The Sick-bed Friend!Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"Blessed is he who considers the poor — the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and You will not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness — You will sustain him on his sickbed. I said: Lord, be merciful unto me — heal my soul; for I have sinned against You."
Most likely David is here speaking of himself. From a bed of sickness, he looks back upon the time when he was in health and prosperity, and remembers with comfort that he did not then neglect the poor; and he trusts that God will not now neglect or forsake him. Even when sick and surrounded by enemies, he feels a happy confidence in God. It is written, "He who has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord, and that which he has given, He will pay him again" (Proverbs 19:17). Our Savior said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). And again, "When you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind — and you shall be blessed, for they cannot recompense you; for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13-14).
The poor can do little to repay kindness — they have nothing to give but love and gratitude and prayer. But the God of the poor will take all kindness done to them, from a right motive, as done to Himself. All that true Christian charity leads any to give or to do — will be more than repaid.
Who knows how soon the time of need or sickness may come to himself? How sad at such a time to have to think thus: "I never cared for the sick poor around me — and now sickness has come to me. I did nothing to relieve pain or to comfort sorrow — and now it is my turn to feel them!"
How different the thoughts which David had in sickness! Humble, grateful, trustful thoughts — not vain or boastful. If he does indeed mean himself, it is remarkable that he writes as if alluding to another: "Blessed is he . . . the Lord will deliver him." No, David was not boastful or self-righteous. He humbly hoped that, as he had in time past cared for the poor — so God would now care for him. But he did not claim anything as deserved by him, nor did he put his trust in any doings of his own. On the contrary, from his bed of sickness he owned himself a sinner, and as such sought mercy: "Lord, be merciful unto me — heal my soul; for I have sinned against You."
"Heal my soul!" That was his chief need — that is the chief need of every sick person. First, healing of the soul and forgiveness of sin — then, bodily comforts and temporal blessings. All who seek God, whether sick or well, must seek Him as sinners — and all stand in need of pardoning mercy. We must approach God in a humble and contrite spirit — confessing our sins and pleading the merits of Christ our Savior. Until we do so, and thus become reconciled to God through the death of His Son — we can never know true peace. What comfort could the thought of past kindness to the poor bring to one lying on a bed of sickness — with no knowledge of God as a God of love, no sense of forgiveness, no looking to Christ? Nothing of our own can bring us peace at such a time. Christ alone, and all that He has done for us, and all that He is to us — is the source of peace to the soul.
How comforting are these words, "The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness. You will sustain him on his sickbed." We may take them as a promise. God will certainly do so to every believer, to all who seek Him. In health and strength, man is apt to think that he can do without God; but when he is laid upon a bed of sickness, then he feels his helplessness and need. The Lord will not disregard him then. He will hear his cry and will help him. Even if he has greatly forgotten God in health — yet if in sickness he turns to Him — then God will receive him.
Surely then, he who has loved and served God in health will not be overlooked. No — God knows all his pain, his weakness, his weariness. He will help him and comfort him. The pain shall not be too great. God will give strength and patience; and such inward comfort will He bestow, that the thoughts of the sick will be much drawn off from his sufferings, and he will have peace within — even though pain and sickness is still his portion.
In the words following, the Psalmist addresses God Himself: "You will sustain him on his sickbed." What a striking expression! How forcibly it shows us God's close and tender care! No faithful nurse, no gentle and loving friend, not even a wife or a mother — can do for the sick what God can do. Their efforts may fail, or they may grow weary of long watching — but God's loving-kindness is never tired, and His wisdom and power are both infinite.
It is pleasant to the sick to be well nursed and kindly visited, but there is no friend for the sick-bed like God Himself. Without Him the softest bed is uneasy — with Him the hardest is a bed of rest. In sickness and in health, none can comfort or help as He does. He is always ready, always at hand. In the sharpest pain, a cry or even a thought sent up to Him — will bring down help and comfort. Blessed is every place in which God is sought and found! Blessed is even the bed of sickness which is soothed and cheered by His presence!