"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16
"Call upon me in the day of trouble—I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."—Psalm 50:15
Here is a gracious promise for the season of conflict and trial—a promise, oh! how often realized by the children of God. In their journey heavenward, they are told to expect trouble, vicissitude, and sorrow. "In the world," said the Savior to His disciples, "you shall have tribulation." Troubles are the family badge—the family pledge—the family privilege. Troubles are in God's catalogue of mercies. He does not disguise from them, that he will send affliction—that He will subject His own people to chastisement. He knows them too well—He loves them too well—to allow the unbroken sunshine—the calm, unruffled sea.
The path which the Savior trod, is the path along which every disciple must journey heavenward. As, in "bringing many sons unto glory," the Captain of salvation "was made perfect through sufferings," so "we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom." Such, indeed, is the experience of every genuine disciple. Not far has he journeyed in the way of life, when he finds that the road to Canaan is through an enemy's country—that a wilderness intervenes, in which there is many a brier, and many a thorn; and that toil, and care, and trouble attend his onward progress. But the more his afflictions abound, the more his consolations also abound; for that Mighty One who has led him forth to the struggle, will also conduct him to the triumph. Whatever be the danger he has to face; whatever the difficulty he has to surmount—whatever the affliction he has to bear, the promise is, "Call upon me in the day of trouble—I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."
Christian! it is wise—it is well to reflect often on the "day of trouble," that we may learn the lessons God designs to teach us—that we may be led by our felt necessity to the throne of grace—that we may "call upon Him" who has promised to deliver us—and that, by our patience, our submission, our gratitude, we may "glorify" His holy name.
Trial and trouble are permitted, that they may bring the Christian to solemn thought. When the sun of prosperity continues long to shine—when plans are prospering, and hopes are being realized, and no cloud of sorrow gathers over his pathway—the child of God is prone to forget his true mission upon earth, and to entwine his affections around the things of time and sense. Daily, hourly contact with the world—if there be nothing to interrupt the current of what is called "good fortune"—nothing to check the ardor of pursuit after earthly riches, will, most surely, have a baneful influence on the inner life of the believer, and render him less earnest in seeking after the true and abiding riches of the kingdom of heaven.
But, God will not allow His children to continue wandering astray, wasting their energies, and squandering their best affections on the things that perish. His restraining hand will be outstretched, to rescue them from temptation, and to draw them back from the verge of the precipice. He will permit trouble to come upon them—trial after trial—until they are brought again to feel—that "life is earnest," and should be devoted to the glory of God—that religion must not be made secondary to business and pleasure—that the things which are eternal are infinitely more precious than the things which are temporal—that communion and contact with the world can only be safe and right, so long as there is carried into it, supreme love to God, a higher place for heavenly than for earthly things in the heart, a more earnest desire to live for Christ and in Christ, than for the world and the things of the world.
The Savior has Himself declared, where alone the Christian can be safe—"Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit except it abides in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me." If such truths as these, are brought into the heart, when the hour of trouble and calamity has been made to touch and open it—when the voice of God is heard, (as it was not amid the din and turmoil of the world), who shall say that the appointment is severe, when it is declared, "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom?"
Again, man was never destined by his Maker to slumber on the couch of repose, and to bask in the sunny season. He was appointed to labor and to action, to struggle with the tempest, to weather the winter of affliction. Had we no trials, what need for the exercise of patience and resignation? Had we no afflictions to encounter, and no troubles to fear, what occasion would there be for that strength of mind which enables us to brave the perils of life—to bid defiance to the evil day, and to repose firm and unshaken on the arm of the Almighty?
It is when trouble and distress come upon us, that we flee to the Rock for shelter; and, realizing our own insecurity and weakness, place our trust and confidence in the Lord. It is amid sorrow and trial, that trust in God is chiefly exercised. It is a grace which has its home amid the tempest, and derives, from amid the driving rain and beating winds, the very nutriment of its life. It grows on the clefts of the broken heart, and, from the depths of human agony, flows the voice of its consolation. Its office is to light the darkness, and fix the eye—otherwise distracted and bewildered—in singleness of hope, upon the light of a Savior's love, as it shines, like a pillar of fire, upon ransomed Israel; or, like the beacon-light, which points the sailor to the desired haven.
What is the benefit of the smile upon the lips, and the light in the heart—when all is fair and smooth? Does not even the man of the world smile with smiling life? The triumph of the child of God is—to smile when the world frowns, and keep the light in the heart undimmed by the sorrows which surround the outward path—to say with the afflicted patriarch, "Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him."
Christian, if trouble has come upon you, put your trust in God, seek to glorify Him even "in the fires." Be assured, that He has seen it to be needful for your well-being, to lead you for a while in the path of tribulation. Oh! question not, for a moment, His love and faithfulness toward you. Only place your confidence in Him, and he will not allow the trouble—be it what it may—to go beyond what you are able to endure. God is now trying your faith—your love—your dependence upon Himself—seeing whether you can trust Him beyond the range of your partial vision; and, when His purpose is accomplished, He will remove trouble, gladden your heart, and cause you to sing of His faithfulness and truth.
Yet, further, trouble is permitted, in order to lead the Christian, not only to trust in the Lord, but to call upon Him for deliverance. Alas! how many repair to other sources, in the vain hope to obtain relief? How many attempt to escape from trouble, by some futile expedient of their own? And how many stand at a distance from God, refusing to hearken to His voice, and therefore deriving no real spiritual benefit from their affliction? Others there are, who do not recognize His hand in their day of tribulation. They dwell solely upon the trouble—the sorrow—the disappointment, and never raise their thoughts beyond it. They view it in all its distressing bearings—ponder upon every secondary cause which led to it—dwell upon all its sorrowful effects—and think how greatly such an event, if it had occurred, would have mitigated it—how surely such a line of conduct would have prevented it—how much less they would have suffered, if there had been but one little circumstance in their calamity, different from what it was. No wonder that, in so doing they miss the blessing, which they might otherwise have reaped.
Christian, be it yours to recognize and to acknowledge, in your every trouble, a Father's hand, and to hear in it, a Father's voice. That loss of worldly substance—it was from Him. That withering disappointment, the wreck of a fond hope—it was from Him. That protracted sickness, that wasting disease—it was from Him." But all was intended for your good—to bring you to realize your own helplessness and His strength—to lead you to the throne of grace—to revive within you the spirit of earnest and importunate supplication—and to draw forth from the depths of your troubled heart, like fervent utterances to those of the psalmist, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble." "Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help." "Hide not Your face from me, for I am in trouble; hear me speedily." "Quicken me, O Lord, for Your name's sake—for Your righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble."
Oh! if, with a contrite and broken heart, you bend before the throne, in "your day of trouble," and thus call upon the Lord, He will assuredly "deliver you, and you will glorify Him." Never can you pray in vain, if you will but persevere in praying. Be not discouraged by seeming delay; let the value of the blessing you seek, give fresh impulse to your prayers—ask again and again, and, while you have the word of promise whereon to build, cleave fast to this, although all appearances be against you.
Perhaps, the very reason why the Lord withholds an answer, may be, that you may learn to persevere in asking—that "patience may have her perfect work"—that you may be kept looking up to Him—"waiting upon the Lord who hides His face"—"sitting daily at the posts of His doors." For, thus it often is, that the believer, as he renews again and again his supplication, and clings by faith to the Savior, saying with the patriarch, "I will not let You go until You bless me" not only gains his suit, but, through Divine grace, even as he hangs upon his Redeemer—grows like unto Him!
The work of the Holy Spirit goes on within the soul—the believer advances, step by step, in his heavenward journey—each progressive movement, it may be, small and almost imperceptible to himself, as he is taking it; yet, one by one, leading him up to unknown heights—bringing him ever nearer and nearer to the golden gate. And, the more close and frequent his communion at the throne of grace, the more is his soul filled with the "peace which passes all understanding." Conscious of a presence which the world knows not of—alone with his loving and tender Redeemer—he has a "joy with which a stranger cannot intermeddle"—to Him he unbosoms all his griefs, and cares, and troubles, and from Him he at length receives, more than an answer to his prayers—relief from present troubles, and the blessed, abiding assurance of a Savior's unchanging and eternal love.
Praying one, faint not, neither be disheartened. With the Divine promise to rest upon—the certainty that your petition will be granted, you may well be encouraged. If there be delay, it is because this delay is, in the judgment of Infinite Mercy and Goodness, better for you than an immediate answer. "The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." "Call upon me in the day of trouble—I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." What more can you desire? It is like promising the fearful traveler, that the stormy day which is overtaking him, shall not—cannot injure him. Its storms may buffet, but they shall do him no real harm. Or, it is like telling the tempest-driven mariner—not that a calm is coming on, or that a haven is near—but that—let the tempest rage as it will, not a plank of his vessel shall give way. There shall be a strain on it, but it shall bear the strain—shall weather the storm; and, when the storm ceases, be ready as ever to pursue its course. "He shall call upon me," says the Lord, "and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble and will deliver him." "I will be first a prayer-hearing, a prayer-answering God to him—then a present, and helping, and comforting God, and at last a delivering God." "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in the time of trouble."
Finally, since, if we are the children of God, we must look to endure tribulation, before entering the land of light and life—we should seek to be prepared for it. The current may now be flowing gently with us; but, there is not one among the pilgrims Zionward—the fairest—the youngest—the happiest and most hopeful, whose feet, sooner or later, will not have to pass through the deep waters of trouble and sorrow. They await us all; for, we are told, that of those who have entered heaven—of that mighty palm-bearing multitude, who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," one universal characteristic is, that they have come "out of great tribulation." Although so numerous that no man can number them, so diverse that all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, have there their representatives, this multitude contains not an individual who has not come "out of great tribulation." It is not, that, here and there in that vast assemblage, there are SOME whose lot, on earth, was full of misery and woe, who had to pass through days of trouble and anguish—no, of that unnumbered number, this is universally, unexceptionably true—all came "out of great tribulation."
Sorrow once had set its seal on every heart; trials and afflictions and anxieties, pressed closely upon them—their earthly prospects were darkened by disappointment or marred by adversity—bereavement, and sickness, and poverty, and death following the track of sin, added to their mournful experience—and, with many of God's best beloved, one tear was scarcely dried, when another was ready to flow. Their days of mourning are, indeed, ended—but they came "out of great tribulation."
Christian! it will be so with you; but do not shrink. Pray that you may be prepared for trouble, when it comes. While, indeed, God is pleased to keep it from your door, it is not for you to seek it, but, rather, to take thankfully the blessings so graciously bestowed. But, should He see proper to give you "the bread of adversity and the water of affliction"—should the clouds begin to gather round you, and your day of prosperity be turned into a "day of trouble," (and oh! it does not take long to darken the brightest sky, when God has once commanded the clouds from above—there is no need of years—moments suffice—to blight the sweetest flowers and nip the choicest buds) but, should this be the will of God, come to the throne of grace, and pray that He would enable you to bow with submission, and that, in His own good time, He would be pleased to "deliver" you.
Let the language of your soul be, "Father, I know that this affliction comes to me from Your hand, and, that You love me. Not willingly, would You grieve even me, Your most wayward child. You know, that I need it. You know, that if Your chastening hand were not often upon me, I would be continually 'going astray' like a broken bow. I submit before Your justice; I acknowledge Your mercy; I bless You for Your promises of help and comfort, and my earnest prayer is, that my present trouble, may work that holy and sanctifying effect, which You have designed, and without which, I cannot be rendered fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light."
Oh! let such a petition ascend before God, in the name of Jesus, and you will assuredly be comforted. Those gracious words will be addressed to you, which the Savior once uttered upon earth, "Let not your heart be troubled. In the world you shall have tribulation—but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world;" and you will learn, more and more, that these "light afflictions which are but for a moment," are intended "to work out for you a far more exceeding—even an eternal weight of glory."
Remember, this world is your nursery, your school—but yonder is your true and eternal home. Yet a little while, and you will leave behind you, sin and sorrow, trial and trouble—yet a little while, and the sackcloth attire will be removed, and you will be clothed in white robes. You will lay down the pilgrim's staff, to sound the notes of praise, upon your golden harp. You will emerge, from the valley of tears and the scene of suffering, to stand at the gate of the celestial city, and, there, present your credentials for admittance. Once lodged within that heavenly home, all will be peace. No tempest will beat upon you there, no storms disturb you there. The tear will be forever dried—the throbbing heart be hushed, and you will take your place—triumphant on the summit of Mount Zion, there to partake of the joys which are at God's right hand, and of those pleasures which are forevermore!
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, our refuge and defense, the strength of our heart and the rock of our salvation, enable us in every day of trouble, yes, at all times, to put our trust in You. Teach us with full assurance to look up to You, as our reconciled God and Father in Christ Jesus, who are willing for His sake to supply our utmost need; and, graciously remember Your word unto Your servants, on which you have caused us to hope, that You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon You.
We confess, O God, that hitherto we have been prone to trust in the creature more than in the Creator. We have leaned upon broken reeds, and hewed out empty cisterns. We have turned for support and help to an arm of flesh. And, instead of acknowledging You in all our ways, we have often walked in the light of our own eyes, and after the imagination of our own hearts.
Pardon, O God, for the sake of Your beloved Son, whatever lack of confidence we have shown towards You; and lead us henceforth by the teaching of Your Holy Spirit to trust in You with all our hearts. Increase our faith in the promises of Your Word. Dispose us cheerfully to cast upon You all our cares and troubles, humbly to commit to You all our interests, and earnestly to seek the aid of Your strength and the guidance of Your wisdom in all our undertakings.
"Oh, keep us from all murmuring, or unbelieving misgivings, under the stroke of Your chastening hand. Let there be no hard interpretation of Your dealings. May we see Your chastisements, tempered with gracious love, all to be needful discipline. Give us an unwavering trust and confidence in Your faithfulness, and help us to feel assured that nothing befalls us but by Your direction; nothing is appointed, but what is for our good. May we delight often to anticipate that happy time, when we shall suffer no more and sin no more, when we shall trace with joyous hearts, the long line of unbroken love and, unchanging faithfulness, and, when in Your light we shall see light."
Graciously hear the voice of our supplications, which we offer in the name of Your well-beloved Son, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Sure refuge of the weary soul!
On You, when sorrows rise;
On You when waves of trouble roll,
Our fainting hope relies.
To You we tell our every grief,
For You alone can heal;
Your word can bring a sweet relief
To every pain we feel.
Yet often when vexing fears prevail,
We doubt the love divine;
Our springs of peace and comfort fail,
And all our hopes decline.
But You have said to seek Your face;
Nor shall we seek in vain;
The ready arm of sovereign grace
Will help before we complain.
Your mercy-seat is open still;
There let our souls retreat,
With humble hope await Your will,
And worship at Your feet.
Afflicted saint, to God draw near,
Your Savior's gracious promise hear;
His faithful word declares to thee,
That as your day your strength shall be.
Let not your heart despond, nor say,
How shall I stand this trying day?
He has engaged by firm decree,
That as your day your strength shall be.
Your faith is weak, your foes are strong;
And if the conflict should be long,
Your Lord will make the tempter flee;
For as your day your strength shall be.
When called by Him to bear the cross—
Reproach, bereavement, painful loss,
Or deep distress and poverty—
Still as your day your strength shall be.
When death at length appears in view,
Christ's presence shall your foes subdue;
He comes to set your spirit free,
And as your day your strength shall be.