19 February 2004

"Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer."-Psalm 4:1

Many were the distresses of the sweet psalmist of Israel. Though David was greatly loved of God, his life was full of trials. Saul, the king of his people, his brother in the faith, sought his life, hunting him like a wild animal. Satan was always at his heels, tempting him with the lust of the flesh and the pride of life as we read of his failings with Bathsheba and numbering Israel. Absalom, his own son, rose up against him. So it is with the righteous. Our constant enemy is like a baying hound, either attempting to bite us himself or turning other dogs upon us. Though the weary pilgrim may be discouraged, in the midst of it all, something amazing happens. When he holds on to his faith, discouragement turns in to strength, sorrow into joy and Satan is revealed. The world is seen for what it is as affections are shifted from trusting and loving the world into trusting and loving the Lord: he is enlarged.

Let us note: David's enlargement was not the result of <i>victories</i>. It was not the result of personal success. It was not even the result of his popularity and power. It was the result of <i>distress</i>. The most beautiful flowers do not grow upon the mountain top, they grow in the valleys. Mountain top experiences are wonderful but God does not grow his crop there. Though one may be enlarged in the eyes of the world by all of the above, spiritual enlargement, which in the eyes of the Lord is what really matters, only comes by distress. This is the only way.

This word distress is full of meaning. It means a narrow, tight place where there are many enemies. Soul trouble, depression, personal problems, financial struggles, are among the distresses of mankind. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble" writes the learned patriarch. Modern man has forgotten this and is perplexed when he is not happy at all times. Yet, God has ordained that it is here, and here alone, that the Christian grows!

There are many scriptural illustrations of distress: Daniel in the den of lions; the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, Paul in prison and David's struggles to name a few. Even in his conversion, the Christian experiences distress. When Christ is revealed, the heart is pricked as sins are revived before our eyes and we are in great distress. The way up is down! Figurative language like: "Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer"(Proverbs 25:4) and "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich"(Rev. 3:18a) indicate distress and how it enlarges those who are exercised thereby.

Yet, let us take courage. The same hand that wrote of his enlargement in distress also wrote: "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread"- Psalm 37:25. Our Lord is faithful in times of distress and He brings us through it all. Christians today are not exempt from distress nor should they ever think themselves so. It must be viewed as a time to grow, to be enlarged, to seek the Lord's face. Lord, lead us not into temptation. Help us in our distress to be faithful and submissive. Enlarge us in all of our distresses that we may give thee glory!