James Smith, 1860
"I remembered God — and was troubled!" Psalm 77:3
Memory often cheers our hearts by its remindings — but it sometimes saddens our spirits by its contrasts. In some of our gloomy seasons, we cannot help looking back — and contrasting our former happy experience, with our present sadness and sorrow. Thus the Psalmist acted, and his very recollections of God troubled him. O how dependent we are on the blessed Comforter — for settled peace, quietness of conscience, and joy in God. Let us for a few moments sit down with the Psalmist, compare notes, and talk the matter over; it may do us good, and bring relief to our minds.
"I remembered God" — how sweetly he manifested himself to my soul, and held communion with my spirit, filling me with joy and love. Then his varied excellencies feasted and delighted my heart. I could say, "The Lord is my portion!" and be satisfied with the poorest fare. Nothing troubled me much, or troubled me long. But now, I have no bright manifestations, no sweet views, no sensible communion with God. I am left with his word in my hand — but without the sweet savor of it in my heart!
I know that the Lord is glorious — but I cannot perceive his glory. I know that God is love — but I cannot realize his love to me. I know that God is the portion of his people — but I cannot enjoy him as my portion. Comparing the past with the present, troubles me, and I cannot help exclaiming with Job, "O How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head and by his light I walked through darkness! Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me!" Job 29:2-5. I am troubled indeed!
"I remembered God" — how he used to meet me in my prayer-closet, and in my solitary walks, and draw out my soul to himself. Then I could pray with fervor and praise with a melting heart. Then to be alone — was to be with God; and to be with God — was to enjoy a little bit of heaven upon earth. The promises flowed sweetly into my soul, and the Holy Spirit helped my infirmities. I could read my title to the heavenly inheritance, and my saving interest in the everlasting covenant with all its spiritual blessings. Temporal things were little thought of — the spiritual and eternal appearing all important. But now, the closet is an empty place, and the solitary walk is lonely and unpleasant. Now my prayers are lifeless, and my attempts to praise are dull and graceless! To be alone now — is to muse on my misery, and to deepen my distress by reflecting on my lost joys. I read and repeat the promises — but they make no impression on me; nor can I claim and plead them as my own. If I look forward — I have no sweet anticipations; and if I look backward — I cannot read my name in the book of life, or discern my saving interest in covenant blessings. Temporal things affect me deeply, while spiritual things make little impression. I am troubled indeed!
"I remembered God" — how frequently he answered my prayers, gave me tokens for good, and appeared for me in straits and difficulties. I could then plead with him, trust in him, and expect from him — as a Father. Then he seemed to take me by the hand, choose out my way for me, and lead me kindly and gently in it. I looked upon earth — as my Father's world; upon the Church — as my Father's temple; and upon heaven — as my Father's house. A spirit of filial love, confidence, and hope, ruled my heart, and regulated my feelings. But now, I cry out and shout — but he shuts out my prayer. I get no answers, no deliverances, no sensible tokens for good. I have lost my sense of acceptance, my strong confidence in God's paternal heart, and appear to be left alone to find out my way as I can. O what a change! I am troubled indeed!
"But why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him!" There is no change in him — the change is wholly and entirely in yourself. His loving heart is still eternally the same. Once he led you by sense — and now he calls upon you to walk by faith. His eye is still upon you — his ear is open to you — and his heart still glows with unutterable love to you! All the difference is, you were once lying at the breasts of consolation — and now you are being weaned. Once milk was your food, and warm, sweetened milk too; and now you have placed before you, solid food!
It is to you, that Jesus speaks, saying, "Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me!" Let not the contrast between former and present experience lead you to examine yourself; but hold fast the confidence you had at the beginning, steadfast unto the end. Cast yourself on the naked promise. Trust God's heart — when you cannot trace his hand! Believe his word — in the absence of feeling. Call upon him, and expect him to answer you, and all shall be well, and well forever — troubled though you have been.
Holy Spirit, lead me to view God in Jesus, to trust in the finished work of Jesus alone, to walk by faith in the promise, and to rejoice in hope of the glory that is to be revealed.