The Tried Saint
James Smith, 1864
"I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long!" Psalm 38:6
To be troubled — is to be agitated, distressed, and burdened in mind; and such is often the case with the believer. His faith is weak — and his trials are numerous; therefore he is often agitated and cast down.
Many Christians do not like the place assigned to them by God's Providence — and this brings discontent and distress.
Others do not relish the self-denying precepts given to them in the gospel; and, therefore, they do not endeavor to reduce them to practice — and this always causes trouble.
Sometimes the cause of trouble is in the domestic circle. When minds are not well matched, when natural dispositions do not agree — unless there is much grace, there will be great trouble. If the husband does not endeavor to love his wife, even as Christ loves his church; and if the wife refuses to submit to the authority of the husband, making his will her law — there must be frequent jars, conflicts, and disagreements — and these trouble the spirit. If children are not trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or if they are headstrong, unruly, and unpleasant in their tempers — there will be trouble. Many godly parents nave often to retire to the closet and sigh out before the Lord, "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly."
Family trials are often kept in the family; no one knows them but the parties who endure them, nor, as a rule, should they; but in consequence of this, many suffer deeply who are not supposed to suffer at all. Oh, the bitter nights and sorrowful days which many believers pass through in secret, arising from domestic troubles! What a mercy that there is a throne of grace, a loving Father who listens to our secret sighs, and hears our painful confessions, which we dare make to no one but himself, for if this were not the case, many a Christian's heart would break.
Very frequently the source of trouble is within.
It is soul-trouble, which is trouble with an emphasis. Guilt is
contracted, confession is neglected, and the eye is taken off the great
atoning sacrifice — and then comes trouble!
The evidences are beclouded,
the prospects are darkened,
the heart is contracted,
fears are awakened,
unbelief becomes strong,
the spirit of prayer departs,
the heart is drained of its comfort,
and the soul, which was once like a well-watered garden, becomes like a barren desert.
Every duty is a task, and what was a sweet privilege becomes a burden. The Bible is a sealed book, the ordinances of God's house are like dry breasts, and Christian conversation is wearisome. Conscience accuses, memory furnishes the indictment, and Satan tempts us to despair. Past experience appears to have been a delusion, and a spirit of restlessness seizes us; so that, like the unclean spirit which went out of the man, we wander through dry places, seeking rest, but finding none.
If we look up — God appears to be an angry Judge;
if we look back — our iniquities are set in array against us;
if we look around — we cannot see any of the Lord's people exercised as we are;
and if we look forward — the idea of eternity without hope is dreadful.
Now the soul sighs out, "I am troubled! I am bowed down greatly!"
No one knows what sin is — who has not seen it in the light of God's countenance; nor can any one tell the trouble occasioned by a guilty conscience — but he who has smarted beneath its lashes. Precious, infinitely precious, is the blood of Jesus which heals it; and gracious, unspeakably gracious, is the Holy Spirit who applies that blood unto us. Without that blood, and without this blessed Spirit — the poor troubled sinner would sink into despair, or rush into desperation!
The flesh is a constant source of trouble. It is always present. It is ever active. It is sometimes exceedingly power, ful. It is upon this that Satan works, and by this he often brings us into bondage. When the flesh is realized in its full force, every grace appears to be buried under a heap of corruption, and the dreadful evils of the heart are set in motion. What images are painted on the imagination! What horrible thoughts pass through the soul! What indescribable evils are working in the hidden chambers of the heart! Oh, it is fearful sometimes, when the flesh is lasting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things that we would! What fearful thoughts of God; what dreadful conceptions of eternity; what alarming ideas respecting the Bible, the Savior, and the blessed Spirit! The soul is indeed agitated, depressed, and wearied. The conflict is severe. It is only as we wield the sword of the Spirit, oppose the shield of faith, and cry unto the Strong One for strength, that we can prevail.
Many of the Lord's people suffer a secret martyrdom; for they are so harassed, perplexed, and confounded by the working of the flesh, that their fears torment them; and unbelief, like a fire, withers up their spirits. This makes them exclaim, "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
The temptations, insinuations, and suggestions of Satan are another cause of trouble to the believer. He worries those whom he cannot devour. He distresses those whom he cannot destroy. Now he tries to draw into sin — and then to drive into despair. Now he employs external agents — and then he secretly works upon the mind. Sometimes he comes in his own true colors — and sometimes he is transformed into an angel of light. Oh, the devices he uses, the stratagems he employs — to distress and trouble us! Now he fills the heart with foul, debasing, devilish thoughts, such as no Christian dare utter, such as no author dare write. Then he misrepresents God's character, and insinuates the vilest thoughts against his goodness and his grace. Now the object of his attack is God's word, and he assaults us in reference to its authenticity, inspiration, and purity. Then he calls attention to the church of God, and shows up all that is inconsistent among the saints, and tries to alienate our hearts from them. Now he tries to undermine our faith in the atonement of the Lord Jesus — and then he levels all his artillery against the glorious person, and gracious work of the Holy Spirit. His one object is to generate doubt, foster unbelief — and lead us into sin, desperation, and despair. Well may the apostle compare it to wrestling, when he says, "We wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places." They are wicked spirits, full of spite and malice against God, against his Son, and against everyone who desires to honor his dear name. It is a fearful struggle often, so that we are "troubled and bowed down greatly."
What, with . . .
trouble in the world,
trials in the church,
disorders in the family,
occasionally guilt upon the conscience,
the flesh warring against the spirit, and
the buffetings, suggestions, and temptations of Satan
— the true believer proves his life to be a conflict, his course a trial, and all the consolations of the gospel necessary. He is often troubled; and deep sighs, heavy groans, and heart-felt cries — ascend from him to the throne of his gracious God. He is bowed down, straitened in spirit, and so pressed in soul — that he knows not what to do. His burden appears too heavy for him to bear — and would be, only that his Savior's strength is made perfect in his weakness.
He desires to love God with all his heart, and with all his soul; but often that heart appears full of rebellion, and is as hard as a stone. He would be constantly ascending to God in the exercise of prayer and praise; but instead of this, he is often prayerless, indifferent, and ungrateful. He would exercise faith in his word, and trust in his wise and holy providence; but, alas he discredits the promise, doubts God's goodness, is discontented, and murmurs at his lot! He wishes to walk in the light, as God is in the light, that he may enjoy high and holy fellowship with him; but he is dark, distant, and knows little of the holy fellowship he longs for.
Thus he goes mourning, at times, all the day long. He
mourns over the hardness, depravity, and coldness of his heart. He mourns
because sin dwells in him, works in him — and he fears it will
overcome him some day. He mourns lest he should . . .
offend the Lord,
grieve the Holy Spirit, or
wound his beloved Savior anew.
He mourns because his love is so feeble, fitful, and imperfect.
He mourns because he cannot serve God as he requires, or be holy as he commands him.
He mourns because his repentance is not deep enough: he does not, he cannot, sorrow for sin as he wishes, because he is so little affected, and grieves so slightly over his sin.
He mourns because, notwithstanding all, pride still works in his nature, though ne wishes to lie low in the dust, and be clothed with humility before God and man.
He mourns, at times, lest his spot should not be
the spot of God's children, or his experience is different from theirs. This
frequently . . .
wounds his feelings,
burdens his soul,
sinks his spirits,
shakes his hopes,
fills him with fears,
and makes him groan.
Then he cries, "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long."
Reader, are you troubled for sin? Are you ever troubled
by Satan? Are you ever bowed down in sorrow, burdened with guilt, and laid
low before the Lord? Do you ever mourn over your imperfections, repent of
your sins, and sigh and strive for holiness? Real religion is
experimental, and though all do not experience the whole of what
I have written — yet every true Christian does, or will, know something
about it. It is necessary to . . .
strip him of self,
divorce him from the law,
teach him his own weakness,
lead him to rely entirely on the Lord Jesus, and
gladly accept salvation as the gift of free grace.
Those who are thus tried, have low thoughts of themselves — and high thoughts of Christ! They walk softly before God, without boasting, or self-conceit. They renounce all confidence in the flesh, placing confidence in God's covenant-mercy alone.
To them, Christ is precious.
To them, free grace is sweet.
To them, the cross is glorious.
To them, the precious promises are necessary.
To them, Heaven will be a place of rest, satisfaction, and rejoicing.
Throughout eternity, they will admire, adore, and enjoy the wonders of redeeming love!