God, our Resource in Affliction
and in Joy
"Does any one among you suffer evil (affliction)?
Let him pray.Is any happy? Let him sing psalms."
James frees the mind from worldly habits. Men seek
to deceive themselves by avoiding thought. They would foolishly
ignore the cares and troubles, from which they cannot escape,
and amidst which, thanks be to God, He provides a refuge to the
heart in His love, and in the sense of His care for us.
He would not have us insensible to the troubles
of this life. God, who never withdraws His eyes from the righteous,
sends or allows them for our good. Even a sparrow does not fall
to the ground without our Father--not only, without the will of
God, but that God who loves us as a tender Father. He may indeed
chasten us, but thinks upon us while chastening, in order to sanctify
us and to draw our hearts nearer to Himself.
By drawing near to God in affliction, the will
is subdued, and the heart consoled and encouraged. God Himself
is revealed to the soul and works by His grace. In the sense of
His presence, we say, "It is good for me that I have been
afflicted" (Ps. 119:71). Not only are we near to God, but
we also open our hearts to Him. He would have us do this, for
He is full of grace. He desires our confidence, not only that
we may be subject to His will, but that we may present our cares
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ
Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul is speaking here of cares, but
comfort and rest are equally found there. "Who comforteth
us," says the apostle in 2 Cor. 1:4, "in all our
afflictions," and he appeals to God as "the Father
of mercies and the God of all consolation, or "encouragement."
At Philippi, they were filled with peace
through the consolation poured into their hearts. This may also
come through circumstances, for Paul says, "God, who comforteth
those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus"
(2 Cor. 7:6). He had been utterly cast down, because he had not
met Titus, who had been sent to the Corinthians when they were
walking very badly. He had abandoned the open door for the gospel
at Troas, and his heart had even gone the length of regretting
that he had written his first inspired epistle. His faith had
sunk below the level of the power of God, which had impelled him
to write it.
Arrived at Macedonia, still on his way to
meet Titus, though testifying to Christ as he went, his flesh
had no rest. He says, "We were troubled on every side;
without were fightings, within were fears." God allowed
the apostle to feel his weakness; but it is worthwhile to be afflicted,
if God Himself becomes our Comforter. Titus arrives bringing good
tidings to the effect of his first epistle, and the apostle is
then full of joy.
God often takes away the affliction itself and
fills the soul with gladness, pouring His consolations into the
heart, which thus becomes more matured for communion with Himself
and for heaven.
In every case of affliction, prayer is our resource;
we own our dependence and we confide in His goodness. The heart
draws near to Him. It tells out to Him its need and its sorrow,
laying it down on the throne and the heart of God, who answers
either by circumstances which make us happy, or by pouring in
His consolation--an answer which is still more blessed than outward
happiness--but ever by that which is best for us, acting according
to His perfect love.
The pious heart, under the influence of grace,
refers also to God in its joy. If the heart dwells only on the
cause of its joy, this becomes a danger for it. But if God is
a refuge in distress, so is He that portion of the soul in joy.
When I have a subject of happiness, I tell my intimate friend,
that he may rejoice with me, and this doubles my own joy. But,
in this passage, there is something more; for the heart feels
that God is the source of the blessing and the cause of the joy.
Even when there is no special reason for rejoicing, the heart
is happy, and the pious soul, living in communion with God, desires
to have God with it in its joy.
Moreover, if the soul gives itself up to joy, it
becomes empty and light; the heart gets estranged from God, and
folly takes possession of it. In trouble, dependence upon God
is realized, but in joy there is a danger of forgetting it, and
joy often ends in a fall; at any rate, the flesh is then in activity,
and God is forgotten. This exhortation of James, to mingle joy
with piety, is therefore, most important for the Christian.
If the thought of God is there, it expresses itself
in psalms (this does not mean the psalms of David, but, being
happy, he is to give vent to his joy in the praise of the Lord)
and thanksgivings to Him. God is present to us in our joy, and
faith. Communion, and spiritual power are increased by the sense
of His goodness. Thus we apply ourselves to the toils of life,
encouraged and strengthened through the sorrows of the wilderness,
by a deeper conviction that God is for us.