The Comfortless Christian
James Smith, 1860
“When will You comfort me?” Psalm 119:82
No prayers are like inspired prayers. No appeals to God are like those found in his own word. God’s word not only opens his heart to you — but it opens ours to him also. It not only tells us what is in the mind of God — but the working and exercises of the minds of God’s people too. It is pleasant sometimes to compare notes with other members of the Lord’s family, and the Scriptures enable us to do so, especially the book of Psalms. Here we . . .
trace out the works of God in the soul,
discover the footsteps of the flock, and
perceive that we are in the pilgrim’s path — following those who through faith and patience now inherit the promises.
What a precious psalm is the one hundred and nineteenth! What a choice treasury of experience we have here. What a disclosure of the workings of the spiritual mind. I have just been reading it once more, and the passion and exclamation of the Psalmist has took hold of my soul, “When will You comfort me?”
GOD’S PEOPLE ARE OFTEN DISTRESSED. They have much to afflict them. Corruption within, and trying dispensations without. Depravity generates doubt:
Doubt of God’s love.
Doubt of our saving interest in Christ.
Doubt whether what we have experienced is the real work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Doubt if after all we shall not turn out to be wayside, stony-ground, or thorny-ground hearers.
Now as the salvation of the soul, is it to us the one object of importance, how painful are such doubts. Then at times darkness broods over the soul. The Sun of righteousness is beclouded. We cannot read our evidences. We cannot see our way. We cannot perceive that the promises belong to us.
At the throne of grace, all is dark.
In the house of prayer, all is dark.
When we read the bible, all is dark.
O this darkness, it is so painful, so perplexing, so confounding at times! While we are in doubt, when we are walking in darkness, very often the dispensations of divine providence are very trying.
We are tried in the family, and what trials some have there!
We are tried in the world, and what trials some have there!
We are tried in the church, and at times church trials are trials indeed.
Then we seek comfort — but we find none. We cry to the Lord for comfort — but he seems to turn a deaf ear to our cry. At such times, we feel pretty much as old Jacob felt, when he cried out, “All these things are against me!”
GOD’S PEOPLE ARE AT TIMES LEFT LONG WITHOUT COMFORT. Day after day passes, and the Lord speaks not to the soul. Week after week passes, and the Lord pays no sweet love visit. Yes, month after month rolls away, and there is no heart-melting, soul-assuring manifestation of this divine love.
These are dreary times.
The harp is upon the willows.
The songs of Zion are suspended.
The soul mourns as a dove.
The heart is heavy,
the head hangs down, and
the tongue is silent on divine things.
The outward form of religion is perhaps kept up — but the chariot wheels drag heavily, and scarcely any progress seems to be made. The soul is restless, going backward and forward in search of the Beloved — but disappointment and vexation increase the sorrow. If the soul attempts to pray, the Lord holds back the face of his throne, and hangs a cloud upon it. This is doing business in deep waters, and traveling through the valley of the shadow of death. This extorts the loud and exceeding bitter cry, “When will You comfort me?”
GOD’S PEOPLE CRY TO GOD FOR COMFORT. They feel that only God can comfort them. His presence, the light of his countenance, and the witness of his Spirit, alone can give them that satisfaction which they desire. Man may try — but he fails. Means will be used — but they will all be found inefficient. Only the Lord, as the God of all comfort, can administer the consolation required.
He often delays, and delays long. But though he seems to close his ear, and to turn his back, upon these mourners for a time, he will turn again, he will have compassion upon them, and will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea! He will remember his covenant. He will fulfill his promise. He will give the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
He comforts us in all our tribulation.
By some loving word brought home.
By some refreshing view of Jesus.
By some new insight into the covenant.
By his Spirit in the heart.
Or, by throwing light upon the path we have been traveling. By one, or more, of these things, or in some such way, he . . .
banishes our doubts,
scatters our darkness,
disperses our gloom,
brings us out of the prison,
sets our feet again upon the rock, and
fills us with joy and peace in believing!
The Jubilee trumpet is heard anew, the fetters fall off, the yoke of bondage is destroyed, the best robe is put on, and the soul sings, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God!”
Reader, know you anything of this experience? Most of God’s people do in some measure. All are not tried alike — but all have to pass through . . .
darkness as well as light,
clouds as well as sunshine,
bondage as well as liberty,
sorrow as well as joy.
If you should now be comfortless, if you should have been so for a long time, your case is not singular, nor your experience peculiar. Many have been in the same state before you, many are in the same state now. Hold on then, cry on then, and be this your cry, “When will You comfort me?”