“I waited patiently for the Lord; And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1
“We cannot help here remarking the great advantage of religion, true religion; to have a God to repair to, a God to cry unto, under all oppressions of mind and circumstances. Wicked men have their horrible pits as well as good men. It is not peculiar to Christians, or to good men, to sink in distress; but it is peculiar to them to cry to God under such dispensations; there is the advantage, the unspeakable advantage, of true religion.
The heroes of antiquity, the great men of Greece and Rome, had their troubles, and they had their remedy—but a horrible remedy it was. It was customary with them, in the turbulent times in which they lived, to carry poison about them, in order that, if their troubles should increase upon them too heavily, they might put an end to their lives; and to this horrible refuge they frequently repaired; and to the same refuge we have seen men repair in our own times.
Oh, what a thing it is to sink in a horrible pit, and to have no God to repair to, or no heart to cry to him. Christian, dost thou sink in a horrible pit? It may be so, but think of the example of the Psalmist,—he cried to the Lord under all his troubles; and this was the conduct of Jeremiah, he cried to the Lord out of his dungeon, and the Lord heard him.
Jonah also was in a horrible pit; he sunk not only in the waters of the sea—not only was he swallowed up by the monstrous fish, but almost sinking into desperation, as it respected his life, yet he cried unto the Lord. One could hardly suppose he cried to the Lord for temporal deliverance, because that seemed beyond all reach, beyond all hope; but he cried to the Lord, and looked towards his holy temple. I dare say he thought of what Solomon had said in his prayer when he dedicated the temple. ‘O Lord God,’ says he, ‘when any of thy people Israel shall be in distress, and shall pray unto thee, looking towards this house, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place.’ Encouraged by this, the prophet, the disobedient prophet, though loaded with shame, guilt, and despondency, though cast out not only by heathens from the ship, but to all appearance by heaven from the world, and sinking into the belly of the fish, which to him was as the belly of hell, with that dreadful load upon his heart, yet, says he, I will look towards thine holy temple.
Oh, what a blessedness it is to good men under all their depressions to have a God to cry to as David had! It is worthy of notice that there are circumstances in life in which we are encompassed “around, our way is hedged in, and there seems no escape,’ as Jeremiah expressed it, ‘thou hast compassed my ways as with hewn stones,’ as a prisoner encompassed with four stone walls, which were inaccessible, from which there was no escape, and through which no light could shine. ‘Thou hast compassed me as with hewn stones.’ Yes, there are circumstances in which every avenue of escape seems to be hedged up and shut out; but there is one way that neither hell nor earth can shut up, and that is the way out.
To a Christian there is always one way open, and that was the way that was open to the Israelites: when they came to the Red Sea, there was a mountain on their right hand, and sea on their left; Pharaoh’s army was behind them, and every way seemed to be blocked up; but there was one way open, Moses and Israel cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard them, and delivered them.
Never let us forget this in every state of affliction, to lift up our hands and our eyes to heaven. But this is not the whole of the spirit of the Psalmist under his affliction; he not only cried, but he waited, and waited patiently. It seems, then, that God did not deliver him at once, no,—the Lord that answers the prayers of his servants does not always answer them at the instant of their supplication,—he sees proper to exercise our faith, our patience, our submission to his will. It is written, ‘Let patience have her perfect work;’ and it is worthy of notice that this is the only world in which patience will have any exercise. In the world to come there will be no occasion for patience, it is a grace therefore that must do its all here; and therefore it is said, ‘Let patience have her perfect work,’ she must do all for God, and all for us that she will do, in the present state; and for this reason God frequently times his deliverances and his blessings so as to draw forth our patience and submission to his will.
We may also notice the nature of patience from this circumstance,—it does not consist in a stoical apathy, it is consistent with the liveliest sensation, it is consistent with the acutest feelings, and with the most ardent desires to God for deliverance. The Psalmist, you see, was crying to the Lord, and at the same time was waiting patiently. My brethren, the patience of infidels, the patience of worldly wicked men is no other than a sort of hardened apathy, an endeavor to stupefy their feelings, striving to place themselves in such circumstances that they may forget their misery. But this is not consistent with Christian patience, no, it is not consistent with those lively feelings, those quick sensations, which the Christian feels. The gospel teaches us to refrain from murmuring, to sit submissive under the hand of God, and to be like that Lamb which was led to the slaughter,—the Lamb of God, who, when in the garden of Gethsemane, said, ‘If it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.’” Andrew Fuller, “Sermon XXXII: The Conduct Of David In Trouble,” in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, Vol. 1. [Delivered at Eagle Street, London, Wednesday Evening, June 18th, 1800.] (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 381-382.