At an especially difficult and fraught time in the life of David, all seemed lost. An enemy force had taken his family captive and ravaged the town in which he was residing.
Then, to make bad matters worse, even David’s own people turned against him and threatened to stone him dead. The Bible though records that at that time, David did not give in to despair, but rather ‘David strengthened himself in the Lord, his God’ (1 Samuel 30:6).
Foes, friends and fears notwithstanding, David knew that whatever his circumstances, almighty God — ‘his God’ — was in ultimate control, and that the Lord’s purposes could not be defeated nor his plans thwarted.
In ‘strengthening himself in the Lord his God’ David has given us an example to emulate, especially when we too find ourselves ‘up against it’. But how exactly do we do this?
We do it by applying the truth of God’s Word to ourselves and our situation. To be more specific, we, as believers, take hold of at least four truths revealed in Scripture.
The first is that we are accepted by God through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, all is well with us, as the finished work of Christ at Calvary cannot be undone or rescinded.
Through Christ’s merits and mediation, we are acceptable to God and will never be separated from him. The gospel of justification by the grace of God in Christ has great pastoral and practical implications.
‘Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein he pardoneth all our sins and accepteth us as righteous in his sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone’ (Shorter Catechism).
Truth be told, if we are united to Christ, we could not be more acceptable to God, for our acceptance with the Lord is not based on who we are or on what we do, but on who Christ is and what he has done. ‘A man is not justified [reckoned righteous] by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 2:16).
The second truth is that God’s grace keeps pace with whatever we face. The Bible reveals a God of sustaining as well as saving grace. When Paul was in excruciating pain — a pain from which he prayed earnestly to God to be released — God’s promise to him was ‘my grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
From this, we may reason that if our Father in heaven does not see fit to remove our burdens from us in answer to our prayers, he will most certainly give us a stronger back to bear our burdens.
If the path he has laid down for us is a stony one, he will surely provide us with protective shoes! His grace will prove to be as sufficient for us as it was for Paul:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength when the labours increase
To added affliction he addeth his mercy
To multiplied trials his multiplied peace.
Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932)
Third, God promises wisdom to those who ask him. ‘Wisdom’ may be defined as ‘sound judgement in relation to life and conduct’. How we all need wisdom in this complex world, so that we know how to act and react aright.
But what do we do, when we don’t know what to do? The Bible’s answer is, ‘Ask God’. God promises to give wisdom to those who humbly ask him for it. ‘For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding’ (Proverbs 2:6); ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him’ (James 1:5).
The Bible also states that, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). Thus, if our sincere desire is to please the Lord and if our deepest horror is causing offence to him, he will surely make the way ahead for us clear.
The fourth truth is that the Lord ‘gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength’ (Isaiah 40:29).
When we feel impotent, it is easy to forget that our Father in heaven is omnipotent. He is almighty God! Scripture abounds in reminding us of God’s absolute, sovereign might. He has no problems; he only has plans.
‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14); ‘behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is anything too hard for me?’ (Jeremiah 32:27); ‘for with God nothing will be impossible’ (Luke 1:37).
The wonder is that this God — whose might is such that he could merely speak the universe into existence — actually puts his power at the disposal of his needy children.
Hence the psalmist could testify, ‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:2); and hence Paul could conclude on the encouraging thought, ‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20).
External appearance apart, Christians are no ordinary people. We are the adopted children of God! Yes, difficulties, disappointments, trials and traumas come our way in the will of God in this fallen world, but God’s will will be done, for he ‘accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11).
If we belong to Jesus, when we are ‘up against it’ we have the privilege of bringing our difficulties and impossibilities to the Lord. He can handle them better than we can!
When you are tempted to despair of yourself and your circumstances therefore, strengthen yourself in your faith by asking yourself the rhetorical question, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14). How we need to trust him more than we do!
Is the burden intolerable?
Is the task impossible?
Is the grief inconsolable?
Not with the Lord.
Is the darkness impenetrable?
Is the sky unpierceable?
Is the tear undryable?
Not with the Lord.
Is the joy irrecoverable?
Is the state irreversible?
Is the case irretrievable?
Not with the Lord.