The Sick Man's Prayer
James Smith, 1864
"Look upon my affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins." Psalm 25:18
We are all liable to sickness, and sometimes the Christian seems to have the greatest share. Some of the Lord's people are seldom if ever well. They are never quite free from pain and suffering. Their heavenly Father sees that such a furnace is needful for them — he therefore prepares it, puts them into it, and keeps them there as long as he sees it necessary. Diseases do not fly about at random. They are not left to 'chance'. They are all carefully selected, and divinely directed. If sickness seizes Hezekiah — God sends it. If Lazarus is sick unto death — it is for the glory of God. He refines his people, displays his grace, and fulfills his precious promises — in the furnace of affliction. Sickness teaches us . . .
our dependence on God, and
our need of divine consolations
— in a way which nothing else will.
Sickness . . .
weans us from the world,
humbles our sinful pride, and
brings us near to our heavenly Father's throne of grace.
It leads us . . .
to look after our evidences,
to search and try our ways, and
to seek a renewed sense of our Savior's pardoning love.
The Psalmist was afflicted, he suffered much, he looked up and he sighed, "Look upon my affliction!" He wished to realize that the Lord was observing him, that he was sympathizing with him, that he was attentive to him. He knew that the Lord's loving look would . . .
soothe his spirit,
cheer his heart,
and relieve his pain.
The Lord's loving look does wonders in the experience of his people.
But sometimes they lie for days — and he seems to stand aloof; they cry — but he does not appear to regard them; they groan — but his ear is as it were closed to them. To be sick and not have the Lord's presence — is a sad, a heavy trial. We can bear anything — if we feel him to be present with us — but if he is absent, the least thing is sufficient to irritate and make us sad. Let every sick believer therefore, adopt the Psalmist's course, let him use this brief but comprehensive prayer:
"Look upon me in my affliction!"
Look, and revive my graces — that . . . .
my faith may be lively,
my love fervent,
my hope vigorous,
my humility deep,
my penitence abiding, and
my zeal for your glory active.
Look, and brighten my evidences — that I may have no doubt of my sonship, no question about my saintship — but trace the work of your Holy Spirit in my heart, and the fruits of that work in my life.
Look, and clear my prospects — that I may have a glimpse of the Heavenly land, a distant view of the holy city, a satisfying anticipation of the rest that remains for tne people of God.
Look, and cause my foes to flee! They haunt, they harrass, they appear ready to devour me — but one look from you will cause them to depart from me, and leave me to enjoy my rest.
Look, and give me sweet resignation to your will — that I may not wish for ease, relief, or health — unless it will honor you, increase my usefulness, or make my sanctification more complete!
"Look upon my pain!"
It is severe, protracted, and exhausting.
My flesh cries out.
My patience is tried.
My strength fails.
My nights are wearisome, and my days long!
I look at those who enjoy ease — and am tempted to envy them. I think of the healthy — and am at times ready to repine. I fear my patience will fail. I fear lest I should dishonor you by fretting, complaining, or being too anxious for relief.
"Look upon my pain," for medicine affords little relief, the skill of the physician fails, and human sympathy can do little for me!
"Look upon my pain," and remember your promise, is it not written, "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; you will make all his bed in his sickness." O look and strengthen me. Look and make my bed. Be my kind, gentle, and tender nurse; for I put my trust in you.
"Look upon my pain," and remember your paternal relationship, for you have said, "Like as a father pities his children; so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust." O my father pity me! You know what a poor, feeble, afflicted frame mine is. Look upon your poor suffering child — soothe my sorrows, dry my tears, and grant me a little relief! I do fear you, I would not offend you. I would not grieve your loving heart. Help me to lie passive in your hand. Help me to accept the correction of my iniquities. Help me to bow in meek submission and kiss your chastening rod!
"Look upon my pain," and remember what Jesus suffered for me. Remember how he languished in Gethsemane, how he was tortured on Calvary — and for his sake, afford me aid. Let his sufferings render mine beneficial. Let me sympathize with him and be silent.
"Forgive all my sins!" Affliction leads us to reflection — and reflection brings our sins to remembrance. It is sometimes very painful on the bed of affliction, to review the past. Things appear very different then, to what they do when in health and strength. When left alone with God, and we look upon the past as in his sight — we see cause for sorrow, shame, and grief, where we little expected to find it. Times of suffering — are very often stripping times. Like the trees in winter, we lose our foliage then. Things appear naked and open — and we see sin in our holiest services, staining our holiest hours. How necessary the atonement appears now. How precious the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. What could we do without the sacrifice of Jesus, or how could we stand before God without his glorious righteousness?
Now we need not only the promise — but the power of the Holy Spirit applying it. Now we want the inward assurance that our iniquities are forgiven, that our sins are covered. Nothing will give us solid peace now — but the well-founded persuasion, that "as far as the east is from the west — so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Now we say with feeling, with fervor, with importunity, "Forgive all my sins."
We want to stand fully pardoned — perfectly justified — lovingly accepted before God. To be quite sure, that "God for Christ's sake has forgiven us." Guilt on the conscience — is a fearful thing on the bed of sickness. Doubts of our acceptance with God, add tenfold to our bodily pains. We ought therefore daily to settle our accounts with God; to confess sin over the sacrifice of Jesus, and obtain a just and clear resolution. For "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Beloved, if in health, beware of carrying the guilt of the present into the future. It will be a tormenting companion on a sick bed. If sick, look up to your gracious God, look to him through Jesus, his Son, and your sacrifice, and beseech him to look upon your affliction and your pain, and forgive all your sins.
Remember, he is good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all those who call upon him. The merit of your Savior's blood is infinite, the efficacy of it is eternal; it has availed for thousands, it will avail for you; it has availed for you in time past — it will avail for you now.
Be much in prayer now, and you will have occasion to be much in praise by-and-bye. Sow in tears now, and you will reap in joy before long. The mercy of God is everlasting, and his precious, precious promises can never fail. Go at his call and reason with him, and you will find that your sins which are as scarlet — shall be as white as snow, and your crimes which are as crimson — shall be as white as wool. He is faithful to his word, gracious in his nature, and will glorify himself in your everlasting salvation. The door of hope is open, the path of peace is before you — enter, and all shall be well.
Will the pardoning God despise
A poor mourner's sacrifice.
One who brings his all to thee,
All his sin and misery?
Savior, see my troubled breast,
Heaving, panting after rest,
Jesus, mark my hollow eye,
Never closed and never dry.
Listen to my plaintive moans,
Deep uninterrupted groans,
Keep not silence at my tears,
Quiet all my griefs and fears.
Good physician, show your art,
O bind up my broken heart;
Aches it not for you, my God,
Pants to feel the healing blood?
Jesus, answer all your name,
Save me from my fear and shame,
Sunk in desperate misery,
Sinner's Friend — remember me!