THE WORD: Strength in the face of adversity

PHOTO CAPTION: “An Elderly Man in Prayer” is a painting once attributed to Rembrandt but now considered to be a painting by a follower of Rembrandt. The painting was on exhibition at the N.C. Museum of Art from October 30, 2011 through January 22, 2012. It is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum.  

“Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You.” Psalm 143:9

Each day is full of dangers — dangers we cannot see, and from which we cannot protect ourselves. Disease lurks in the air we breathe, and hides in the water we drink, or in the food we eat. Along the street where we walk, on the railway over which we ride — there are perils. Any moment we may be stricken down! There may be enemies who are plotting against us, conspiring to do us harm.

There are certainly spiritual enemies, who are seeking to destroy us! The sunniest day is full of them. No African jungle is so full of savage and blood-thirsty wild beasts as the common days in our lives are full of spiritual enemies and perils. These dangers are unseen — and hence we cannot protect ourselves. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy! He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!” 1 Peter 5:8

What, then, can we do? As we go out in the morning we can offer this prayer, “Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You.” We can thus put our frail, imperiled lives into the hands of our almighty God!

“Cast your burden upon the Lord — and He shall sustain you.” Psalm 55:22. We are not promised that our prayers shall take the perils and temptations out of our day. It is not thus, that God usually helps. We are bidden to cast our burden upon the Lord, but we are not told that He will lift it away from us. The promise is that we shall be sustained and strengthened in bearing it.

We need the burden! It is God’s gift to us, and has a blessing in it, which we cannot afford to miss. Prayer does not take our trials away — but it puts our life into the hands of God — so that in His keeping, we shall be kept from harm while we pass through our trials. It brings God’s grace into our heart — to preserve us from falling into sin; and God’s strength into our life — that we may be victorious over our enemies.

Not to pray as we go into the day’s dangers and trials is to meet them without the help of Christ, and surely to suffer hurt, and possibly to fall into sin! 

J.R. Miller was a pastor and former editorial superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication from 1880 to 1911. His works are now in the public domain.