“The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing:
thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.”
~ Psalm 41:3
It is the lot of God’s people to suffer the affliction of sickness. In His wise providence, we find that not all suffer the same afflictions, but all suffer from one degree to another. The testimony of Holy Scripture is plain. The Psalmist writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19). Jehovah declares, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). Peter wrote, “The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).
Some sicknesses are chastisements and some are trials. However, all are according to the purpose of God and all accomplish His glory. Furthermore, we can be assured that the sickness will accomplish His purpose in us.
Sickness can be a sore trial and especially to those who are not right in heart or weak in faith. Surprisingly, many professed Christians are reduced to the “weak and beggarly elements” by sickness. Often that one will question their affliction thus, “Why has this happened to me?” On the other hand, they will submit, “I try to eat right. I work hard and exercise. I take vitamins, minerals, and herbs. I just don’t understand how this could happen to me?” Their attitude seems to be that these good physical habits have insulated them in some way from sickness. We certainly can abuse our body, and we ought to care well for our earthly tabernacle, but these things are no safeguard from suffering physical affliction.
That testimony is essentially the same that many worldlings give in their sickness. It is the same reply against the Sovereign Creator made by the unsaved. I ask you to consider – Is this a testimony that is glorifying of the grace of God, when you murmur thus as if you were above common suffering? When the disciples’ hearts were near failing them for fear, Christ asked, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). He marveled that they could think and act like the unsaved when faced with a sore trial. On the contrary, we magnify His grace when we are “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12).
Some even question the love and mercy of God concerning sickness in His people. Perhaps some might wonder whether He has the power to do anything about it. Expel all such wicked thoughts at once and repent over the same! The report to Jesus concerning Lazarus was, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3). It did not diminish the Lord’s love that He tarried two more days before He went to Bethany. Nor was it a token of His displeasure that He did not immediately heal him.
Yes, we have a hard time comprehending His love, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:6). Such is the love and mercy of God that gave to the rich man in his lifetime “good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things” (Luke 16:25). It is easy here to complain against God, but fight off the temptation. The rest of the verse gives us, “But now he [Lazarus] is comforted, and thou art tormented.” While we do not understand Lazarus’ affliction, it is clear it was a “light affliction, which is but for a moment,” and it certainly worked for him “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
We are assured that His love is present, even in our sickness, and that blessing is borne out in our text. There are precious blessings contained in these words that are now in our view. However, before we assay to appropriate the blessings, we must observe the condition that comes before.
This Psalm begins, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). We may trace the word “him” through the first three verses and note that verses two and three are extended blessings on “he that considereth the poor.” This condition is multiplied throughout God’s Word. “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful” (Psalm 18:25), etc. The condition is this: Have you been merciful to others in their affliction? Have you done what you could to relieve them that suffered sickness? If you have, the blessing is here for you. Solomon taught, “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh” (Proverbs 11:17).
Let us now turn to the particular blessings of our passage. In the first place, David writes, “The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing.” The aforetime merciful one has been brought down to the bed of sickness, sorrow, and discomfort. Being confined to the bed of sickness is a particularly difficult trial for the mind and spirit of man. We are tempted to murmur or just give up. The burden may seem greater than we can bear to the point that we are driven to despair.
Ah! But here is the blessed thought, “The LORD will strengthen him.” The word translated ‘strengthen’ signifies to support, to hold up. God will undertake to bear him up. Note here that God does not promise to remove him from the bed, but rather to sustain him “upon the bed of languishing.” Do not misunderstand the blessing promised. There is no heavenly panacea here. God is promising to supply grace and strength to the sick saint. He is going to make him able to bear his affliction. The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In the last place, David writes of God, “Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.” Here we find love, mercy, compassion and unparalleled condescension. The language is picturesque of a nurse tending to the sick. It does not take long for the sick to grow weary on their bed. They toss to and fro and quickly come to discomfort. That nurse with tender hand will turn the bed or remake it to give them relief.
Here God promises to attend to the bed of the sick saint. With mercy, love, and tender hand God will make the bed of His afflicted child. No, in His wise providence, He does not lift him off, at least not yet, but He makes up the bed and “giveth His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). I have known Bro. Bill James to say, “He will even fluff up your pillow for you.” Praise God that we have not an austere man for our attendant when we are sick. We have a kind, compassionate, benevolent Father. He pities us “as a father pitieth his children” (Psalm 103:13).
Are you sick at this very hour? Are you tempted to murmur and complain? Have you sought to appropriate this blessing? Are you praying that the purpose of the Father will be accomplished in you? May God make our beds giving us rest and comfort, and may we rejoice to know that He is near.