to be or grow wide, be or grow large
- (Qal) to be widened, be enlarged
- (Niphal) broad or roomy pasture (participle)
- to make large
- to enlarge
In the short letter written by James, the brother of Christ, he extols his readers to “count it all joy” when they face various trials. That is a lot easier to read than it is to live through. What is it about trials that can make it so? Can the exercise our faith encounters in the midst of such trials be the strengthening and stretching of our spirit that allows joy to enter when there is no room for much else?
Recently, I had a short devotional reading that focused on Psalm 4:1 and I noticed something that was such a minor point prior to the study, but became so relevant after. The words used in the translations other than the KJV were accurate in a general way but, they did not convey the meaning, I believe, the psalmist had in mind. In even the NKJV, Psalm 4:1 reads:
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.”
The word that I focused on was translated “relieved.” The inference was that God, when we are in distress, can be the relief we seek. It is true enough that such relief is often brought to us by the Holy Spirit; but, I kept thinking about how the psalmist. Even in this case, when it is believed to be King David; he did not have the always present indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did assist believers in the times prior to Christ’s post-resurrection ascension; but it was not a daily filling, not a fulfilled indwelling and certainly not all believers. So, what was it from David’s perspective that such trials brought to him that could lead him to worship God with such enthusiasm? The answer lies in the Hebrew word that the NKJV translates relieved. The best translation of the Hebrew Rachab is “to be widened, enlarged.” The verse becomes: “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”
Distress enlarges us. It stretches our faith and pushes us to the very brink of ourselves and drives us into something so much more than who we are in ourselves. We may have heard someone say that to go through difficult times will make you be a ‘bigger man’ for it or it will ‘grow you’ as you go through the difficulty.
That is exactly what King David is writing when he says that God has enlarged him when he was in distress. However, we must be clear that it is not the distress, the trouble or difficulty that enlarges the believer. It is God who does the pushing, the stretching, and the enlarging with the distress as His tool.
I cannot help but think of every veteran that I have ever spoken to concerning their basic military training. Every single one hated going through it. The remarkable part is that those same veterans are unanimous that they would not trade that growing, refining of themselves for anything. That difficult time helped to make them into who they needed to be.
We will never long for the pain that comes with such hardship, but once we have experienced God’s stretching of us through it; we will never regret having been brought down that path. We come away enlarged, grown and grateful when we see our trials through God’s eyes.
Right now a missionary couple is going through just that kind of stretching. Their stretching is taking place in 5B North, the Cardiac Services Nursing Unit in St. John New Brunswick. With some vessel surgery planned this week and a triple by=pass scheduled for next, Brad and Bethany are learning more about faith without even barely leaving the hospital floor even as they did as they traveled half-way across the world in the heart of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nothing can prepare a young married couple for such an ‘enlargement’ but God can hold them through it and we as brothers and sisters in Christ can uplift them while they are in the midst of it. Please remember them as you read this blog and take time with God in prayer to encourage Brad and Bethany in their time of stretching.