“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.”
So often when I read verses like the one above, I frame it in a mindset of distress caused by outside circumstances. Whether brought on or worsened by our own bad choices or through no fault of our own.
But this morning the Lord emphasized to me a different distress. That of the inner struggle. The fight against our sinful nature, a sense of being caught in a cycle and not strong enough to break out. Even in the midst of that distress, where our own weakness and the dark places of our heart are on display, we can cry out to a holy God – and He will answer. Not with condemnation or shame. But with deliverance.
This is what God seeks to convey to us in Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Nothing in that passage says we need to get it right first. The focus is not on our righteousness or strength; it is on Jesus’ understanding. It is on the fact that He is our hope and He is the basis of the confession to which we hold fast. We draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, knowing we will receive mercy and help in our time of need. It is not a matter of God helping those who help themselves – He is our help because we cannot help ourselves.
And so we cry out, as Paul did, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:19,24), and we find along with him that there is yet hope for us: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a). We are delivered. Not because we summon the strength and willpower to drag ourselves out of the mire, but because Jesus reaches in to pull us out. And more than that – to cleanse us from every evidence of it. To reach deep into our core and purify every part. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Distress has no place here. Because our God is faithful. His perfect love will drive out our fear that perhaps He will turn away from us. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin…You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:5,7). He forgives. He is a hiding place, a refuge in which we can find peace and rest from the struggle. And He casts out any question of where we stand by surrounding us with shouts of deliverance.
Cry out to Him in your distress, whatever it may be. And He will deliver you. Even if waves of condemnation threaten to overwhelm, come before His throne of grace with confidence in your steps and these words bolstering your heart: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34). Any words of condemnation will be drowned out by those of the One who is faithful and true: “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4b).
“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing…
Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.”
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.”