Enlargement in Distress
Psalm 4:1-8
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.…

This Psalm and the previous one are Psalms of distress, utterances of a soul that is crying to God out of the depths; yet, none the less, they are songs of faith, hope, rest in God. In the text we see that gladness comes out of the sorrow, and light shines out of the darkness.


1. Suffering strengthens character; brings to light the hidden qualities of a man, and teaches him courage, endurance, and self-reliance. I have read of a great botanist who was exiled from his native land, and had obtained employment as an undergardener in a nobleman's service, that while in this situation his master received the present of a valuable plant, the nature and habits of which were quite unknown to him. It was given to the care of the head gardener, and he, supposing it to be of tropical growth, put it into a hothouse, and treated it like other hothouse plants. Under this treatment the plant began to wither and die. One day the undergardener asked permission to examine it, and as soon as he had done so he said, "This is an Arctic plant, and you are killing it with this hothouse treatment." So he took it out to the open air, and heaped ice round it, to the great astonishment of the head gardener. The result justified his wisdom; for the plant was soon perfectly healthy and strong. This story is a parable of human character. It is ease, not difficulty, that is dangerous. Put a man under hothouse treatment, surround him with luxury, hedge him in from opposition; and you take the surest means of sapping him of life and power. Teach him to suffer; and you teach him to be strong.

2. But in a large character, sympathy must be present as well as strength. Without sympathy no character can possess that breadth which is so essential to its perfecting; and there is no such teacher of sympathy as suffering.

II. THINK OF THE LARGER AND SURER PLACE WHICH SUFFERING GIVES US IN THE WORLD OF MEN. There is something in the experience of suffering which enhances a man's social influence. In every walk of life the men of sorrows are the men of power. We may not be able fully to explain why this is so; but we know quite well that the very fact of suffering gives a man a claim upon us, and a hold over us, which nothing else can give. "Under our present conditions," says one, "there is something in the very expansiveness of joy which dissociates, while sorrow seems to weld us together, like hammer strokes on steel." Do we not find that the influence which Jesus exerts is an emanation from His Cross? He was made "perfect through sufferings" — not perfect in His own nature, for that was perfect already, but perfect in His power to touch and save and bless; and so His dominion was enlarged through His distress.

III. No doubt David was thinking most of all of a religious enlargement — AN ENLARGEMENT OF HIS HEART TOWARDS GOD, AND AN ENLARGEMENT OF GOD'S MERCY TOWARDS HIM.

1. Men are enlarged through their distress. Their horizon grows wider and deeper. The sunlight fades, the night falls; but in the darkness a greater and more glorious world appears; for the stars shine out from the immeasurable depths — those "street lamps of the City of God."

2. Our enlargement in distress does not lie only in our new thoughts about God, but in God's new mercies towards us. The Lord has special mercies for His children in distress, as a mother has kisses and fond soothing words for her little child who has hurt himself by a fall. Did you ever consider this, that there are stores of blessing held in reserve within the eternal treasuries, the fulness of which you can only know in the day of trial?

3. In one of two ways distress works — it makes a man either better or worse. We have seen it making people narrower and more selfish and more sullen. We have also seen it making them broader and more sympathetic, more considerate and more gracious. All depends upon their way of meeting it. Meet it in the Psalmist's faith, hope, and patience.

(J. G. Lambert, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.} 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.

WEB: Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness. Give me relief from my distress. Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

An Evening Song in Perilous Times, Showing Us the Secret of Happiness
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