‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.’
Our Visitation Service seems to meet, or at least to suggest to us how to meet, a sick man’s want in the short sentences which follow the Lord’s Prayer and are summed up in the prayer which follows them: ‘O Lord! look down from heaven, behold, visit, and relieve this Thy servant. Look upon him with the eyes of Thy mercy, give him comfort and sure confidence in Thee, defend him from the danger of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
The central thought of these sentences is in the image before us from the book of Proverbs. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.’ This is a striking picture of one who, feeling his inability to keep himself safe, and not knowing how many foes he has around him, flies to a place of well-known strength, and resting there is confident that he is secure.
St. Peter uses the same image when he speaks of God’s elect as ‘kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.’ A keep is the stronghold of an ancient castle, and to be kept by the power of God is to be taken care of by Him in the stronghold of His might Who is almighty to save.
There are many other beautiful passages in which God enhances this thought and assures us of the strength of His salvation.
There is a time, many a time, in the Christian’s course for the vigorous action of all his powers; there is a time also, and the prostration of sickness is that time, for the quiet, still repose of his soul on the wisdom and the love and the almightiness of God. He cannot keep himself, but he can let himself be kept by His Father Who is in heaven.
‘Ah!’ you may say, ‘but sickness is a time of natural depression. The nerves are unstrung. I feel, I cannot tell why, I feel low and miserable and restless, and hardly able to think at all of God and His comforts.’ ‘When I am weak,’ writes St. Paul, ‘then am I strong,’ because then he threw himself absolutely on the strength of God. Wounded, wearied, and distressed as the fugitive might be, yet in the castle keep he would be safe, and convinced of his safety, though he but lay still.
Saddened too, wearied and distressed as you are, yet in the stronghold of the Almighty and in the home of love you poor penitents are where no ill can come, and whence no power is able to drag you.
True it is that the time of your weakness is the time when, as the Service for the Sick suggests, the face of the enemy may be especially set against you; and it may be his temptation which, availing itself of your weakness, assaults and depresses you. But remember you are within the walls of salvation, he is without.
Abide in Christ, and you are equally safe from the lion that is going about to devour. You may hear his roar without, you may see his power upon those outside, you may know how much he desires to have you; but this need not disturb your peace, it may even increase it, as you cling the closer to your Saviour, and are more and more assured that ‘where He is nigh no ill can come.’
‘O God! Who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of Whom standeth our eternal life, Whose service is perfect freedom; defend us Thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in Thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’