Causes And Cure Of Fainting
“ He gives power to the faint.”
THE connection in which these words stand is very suggestive. The previous verse says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary. There is no searching of His understanding.” He has the perfection of power and also of wisdom. Unbelief is based upon absurdity, but faith rests upon reason and fact. This may not, at first sight, seem to be true, but it really is. To believe in the almighty and all-wise God is the most rational thing in the world–to disbelieve Him is both the most wicked and the most irrational thing. When a child of God begins to distrust his Father, it must be because he doubts either God’s memory or His power. It seems utterly absurd, as well as grievously wrong, to suspect the Lord of fainting or being weary. The moment we give utterance to such a sentiment, we feel as if we must at once withdraw the words. It is so altogether ridiculous and absurd to speak thus of Him who made the heavens and the earth and who supports all things by the word of His power! How can He fail or faint? The Self-Existent One, from whom all the power that ever was, or is, or shall be, and must primarily come–how can He fail or faint? Then would the sun grow dim at noon! Then would earth dissolve and Heaven pass away if once faintness could seize the Deity who supports all things!
We know better and we ought, therefore, to act better. And as we feel that He cannot faint or be weary, we ought not to harbor a single doubt concerning His fainting. How can He faint? It is He that gives power to the faint! When faintness comes anywhere, it does not come to Him–it comes to you who doubt. You are like a reeling man who thinks that it is the earth that reels, or like a person travelling in a train who, for the moment, forgets that he is moving and thinks that the trees and hedges are all swiftly rushing by him! It is not God who changes–it is you who have changed. It is not He that is weary–it is you who are weary. It is not He that is faint–it is you that are fainting. And here comes, in this blessed Truth of God, for your encouragement–that you may be revived from this faintness–instead of Him fainting, God, “gives power to the faint.”
- First, I will endeavor to answer the question, WHAT MAKES US FAINT?
We will first consider the case of the awakened sinner, the man who does not know that he is saved and who, perhaps, is not yet converted. But he is, to some extent, under the gracious influence of the Spirit of God, for he has been awakened from his sleep of sin and has begun to pray. It very commonly happens that when persons are in this condition, they are seized with faintness. What is it that makes them feel faint?
Well, first, they may very well faint, for they have made a most alarming discovery. They were not aware of their trueposition, but they suddenly find themselves lost. Their own righteousness, which appeared to them to be like fair, white linen, has proven to be only filthy rags. Their own merits, which seemed to them to be a great heap of gold, are shown to be just so much dross. They fancied that they were rich, increased with goods and had need of nothing, but they find themselves wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. They see themselves condemned of God on account of sin and they also see before them, with an awful astonishment, the burning lake of Hell–and they cannot tell whether their next step will not plunge them into the dread abyss from which there will be no escape! Is it amazing that when a man first realizes all this, he is filled with terror, the cold sweat stands on his brow and he is ready to faint? Indeed, if it were not for the goodness of God in only revealing the sinner’s danger to him, in a measure, I would not wonder if when men saw themselves in their true state, they were to lose their reason!
It has not seemed at all strange to me that men have gone mad when they have suddenly found out where they were and where they were likely to be in a very short time! I have had to bless God that so few cases of that kind have occurred and I have never wondered when I have seen the horror and distress of mind of persons who have discovered their lost condition. Some of you who are now sitting very comfortably in your seats–if you only knew what it is to be already condemned because you have not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God–if you could but catch the meaning of these words, “He that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” If you discovered that this was no myth, or fiction, but an awful reality, like a cloud charged with deadly electricity you, also, would be ready to faint!
Sometimes, too, awakened sinners faint for another reason, namely, that they have tried to escape from their dangerous position, but they have not succeeded. What long and laborious attempts at self-salvation, awakened souls will make! They will deny themselves many pleasures, they will subject themselves to a great deal of toil, they will resolve, pray, cry and fret–yet it all ends in failure. A man trying to save himself is like a prisoner on the treadmill, perpetually stepping, but never mounting an inch higher. He is like a blind horse in a mill–he goes round, and round, and round, but makes no real advance. What can he do? He is trying to weave a substantial garment out of spiders' webs! He is attempting, with worthless works, to make a perfect righteousness! It was no small blessing for Israel when it could be said of them, “He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.” The sooner an end comes to all self-righteous attempts to obtain salvation, the better! Then does the man’s soul faint within him. Then is he like one who is at sea in a storm, who has tugged at the oar, or has tried to use the sail, but can make no headway, or escape the fury of the tempest. “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.” Thus are they faint.
We have known some grow so faint through a sense of sin and dread of its punishment–and a consciousness of their own inability to save themselves–that they have even wished to die. Yet, when they have looked at their conditionaright, they have asked themselves what use death would be to them? It would be as when a man escaped from a lion and a bear slew him. Or as if a weary man leaned upon a wall and a serpent that was hidden in a cranny, bit his hand. For a man, loaded with sin, to die, is for him to be damned! Well might he choose to die if death meant annihilation–but there is that dread of something after death, that appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that terrible sentence from Him that sits upon the Throne of God, “Depart, you cursed!” This is what makes a man faint and causes him to dread both to live and to die. Then does he say, with Job, “My soul chooses strangling and death rather than my life.” Yet he dare not actually choose it, for he dreads what would come after it. So he is faint, and well may he be!
Perhaps also, at such a time,
a sore trouble may happen to the man, for, in the parable of the prodigal son, it appears
that he was quite as much influenced by the peculiar circumstances without as by his sense of sin within. We have often known the soul that has been under distress because of sin, to also fall into distress through temporal trouble. It has seemed as if the hand of God had gone out against him and he cries out in his agony, “You hunt me as with fierce dogs that would gladly tear me to pieces! You make me the target of all Your arrows. You do not give me space in which to swallow my spittle between one trial and another!” Then the troubled soul faints beneath the hand of God who seems to say to him, “You have sinned against Me; and if you faint, now that I have begun to deal with you, what will you do byand-by? If, in the land of peace, wherein you trust, My hand is too heavy for you, what will you do in the swellings of Jordan? If you faint when I do but come against you with footmen, what will you do when you have to contend with horses–when I put forth My might to punish My rebellious creatures?” When this happens, the soul is utterly brought into the dust of death, ground down, faint and ready to die."
Now I pass on to another character, namely, the child of God in his fainting fits, but fainting fits of a peculiar class which are especially sinful–for there is a degree of sinfulness about some of these faintings which is not to be found in others. For instance, sometimes the children of God faint through lack of faith. David said, “I had fainted unless I hadbelieved to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” So, the cure for fainting is faith–and, therefore, thebest way to prevent fainting is to believe. He who believes shall not fall into this state of pain, prostration, inaction and similitude of death. Child of God, are you fainting because you do not believe your Father’s promises? I must not begin to comfort you until, first of all, I have rebuked you! Why do you doubt your God? On what ground do you distrust His faithfulness? Have you ever had cause to think that He will fail you? Put your finger on anything that He has ever done to you that will give you even a shadow of justification for mistrust of Him! O Man, if unbelief is at the bottom of your faintness, repent of it and pray to be forgiven! Surely the Lord deserves to be trusted by His own children, if not by anybody else! If anyone will persist in distrusting Him, led it be the sinner. But as for you, the chosen people of His love, the favored ones of His heart–will you doubt Him? A man might bear almost anybody’s distrust sooner than that of his beloved wife or darling child–and shall the Lord have distrust from you whom He has so highly favored by His own eternal love? Pray Him both to forgive and to banish your unbelief!
Again, some are brought into a state of faintness through a selfish need of resignation. A specimen of that kind ofcharacter was that strange-tempered old Prophet, Jonah. You remember that “the Lord God prepared a gourd and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day and it struck the gourd that it withered…And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, so that he fainted and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry even unto death.” It was not only the heat of the sun that caused him to faint–it was also the heat of his temper! Evil tempers inside of us do more to cause us to faint than all the sultry weather outside of us. If we will not let God have His way with us. If we are like children in a tantrum and begin quarrelling with our Father, or with one another. If we try to be masters in God’s house and lords over God’s heritage, seeking to rule His household according to our own will and way–do you wonder that when we get into the sulks, by-and-by, we begin to faint? Some of those who have lost dear children seem as if they will not forgive God for taking them. They keep on fretting and pining for years after the bereavement. They go to the drawer and take out the little socks and the toys–and weep over them in a fashion which shows that they are not resigned to the will of God. It is not for us to harshly censure them, but I think it is for them to cease from such a rebellious course of action and to ask God that they may not faint through a lack of obedience and resignation to His will.
There are children of God, also, who fall into faintness through trusting in themselves. In the chapter from whichour text is taken, it is said, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” Why is that? It is because the youths felt themselves able to do anything! Up or down, mile after mile, they could leap, run and jump, for they were so strong. And then, at last, they fainted, for they had nothing to sustain them but their own strength. And as for the young men–they said that the boys were always so impetuous and spent their strength too soon, but they, themselves, had staying power–so they felt that they could keep up the pace. But the Prophet says, they “shall utterly fall.” So will it be with any of us who begin to trust in our own strength! Before long we shall come to the end of our force. The strongest sinew in an arm of flesh will crack, sooner or later. The brightest thought of the most brilliant intellect will one day die out in darkness. Being made of clay and being born of woman, we cannot expect that we should last forever. The worst of it is that this faintness will sometimes come to the strong just when they most need all their strength–when they feel, “If ever we needed all our wits about us and all the vigor of our physical frame, it is now.” It is just then that the collapse will probably come, for faintness is sure to follow if we once begin to trust in ourselves!
Then faintness may also arise from another cause which is sinful, namely, neglect of prayer. Did not our Savior saythat “men ought always to pray, and not to faint”? And did He not imply by that form of expression that if they did notpray, they would be sure to faint? We have a choice of these two courses–either to wait upon the Lord and so to renew our strength, or else to be overpowered by faintness. Is the path to your secret place of prayer overgrown? Do you seldom retire for private fellowship with your God? Has your heart forgotten your privilege of momentary, continuous communion with the Most High? Do you live as though you had quarreled with God and would have no more dealings with Him? If so, you will surely faint before long–and it is a blessed thing for you that it should be so, for it would be truly terrible for us to appear to be strong without prayer. It is a sign of something radically rotten within when a man can apparently be just as holy and as earnest without prayer as he is with it. You cannot really know the power of the life of God if you are able to live without prayer, for, just as a man who is unable to breathe, soon faints, so must a person spiritually faint if he does not pray.
Now I am going to mention some other reasons why children of God fall into faintness. And one is the length of theway. Some pilgrims faint because the way is so very long. We can do a great deal at a spurt, but we are not able to keep it up. We have a great many people who come among us and who even enter the Church who are splendid fellows for a short time. If they could get to Heaven in a one mile race, they would surely win the prize, but they have no staying power in them. They are like those Galatians to whom the Apostle Paul wrote, “You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” What is needed is perseverance in well-doing, perseverance under slights, misrepresentations and slanders, perseverance when it means tugging and toiling at the oars, perseverance when there is no smile of recognition, but when there is many a frown from those who misjudge your work. And it is under such difficulties that men are apt to faint. It is not even 10 or 20 years of an unsullied profession that will suffice–our Lord said, “He that endures tothe end shall be saved.” You would not care to live in your house if it were only half built–you must go on to the crowning of the edifice if it is to be fit for a habitation. Who that has realized how great are the difficulties of persevering in Divine Grace does not feel that, for this task, we must have Divine power? Otherwise, however far we may have gone, we shall tire, faint and walk the ways of God no more. I know of no doctrine that seems to me to show such a splendor of Divine Grace as the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, for if the Lord does, indeed, keep His people faithful to the end, as He assuredly will, then is it a veritable marvel of Grace, for, oftentimes, they are ready to faint by the way.
Others are ready to faint because of the heaviness of their burden. We are not all burdened alike, but, I daresay, if wecould form a right estimate, we should find that we are more equally weighted than we imagine. Sometimes the poor judge that they have a monopoly of trouble, but if they could see how much unhappiness there is in the homes of some of those who are rich, or the lack of health that is the lot of many who live in the midst of abundance, they might be more content to carry their own cross. Yet are there some to whom the burden is peculiarly heavy. Some of God’s children seem pressed down under double loads and they are often ready to faint. The remedy for their condition is to get double Grace and double strength from the Lord their God, but, until they do, their soul will feel faint and weary.
Another frequent cause of your faintness is a sense of your own weakness. It is not that your burden is really heavierthan it was, but you do not feel as if you can carry it any longer. The flesh is weak and the spirit sympathizes with the flesh, and grows weak, too. You cannot do what you did when you were younger. The difficulties which you once smiled at, now oppress you. By reason of the length of your years, the grasshopper has become a burden! Well, then, you must look to the Strong for strength and then no faintness will overpower you–but if you do not, your weakness will soon bring you into a sad state.
Yet another frequent cause of faintness is the spirit, itself, sinking. There is a certain condition in which the heartseems to go down, down, down, down, down. I know not how to describe it, but everybody who has ever had that painful experience knows what it is. You can hardly tell why you are so depressed–if you could give a reason for your despondency, you might more easily get over it, but, like David, you cry to your own heart, “Why are you cast down, O my Soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” You try to argue with yourself to find out the reason why you are so despondent and why you look at the black side of everything and imagine that things will go amiss which will turn out right, after all. Your friends tell you that you are nervous, and there is no doubt that you are, but that does not alter the case. I will not blame you. I will, however, say to myself, and urge you to say to yourself, “Hope you in God: for you shall yet praise Him, who is the health of your countenance and your God.” Better still, I pray our sympathizing Savior will say to you, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me”–and on His loving bosom you will leave all your sorrows and your cares.
There are some children of God who get faint through lack of spiritual food. There are some Christians who are sosituated that they cannot get proper nourishment for their souls. It is not in every country village or town that Jesus Christ is so preached that the souls of God’s people are fed. And among all the troubles a godly man can have, a dreary Sabbath is about the worst–when the sheep look up, but they are not fed–when it is not the Gospel that is preached, but another gospel, which is no Gospel at all–when there are fine words and grand elocution, but nothing for the heart to stay itself upon. In such circumstances it is small wonder if the best of God’s children begin to faint! Be thankful, Brothers and Sisters, if you are privileged to enjoy a soul-feeding ministry! And if you are not so favored, try to make up for it by being doubly diligent in searching the Scriptures and feeding upon the Word in private.
Still, at the same time, it is a great deprivation to a child of God if he is not supplied with spiritual food. I thought it was a good prayer of the deacon who thanked God that the minister had put the food down in a low rack where the sheep could get at it. There are some who put the provender in such a high rack that it could only be reached by giraffes! God’s children need to have the Bread of Life broken up in small pieces for them, and to have the Truth of God made very simple and plain so that they can understand it. May all of us who teach or preach always try to do that and, remembering the folly of others, let us avoid it ourselves!
Sometimes, God’s children also faint when they are in adversity. Solomon said, “If you faint in the day of adversity,your strength is small.” That is true and our strength is often thus proved to be small. Many a man who thinks that he is rejoicing in the Lord, is really rejoicing in his prosperity–but adversity tries him–it is to him what the fining pot is to silver. Under adversity, we begin to faint and especially if, coupled with that adversity, there is the rebuke of God. Oh, how we faint when we are rebuked of Him! I know of nothing that more readily makes a man faint than that God should look at him with angry eyes. He has trouble in the home and no consolation. He has loss of property, but, above all, loss of fellowship with his God! The promises are no longer sweet to him. Prayer is like a dead letter. Waiting upon God seems to be in vain. The Lord says to those who are in this condition, “I have withdrawn Myself from you. As you have walked contrary to Me, I also will walk contrary to you.” Under such circumstances, it is necessary for the child of God to ask for more Grace and strength so that he may wrestle and pray until he gets a blessing. But the tendency of the poor deserted spirit is to begin to faint because the Lord seems to be favorable no more.
There are some who become faint through increasing infirmity which makes them unfit for such service as they formerly rendered. When David, in his later years, went out to battle against the Philistines, we are told that he waxed faint and would have been slain by a giant if Abishai had not succored him. Yet, in former days, he had killed a lion and a bear, and the great Goliath of Gath! It was a dreadful thing for David to wax faint at such a time as that, just in the middle of the fray, but a like experience has happened to many of the Lord’s champions in order to teach His people that the best of men are but men at the best–and that the strongest of them are only strong in God’s strength–and that they will be as weak as water if the Lord should leave them to themselves!
II. Now I want to show you how the Lord deals with His fainting people–“He gives power to the faint. I must just briefly mention many points, that you may meditate upon them at your leisure.
See how tenderly the Lord deals with His fainting people. He does not desert them when they are faint, saying, “They are no longer any use to Me. They can do nothing for Me, I will leave them where they are.” No, but, “He gives power to the faint.” Observe that He does not merely comfort the faint, or rebuke or reprove them. That would not help them much when they were fainting. But He does what we cannot do for fainting people–He gives them power. That isthe best way to deliver them from their faintness! Even if no cheering word is whispered in your ear, if power is given to you, if your pulse is quickened and your spirit is filled with new energy, your faintness will soon be over. This is what the Lord does for you when “He gives power to the faint.”
What sort of power does He give to the faint? Well, you may be sure that He does not give them any of their own.That has all gone from them. The very image of death is stamped upon them. See how pale they look! Note how the blood seems to have fled from their faces–their own power has all gone from them. So, my Brothers and Sisters, when the Lord gives power to the faint, it is His own power that He gives to them! What a blessing it is to feel that it is His power that is working in you! To attain such an end as that, a man may well be content to have all his own power bled out of him. Let it run out at every vein till the last drop of it is gone, that I may then be filled with the power of God! He gives His power to the faint because, in their faintness, there is room for the display of His power. Their power has all departed, so now His power comes in.
When God gives power to the faint, you may rest assured that it will be sufficient for the emergency, for He has allsufficient power and He never gives to His people merely half the power or a tenth of the power that they need–He gives them all the power that they require! His promise is, “As your days, so shall your strength be.”
The mercy is that the power that God gives is a power that the devil can neither defeat nor take away. If He has givenyou that power, it shall be yours as long as you need it. That power neither man nor devil can take away from you, but, through it, you shall be enabled to tread down all your adversaries and conquer all your difficulties. There is wondrous power in the weakness which leads us to faint away on the bosom of God and so to be made strong in the Lord and, in the power of His might, to swoon into unconsciousness and then to find our all-sufficiency in our God! To get out of life of a carnal kind by swooning into the image of death and then being raised into newness of life by the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ! That is the kind of power which God gives to the faint.
Why is it that He gives this power to the faint? Well, I think it is because in His great goodness He looks out forthose who need it most. As we, if we are wise, give our alms to the most destitute, God gives His power to those who require it most–those who are fainting for lack of it.
Then, next, He gives it to them because they will praise Him most for it. When the fainting ones receive the powerthat God gives to them, they will say that it is of the Lord and not of themselves.
They will be the people to receive this power because they will be sure to use it. I think that when a person who hasbeen faint, receives power from God, he will likely be sympathetic, tender and gentle towards others. At least that is how he should be. If a man is always strong, how can he sympathize with God’s weak and afflicted people? I have known a dear Brother who has never had an hour’s illness in his life, seek to sympathize with me when I have been in great pain. But it was like an elephant trying to pick up a pin–he cannot do it, it is not in his line. But he who has been faint and then has received power from God is the man who knows what faintness means–and so is gentle towards other fainting ones as a nurse is with the little child committed to her charge. Hence the Lord entrusts power to His fainting children because He knows that they will be sympathetic and use it wisely and well.
What, Beloved Friends, is the conclusion that we may draw from our text? Is it not this? If God gives power to the faint, let us be thankful if we have fainted and have been revived by Him. I do not refer to any sinful kind of fainting when I speak thus, but I mean what the Apostle Paul means when he says, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” But let us have done with fainting for the future because, if God gives power to the faint, if He has given us His power, we ought to have no more fainting, now that we have received God’s power! So let us henceforth seek to live in the energy of that Divine might above the faintness to which the flesh is prone.