John Calvin (1509–1564) knew suffering. He was an outlaw in his beloved France; the magistrates of Geneva exiled him—only to beg him to return to “that cross on which I should have to die a thousand times each day.”
His son died in infancy. He was a widower. And throughout the course of his career he was regularly entangled in conflict. Calvin knew that the Triune God has appointed aids to our weakness, especially in our suffering. Here, commenting on Psalm 42, Calvin focuses on the powerful consolation and aid of prayer:
The Consolation of Prayer (Psalm 42)
We ought to learn from this that although we are deprived of the helps which God has appointed for the edification of our faith and piety, it is nevertheless our duty to be diligent in stirring up our minds, that we may never suffer ourselves to be forgetful of God. But, above all, this is to be observed, that as in the preceding verse we have seen David contending courageously against his own affections, so now we here see by what means he steadfastly maintained his ground. He did this by having recourse to the help of God and taking refuge in it as in a holy sanctuary. And, assuredly, if meditation on the promises of God does not lead us to prayer, it will not have sufficient power to sustain and confirm us. Unless God imparts strength to us, how shall we be able to subdue the many evil thoughts which constantly arise in our minds? The human soul serves the purpose, as it were, of a workshop of Satan in which to forge a thousand methods of despair. And, therefore, it is not without reason that David, after a severe conflict with himself, has recourse to prayer and calls on God as the witness of his sorrow.
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