heaping cups of consolation

Today, I woke up on an air mattress in the middle of my bedroom, sorting out strange dreams and back stiffness. It’s a long story and one I’m currently stuck in the middle of, so I’ll give you the full version when I can say “this too shall pass” with the kind of tone that believes it will.

For now, the morning light is stretching out across the living room while I enjoy a slow cup of french press coffee. For now, I am stretching into this blue sky Saturday while I listen to Keller preach on anxiety and emotions and the psychology of happiness. I am not usually an emotional roller coaster, so I am a little ashamed to admit I have been one the past couple days.

Last night, I had a shot of whiskey before going to bed.

It felt more like an old-fashioned remedy to nervousness than it felt like self-medication, but it was probably both. So, when I opened an email from my dear friend Whitney this morning, my heart was primed. I needed an encouraging word – the kind that speaks Truth softly but firmly and without reservation. The sermon she sent was called, “The Wounded Spirit” and I instantly felt guilty for thinking my spirit qualified. I recently watched Scott Hamilton’s story in his I AM SECOND video – what kind of candle can my troubles hold to that struggle?

Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy,” and in this case its thievery also included consolation. Our problems are always small in comparison to the problems of others, at least mine are. I can always find someone who has it worse, always, and I end up disqualifying myself for consolation as a result. But, I listened to the sermon anyway – even if I felt guilty for thinking my heart qualified.

And I found heaping cups of consolation, buried like treasure inside Scripture.

An anxious heart weighs a man down but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12, ESV)

The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy. (Proverbs 14:10, ESV)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Proverbs 15:13-14, ESV)

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)

In each of these passages and a few more, Keller points to the good news of the Gospel – Christ is the ultimate good word, the best hope, the supremest joy, the most sincere gladness, and the boldest righteousness. But this good news does not live inside a vacuum. This good news lives inside this real world, in real and unforgiving circumstances.

“Happiness is determined by how you deal with your circumstances on the inside – how you process, how you address, how you view them.” – Tim Keller

God’s sweet consolation does not mind how trivial or monumental our anxiety. He does not measure our worries against one another and dole out consolation accordingly. The good news of the Gospel is that it will never run out.

My heart always qualifies for consolation and the consolation of the Good News will never run out.

At the end of the sermon, Keller stresses,

“Come on! He took the tree of death so you can have the tree of life. Use that on your conscience, use that on your emotions, use that on your existential angst. That’ll get rid of your fear of death. But most of all use it on the hope of your heart…”

This too shall pass. Yes, I believe it will.

The hope in my heart is not something I’ve conquered or created. The hope in my heart is heaping cups of consolation from the Giver of Good News.

ransomed from futility

The Lord’s faithfulness does not depend on me. What a mess I’d be in if that weren’t true!

Somehow, I eased out of my daily Word-drenched routine and into a more me-saturated schedule. I took my eyes off eternity and set my gaze much… lower. It wasn’t noticeable in bold-lettered ways, but the pages I’ve written in life the past week are missing the main character – the voice of the Writer, Narrator, and Hero – you could say I’m missing the red letters. It’s probably that weaselly Wormwood character doing his work in the trenches to make me think I’m “just fine” when I really need to deal with sin.

Today was the glorious antidote, though I shouldn’t be surprised.
Truth is a powerful serum. It gets inside the blood stream and awakens all the right sensors to alert the body of all the “false” that has taken over.

As I was reading Proverbs 1, Truth seemed to seep in and spread over all that sin that was crowding His story in my life. Specifically, the call of wisdom in verses 20-33. The call to turn from simple, foolish whims to deep, mysterious wisdom seems an easy sell (who wants to be simple and foolish?). But, as I read the words of the wayward, I realized that wisdom would mean the pages of my life would be filled to full with red letters – those would be the words I breathed in and lived out.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes about how things will run amuck in the last days – about people who will be completely conformed to the world and calling others to join them. In his caution, “Avoid such people” (v. 5), he explains that they are “burdened with sins and have been led astray by passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (v. 6 -7).

What maddening futility! To always learn and never arrive at a knowledge of the truth – this sounds like what gives a scientist the “mad” prefix. And what joy that we’ve been rescued from futility!

…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV)

Today, I am sad for my wandering.
Today, I am amazed that God allows me to learn and arrive at a knowledge of the Truth through the work of Christ.
Today, I am blessed by the call to wisdom and for ears to hear.
Today, I know I can dwell secure, without dread of disaster.

but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
(Proverbs 1:32-33 ESV)

Because when I am faithless, the Lord is faithful.