Eight days ago my sister-in-law’s house was hit by lightning. A fire started in the attic and threatened to burn the entire house down.
The week before that a friend died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 61. As we prepared to attend her funeral last Saturday, we got word that another friend just died of cancer. There was no hint of any sickness when we visited her last summer.
These, my friends, are days that we need comfort only God can provide.
I’m depressed sometimes when I visit bookstores. The stacks are full of self-help books. Some of them are good. Many of them are trite. Recently it seems that publishers are working inventively to include as many swearwords in the title as a sales tactic. If you can’t educate, at least you can try to shock.
The message of many of these books is simple: unleash yourself. Let your true self out. The message is of little comfort and help to the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, who unleashed themselves in the Garden all those years ago. It’s what started the mess we’re in.
We’re not always better in the church. We’re told to wash our faces. We go looking for great worship experiences, compelling speakers, and churches that meet our needs. Even at funeral services, when we really need God’s truth, I often hear more about the person’s goodness than the goodness and grace of God and the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
We’ve been given riches and resources beyond compare, but we’ve tucked them away in drawers and forgotten them while we serve up recycled truths that offer scant comfort when we need it the most.
What We Need
We expect the good life. We think that we deserve to live until we’re 80 or 90 if we’re lucky. We need to be reminded: life is short and hard. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).
We think we need to look within and find and then express ourselves. We need to be reminded: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
We want good worship and church that pleases us. We need to be reoriented into thinking less of ourselves, and letting the mind of Christ lead us to radical service and humility (Philippians 2:1-11).
We go looking for comfort in half-truths served up like food that’s been sitting four hours on the buffet. We need old truths that still stand tall after centuries. “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.”
We need less of the trite, and more substance. We need truth that can handle fires, heart attacks, cancer, and more. We have it. Why would we settle for anything less?