A Promise of Comfort for a Year of Woes
Anyone else wishing for a reboot to 2020? If only it were possible.
First there was COVID-19, its interminable lockdown, and challenges over church reopening.
Then came a notice from Baker Publishing: your book is going out of print due to lack of demand. I had hoped for more; what author doesn’t?
Next up from my ENT doc. “You’ve got three issues with your vocal chords. You need meds, therapy, perhaps surgery.”
Lately, I experience along with the rest of the nation the crisis over George Floyd’s killing and other incidents like it. Once again we confront the ugliness of racism and a church/country often divided as to how to foster change.
All of the above are hard, but none more personal than Dad reporting most recently, “Mom’s Alzheimer’s has turned for the worse: she is bed-ridden, has no appetite, and she is sleeping a lot.” Enter hospice for a third time in my life-is-a-vapor journey.
There is more, but to share further would violate confidences.
And this with only half the year gone! Sometimes it feels so overwhelming.
Where to find comfort?
I’ve been meditating some on the Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5. Last week I paused over the second of these wisdom pearls for kingdom happiness: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:3).
That morning I pulled from my library Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and devoured chapter five about this truth with a promise.
Like the first, poor in spirit (5:2), this too is entirely spiritual in its meaning. Linking them both he writes:
We have to be poor in spirit before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Negative before positive. . . . [Likewise] a real sense of sin must come before there can be a true joy of salvation. Now that is the whole essence of the gospel.
MLJ cites two examples of this kind of mourning.
He begins with Jesus–the man of sorrows acquainted with grief–who burst into tears at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35) and wept over Jerusalem destined for destruction (Luke 19:41-44). This was, of course, not for any sin on his part, but for the grief felt so deeply over the consequences of sin in the world.
Then he points to the the apostle Paul’s testimony in Romans 7, so grief-stricken in agony that he cries out “Wretched man that I am!” and “In me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Paul grieved mightily over the impact of sin in his own experience.
Lloyd-Jones insists we must likewise see our utter helplessness and hopelessness when confronted with God and His holiness. “I must mourn about the fact that I am like that.”
But we must not stop there. We must mourn because of the sins of others as well.
The man who is truly a Christian . . . is concerned about the state of society . . . and as he reads his newspaper he does not stop at what he sees or simply express disgust at it. He mourns because of it, because men can so spend their life in this world. . . . He knows that it is all due to sin; and he mourns because of it.
We will never get to the comfort Jesus promises, if we suffer from a defective sense of sin and a defective doctrine of sin.
There is much afflicting our world today that thus far feels way above my paygrade for posting solutions and positions. Perhaps some of that will come after much more praying, listening, and reflecting.
But for now, it is enough to feel the crushing weight of sin so manifest in viruses, injustices, killings, diseases, riots, and more.
The promise of comfort leading to a serious, multi-faceted joy will have to wait for the next post. It can’t come soon enough, but there is no bypassing the mourning to get to the comfort.