Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending"1 (Lyrics)
I can't forget our disappointing dialogue. Two of us were lamenting over societal woes, when suddenly, he walked away, exclaiming, "This is too depressing!"
That's not how I wished the conversation to proceed! He never got to hear the hope welling up in me, which I was about to express.
I can see why he stomped off. It's too depressing to think about bad stuff without knowing the good stuff! Of course, we can't truly face sin and evil unless we also face God's glorious hope! Without being grounded in God's covenant purposes for humanity, we can't handle the unspeakable tragedy of sin and divine judgment. Nor can we face personal sinfulness, like the apostle Paul did in saying, "O wretched man that I am!" (Romans 7:24 KJV) Nor will we cry out to God with such agonizing complaints as the psalmists did — even while they trusted Him to come through with deliverance and forgiveness. We see their resilient hope expressed in this self-talk:
Psalm 42:11 – Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. (NIV)
Our situation may not be nearly as distressing as it was for this psalmist. Still, sin and evil do play havoc, and affect us more deeply than we realize. I'm convinced that in our complaints, we don't get disturbed enough. We don't get distressed enough over sin and its horrendous effects. That's because we can't see it as fully as God does! We're mainly mindful of our own disappointments. Furthermore, we are quick to apply soothing ointments. We are quick to console ourselves with light chat, relaxing music, food … or conviction-free forms of faith. You know what I'm saying: We can become content with our own remedial solutions, telling ourselves, "It's better than nothing!" My friend, that's useless self-talk!
Today, I encourage us to keep on striving for a richer, biblical perspective on this paradoxical connection between the bad and the good. Scripture portrays sin and evil with vividly dark colours. That's the backdrop for God's glimmering solution: deliverance and forgiveness through Christ's life, His "amazing grace … that saved a wretch like me".
Now, back to that gentleman mentioned earlier. Interestingly, he was well-churched. Every Sunday, he had heard glad expressions of God's grace! Yet, for him, as for countless others, it had never penetrated. He hadn't yet faced both the gladness of the "good stuff" and the badness of the "bad stuff". Oh, such a sadness!
Surely, to some extent this sad condition afflicts each of us. Thus, we can sincerely pray something like the following from a vintage prayer by Philip Doddridge (1709-1751):
Prayer: "O injured, neglected, provoked Benefactor: When I think but for a moment of all Your greatness and goodness, I am astonished at the indifference in my heart. … Let Your grace teach me the lesson I am slow to learn. … Hear these broken cries, for the sake of Your Son." Amen.