If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
(Ps 37. 23&24)
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him..
There is a heaviness which comes on my body and spirit sometimes, not for any obvious reason that I can trace – that would make it more bearable, and somehow reasonable – which seems to leave me numb to the joy of being loved by God, blind to the beauty of his creation and deaf to his love songs. It leaves me in a dark place, vulnerable to storms of emotion and over-sensitive to the ways that life can wound me.
I have learnt that there is no help in trying to drag myself out of this by reason, or by rebuking myself for my weaknesses. All that happens is an increasing sense of guilt and failure, of being bound in a trap. And that is what I believe is really happening at these times. I am – as we all are – a frail human being, with a body and mind which operate so completely as one unit that physical weariness can depress my mood and stifle positive emotions with devastating effect.
What is the follower of Jesus to do in such situations? I find the passages with which I started today’s blog very comforting when I am flat on my emotional face so to speak! The Lord, the God of all power, holiness and wisdom, is also the God who created me, knit me together and knows better than any scientist ever will, just WHY the human machine operates as it does. This great God sees me in my distress and weakness, and what does he do? He has compassion on me, he is gentle with me, understanding and accepting all my distresses and not scolding me for being upset.
I was on duty in our church creche this morning, helping to care for our smallest people, picking them up when they fell over, sharing their exuberant pleasure in noisy toys and bouncing balls, reading stories and holding pencils and crayons as they scribbled all over the colouring page! We are like those little ones in God’s eyes: we wobble, we fall, we are one moment full of joy and the next heart-broken with grief. And what does he do? Like a father, he has compassion on us. We are gathered up into his arms and held, reassured and comforted, kissed and soothed, until the terrors pass, the shock wears off and we are strong enough to be put back on our feet for the next adventure. These children cannot explain their fears and grief, but a loving presence is enough to restore their joy, and so it is with me.
If I scold myself when distressed, rebuking my lack of faith and joy, then I simply add guilt to a toxic bundle of emotions which are keeping me face down in misery. So what I need to do is look up, lift my hands like a little child to the father who is always with me, for his great loving embrace to take me into safety and comfort. He is unchanging, always good, full of tenderness and mercy to me; and he is so much more patient with me than I am with myself! I desire to become holy all in a hurry, to get it all over and done with; but he knows that it is the work of a lifetime, and that steady progress is much deeper and more fruitful than a rapid, superficial transformation.
Let me sit quiet in his arms, remembering his goodness even though my heart is still numb to joy; let me listen to his voice of love and forgiveness, even though my ears can’t thrill to the music of his song; let me look at his beauty and be at rest, even though my eyes seem colour blind. In time, the joy will return, the music will ring out, and the colours will return to the world. For the moment, I can be at peace, trusting in his unchanging power to keep me safe and to ultimately work all things together for good – Praise to his holy name!
In the arms of his love, I find rest; In the arms of his love there’s sweet quietness, nothing can harm me, no reason to fear, safe in the arms of his love…
(Carl & Leanne Albrecht, 1989)