Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blessed Is the Man Who Fails to Please God

I rejoice that the Holy Spirit prevented me from enjoying the self-righteousness of my youth. I thank Almighty God that He did not offer the comfort or communion that I earnestly prayed for. I was blessed when He hid Himself from me as I struggled to reach Him. What a great, painful refinement of my soul!

Thank God that I was too weak to live well enough to be fooled into thinking that I was righteous. Thank God that I was too inattentive to be earnest in my good works. Thank God that I was too sinful to be clean, too hypocritical to be a good example, and too tormented to be joyful or pleased with this life. It was a bit of mercy that God never satisfied me with my enthusiastic false worship.

I was too lustful to be chaste. I was too arrogant to be humble. I was too judgemental to be merciful. I was too sinful to think that I was basically good; too much of a failure to think that I was doing Christianity correctly.

Blessed is the man who fails to please God. Blessed is the man who is so completely wretched that he could never see himself as doing everything that he needs to do to reach God. Blessed is the man who, because of his legalism, is so starved by lack of faith that he pleads for the Holy Spirit, but is left alone in the dark.

For those are the men who have had their ears and eyes opened by God's holiness that is found in His unforgiving and perfect Law. Those are the men who are having the rebellion and pride beaten out of them with relentless, divine fury. They are starved of faith, worked to death, and dragged to exhaustion. These wicked servants are being tortured... and for good reason!

Because they were not meek, they were destroyed.
Because they did not love, they were rejected.
Because they were selfish, their flaws were magnified and increased.
Because they did not believe, they were shaken to their foundations.
Because they wanted to buy holiness, they were given nothing.
Because they were foolish, they were handed over to their own futility.
Because they wanted to live, they had to be killed.
Because they hated Christ, they received God's wrath rather than mercy.

So that they are made a ruin. Their white-washed souls are broken open so that they can wallow in their own filth. They are crushed and degraded. They are handed over to their own foolishness and are allowed to consume themselves until they have nothing left but their own failure, despair, and fear. Not only do they no longer want to live their way anymore, they don't want to live at all! Not only can they no longer climb to heaven, they lack the strength and will to even lift one hand to protest their "maltreatment". They are totally broken and left for dead.

They would not listen. They would not hear. They would not see. They covered their ears and stamped their feet. Their rebelion had to be beaten down. Their loud, blasphemous voices had to be silenced.

And then, in that moment when all human words cease and all earthly means are removed, the Angel of the Lord puts away his flaming sword and declares, "Fear not! I bring you good news!" And that dead trash heap of hopelessness is illuminated as the gates of heaven, locked tight for years from the inside, are thrust open by Grace and the choirs of angels and saints begin to sing. The way is shown to these blessed, tormented souls through the Holy Word and the Blessed Sacraments. They are lifted up and their lifeless bodies are carried through the gates as the whole company of heaven rejoices at their arrival. The poor fools haven't even realized what has happened.

The pure and clear Gospel of Christ, the evangel, is here. What sweet music and refuge!

Every Lent, I return to the place of my ruin. I stand at the scar in the earth where my quest to be holy ended in a catastrophic colapse; a total failure of mind, body, and soul. I look at the smoldering crater and I marvel at my own stupidity... and the depth of God's infinite love.


prayeramedic said...

Wow, very profound - and true. It makes me wonder if this void and depression is God's will for my life thus far. . . .

-Dan (prayeramedic, AKA dankenpo)

Mike Baker said...

It is important to note a few things:

1. Most cases of depression have medical and emotional causes. Since depression effects mind, body, and soul, it only makes sense to take a holistic approach when attempting to address it. Many situations need to be addressed with combinations of various approaches including (but not limited to) diet, excercise, medication, counseling, spiritual guidance, stress reduction, etc. Someone who is constantly depressed should never assume that they are operating in God's will. They should always seek help from fellow Christians (especially their pastor).

2. This is another issue that is not solved on the radio or over the internet. I repeat: Those who suffer severe periods of despondency or unshakable hopelessness should seek both pastoral and medical care. Most of the time, people who seek counseling discover that they are suffering needlessly.

3. As a matter of personal opinion, I do not believe that it is God's will to torment people. The Spirit of God grants us peace and hope not torment and dispair. I am confident that our loving God welcomes saints into His grace with minimal torture under the law. Children embrace Christ's mercy by faith without such horrible experiences. This is probably the preferred method.

But God is also righteous. He restrains people with the Law and exposes their sinfulness with it. So, if the torment you experience is spiritual because you meet the description of my post, it is not God who is tormenting you. Your depression because of the Law is self-inflicted through your own stuborness. Such suffering is not holy suffering (i.e. persecution, resisting sin by faith, etc.)This fight is totally uneccessary.

For me, the Law was like a policeman who had wrestled me to the ground and pinned my arms behind my back. The more I struggled and fought the policeman's will, the more I refused to relent to my mighty foe; the more pain I experienced because of the Law's hold on me... but that pain was caused by my rebellion and refusal to accept my own defeat.

When you give up, go limp, and let go of your own ability, the Law has done its purpose: it has proved your inability to be righteous and has pointed you to our only salvation.

Another example: A person who places his hand on a burner experiences pain and damage to his flesh. One would hardly call this the burner's will because it is the person who is hurting himself. The Law always kills. Trying to touch it apart from the protective cover of the Gospel will always scald you. It makes no sense to torment yourself needlessly. Christ's suffering on the cross is sufficient.

Salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone on account of His sacrifice on the cross. That was (and still is) the reconciliation for my torment.