“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”
C.S Lewis – Mere Christianity
If you want comfort or encouragement, truth is the only vehicle to get us there. Unfortunately, truth is a stubborn thing. It has no give, no play. It cannot be twisted or changed. Truth can only be believed or denied.
We all know our farther Adam denied the Truth in the beginning, and we all like sheep have gone astray ever since. Adam chose to believe a lie, that God is not who He says He is. The world makes this same choice Adam made every day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
In describing the condition of mankind, Paul wrote, “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans chapter 3:10-18)
This is a humbling reminder of what we once were, and what Christ has actually saved us from. The following story happened during one of the recent forest fires in California:
“The forest fire had been brought under control, and the group of firefighters were working back through the devastation making sure all the hot spots had been extinguished. As they marched across the blackened landscape between the wisps of smoke still rising from the smoldering remains, a large lump on the trail caught a firefighter’s eye.
As he got closer he noticed it was the charred remains of a large bird, that had burned nearly half way through. Since birds can so easily fly away from the approaching flames, the firefighter wondered what must have been wrong with this bird that it could not escape. Had it been sick or injured?
Arriving at the carcass, he decided to kick it off the trail with his boot. As soon as he did, however, he was startled half to death by a flurry of activity around his feet. Four little birds flailed in the dust and ash then scurried away down the hillside.
The bulk of the mother’s body had covered them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she had stayed with her young. Her dead carcass and her fleeing chicks told the story well enough–she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save her young.”
On the cross Jesus covered us as a mother hen covers her little ones under her wings. The difference is that Jesus didn’t cover us from mindless destruction. He covered us from the just wrath of God against our crimes. Jesus covered us until the last flame of God’s mighty anger had burnt out. Jesus hung naked before the full force of the Holy Hatred of God towards sin. He took our place.
At Gethsemane, Jesus was under know illusion about what was coming. He was overwhelmed with sorrow. For the first time in eternity he would be separated from His Father and become the very thing God hated. He asked that the cup of God’s judgement pass from Him. He implored God to find another way. But there was no other way.
I cry writing this knowing that I tend to give not nearly enough weight to the cross of Christ. I can’t explain or understand what horror Jesus endured in my place. But I desperately believe it. I believe that Jesus drank down my judgement. In turn I have escaped all consequence, all condemnation.
Perhaps the greatest comfort of all is when you ask “Why?” Why did Jesus embrace hell in our place? (It has taken me at least two decades to even start believing this!)
The answer is that God passionately loves you and me. He radically loves you. God says to his bride: “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.”
There is nothing in us that God should love us this way, it is simply that God’s love is unfathomably extravagant toward us.
The truth is harsh at times, but if we follow it, we find all the comfort that we have been longing for and more. Comfort that will carry us through all the suffering of this life. We are more than conquerors when we live in this truth, that is, the excessive love of God.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song