Today, I woke up on an air mattress in the middle of my bedroom, sorting out strange dreams and back stiffness. It's a long story and one I'm currently stuck in the middle of, so I'll give you the full version when I can say "this too shall pass" with the kind of tone that believes it will. For now, the morning light is stretching out across the living room while I enjoy a slow cup of french press coffee. For now, I am stretching into this blue sky Saturday while I listen to Keller preach on anxiety and emotions and the psychology of happiness. I am not usually an emotional roller coaster, so I am a little ashamed to admit I have been one the past couple days.
Last night, I had a shot of whiskey before going to bed.
It felt more like an old-fashioned remedy to nervousness than it felt like self-medication, but it was probably both. So, when I opened an email from my dear friend Whitney this morning, my heart was primed. I needed an encouraging word - the kind that speaks Truth softly but firmly and without reservation. The sermon she sent was called, "The Wounded Spirit" and I instantly felt guilty for thinking my spirit qualified. I recently watched Scott Hamilton's story in his I AM SECOND video - what kind of candle can my troubles hold to that struggle?
Theodore Roosevelt said "comparison is the thief of joy," and in this case its thievery also included consolation. Our problems are always small in comparison to the problems of others, at least mine are. I can always find someone who has it worse, always, and I end up disqualifying myself for consolation as a result. But, I listened to the sermon anyway - even if I felt guilty for thinking my heart qualified.
And I found heaping cups of consolation, buried like treasure inside Scripture.
An anxious heart weighs a man down but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12, ESV)
The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. (Proverbs 14:10, ESV)
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Proverbs 15:13-14, ESV)
The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)
In each of these passages and a few more, Keller points to the good news of the Gospel - Christ is the ultimate good word, the best hope, the supremest joy, the most sincere gladness, and the boldest righteousness. But this good news does not live inside a vacuum. This good news lives inside this real world, in real and unforgiving circumstances.
"Happiness is determined by how you deal with your circumstances on the inside - how you process, how you address, how you view them." - Tim Keller
God's sweet consolation does not mind how trivial or monumental our anxiety. He does not measure our worries against one another and dole out consolation accordingly. The good news of the Gospel is that it will never run out.
My heart always qualifies for consolation and the consolation of the Good News will never run out.
At the end of the sermon, Keller stresses,
"Come on! He took the tree of death so you can have the tree of life. Use that on your conscience, use that on your emotions, use that on your existential angst. That'll get rid of your fear of death. But most of all use it on the hope of your heart..."
This too shall pass. Yes, I believe it will.
The hope in my heart is not something I've conquered or created. The hope in my heart is heaping cups of consolation from the Giver of Good News.