What cares and concerns burden you today? What challenges are you facing? Does God seem relevant to them? Do you experience his presence and help in the press of life’s challenges? What happens when anxieties grow within you?
Yesterday in my Scripture reading, I came to Psalm 94, which contains one of my favorite verses:
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (v.19)
Or as the NASB puts it, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul.” While I want to focus primarily on God’s consolations in this blog, first notice the realism of the psalmist: when the cares of my heart are many, not if. Life in a fallen world is hard, often excruciatingly painful. Christians don’t float above the mess of life, stoically relegating disappointments, trials, and tragedies to some back room of our lives. No, we sow in tears (Ps 126:5). In the world, we face tribulation (John 16:33). We are utterly burdened beyond our strength (2 Cor 1:8). We weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).
But where do we go when the inescapable cares of our lives are multiplying? We look for and embrace the consolations of God. What are those consolations? It’s helpful to consider both “macro-consolations” and “micro-consolations.” Macro-consolations are foundational truths about God’s character and actions that bring comfort and confidence in the midst of hardships. Micro-consolations are the particular comforts and blessings God tailor-makes for a given day in our lives.
What are macro-consolations that help as fears and anxieties rise within us?
- God’s power. I am consoled by the fact that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from God (Matt 10:29). Or as the Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer #1 notes, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.” The One who created and sustains all things by his powerful word (Col 1:16-17) will not drop the ball when it really counts.
- God’s love. I am consoled that God’s power is directed and animated by his love. Psalm 94:18 highlights that God’s “steadfast love” holds us up. His loyal, faithful, never-ending love that comes to its apex in Jesus Christ. No wonder Paul can exclaim, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32).
- God’s wisdom. I am consoled that God knows what he is doing. His powerful love flows in the deep channels of his wisdom. This really is the theme of the book of Job—can I entrust myself to him even when my finite perspective is screaming, “Foul!”?
- God’s presence. I am consoled that he is with me. Perhaps this is the most critical comfort. I am not alone. Sometimes we acknowledge God’s power, love, and wisdom, but we envision him operating at a distance as though he is an absentee father. Yet one of the most precious realties Scripture reveals is that our God is with us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23:4). And this Good Shepherd is with us forever through the presence of his Holy Spirit (Matt 28:20), and one day we will see him face to face (Rev 21:3).
What about micro-consolations? Here it is important to pay attention to the particular grace of Jesus Christ; it is sufficient for the day. In the midst of difficulties, it is often hard to pull back and ask God to give us eyes to see the specific shape of his tender care in a given day. Here were some of my micro-consolations from yesterday: I learned that one of the servers at a coffee shop I often visit attends a Bible study at a nearby church led by one of my colleagues. God kept both my wife and my son (a relatively new driver) safe as they drove separately in the midst of treacherous conditions associated with our first snowstorm. A friend with a four-wheel drive vehicle picked me up after I was stranded near the coffee shop. I enjoyed the antics of our labradoodle in the snow. I had a warm bed to sleep in. And there were many more ways I tangibly experienced the fresh mercies of Christ that day.
God promises in Jeremiah 31:25, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” What are the cares of your heart today? Let your anxiety serve as a pivot point, turning you to your Father who pours out his many consolations in your time of need.