Psalm 46:10 keeps running in my head. Psalm 46 is a Psalm for those who are experiencing great upheaval.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
It is a Psalm I need to memorize. Also, I keep hearing “for I am the Lord your God.” A lot of Bible passages end with that refrain, but Isaiah 41 is especially helpful.
10 do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
11 Yes, all who are incensed against you
shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12 You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
13 For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
I will help you.’
The problems are getting to be too huge, and the darkness is getting to be too great. I can’t hold it all in my head anymore. This is where having faith becomes completely necessary for me to survive. I have to stop trying to hold back a little bit of my trust, reserving it mostly for myself and occasionally for some charismatic person who would be the next great leader of our country. The trust has to go completely over to the Lord.
The kind of comfort I am seeking isn’t a cheap or shallow comfort–nor is it an escapist’s comfort. It is a much-needed refuge, just like sleep and food are necessary. Going without sleep or food for a few days so you can be more productive is a nice idea now and then when you are young, but such attempts never sustain themselves or yield any output of note.
I think that I have wrestled with admitting that I need God for reasons of comfort, because I have seen such a need used as a spiteful response by people who would mock others for whatever it is they believe (even Christians mocking other Christians for not practicing the most correct version of Christianity). It goes something like this: “Well, I am sure that your religion/faith is a nice comfort to you, but that doesn’t make your belief system a valid one.” In other words, whatever I believe is reduced to being merely a quest for comfort, no different than a beloved book or movie, or some tasty comfort food.
Of course, everyone needs comfort. Everyone seeks comfort in something, whether they are open about what they are doing or not. But, I don’t think that comfort is the only benefit that I receive from having faith. If that were the case, I would seek comfort elsewhere in an object, social group or activity that was a little less challenging.
For me, though, the act of taking some Bible verses and letting them sink into me deeply so that they do provide a kind of balm for what is ailing me is something I haven’t done much since getting ready to come to seminary. I’ve tried very hard to approach the Bible as a cerebral academic, as a good seminarian who is in a meta-state above those who would rely on the Bible for things like comfort and hope. I’ve gotten good at homing in on certain words and seeing how many times they appear elsewhere in the Bible, and saying things that sound very educated, analytical and historical about what the passage means–speaking about it theologically more from the perspective of “this was the Jewish people’s theology of such and such time and place: pre-, during and post-exile,” rather than how it relates to my own theology.
Or even more to the point, just letting the Spirit guide me to find the verses I need the most during the trying times of life, and meditating on them slowly and carefully without giving much thought at all to historical contexts and alternative readings.
Sometimes, I do need a kind of peace which passes all understanding, and no amount of rationalization or people telling me that it is going to be okay will suffice. I need to be filled with a clear sense of understanding that God is in charge, and fear isn’t necessary, and then I need to pass even that understanding with a peace that is even more deeply abiding.