…how greatly would they prize the gospel, which alone can support us in the day of trouble, or even enable us to find satisfaction in a state of prosperity! (John Newton in a Letter to the Rev. William Howell)
It takes the gospel to sustain you in a day of trouble. You passed over that statement didn’t you? It’s a duh. It’s a sentence that you skim. You may forget that at times, but for the most part in the midst of “trouble” you know that the only thing that will sustain you is the gospel.
It takes the gospel to enable you to find satisfaction in a state of prosperity. If you are like me, this statement causes you to pause. Maybe I am extra sensitive to this statement because of something the Lord is doing in my life right now. At present I am feeling some of the bitter fruit of a self-absorbed and cold heart.
My legalism, techniques, and biblical principles only last for so long. I’ve been exposed. It is with great pain that I have had to confess something that has long bubbled in the darkness. I do not love my wife and children, as I ought. They know this. They feel this. I know this. I feel this.
Of course I do love my wife and children more than I do anyone else. But they do not need me to love them more than grapefruit or some drunken uncle. I am called to love my kids with a God the Father type love and to love my wife with a Jesus sacrificing type of love. I’m called by God to delight in my family.
And that is where I am broken. I could do duty. I can buy flowers. I can follow the 10 steps to discipling your children. I can tell them about Jesus. I can read the Bible with my wife. I can hang out and watch television. I can, for the most part, fake it. But what I cannot make myself do is truly delight in them the way the Lord calls me to.
That stinks. It exposes my heart. Part of the consequence of my rebellion is that I have a numb heart that seems to only be slowly growing in Jesus. I have a really hard time enjoying sunsets. You show me a rose and my eyes gravitate to the thorn. I want this redeemed.
All of this is why Newton’s words here stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve been battling this for a long time. I cannot seem to make myself have joy and to treasure and enjoy the things that I ought. I try to do stuff but I know in my heart that I’m not really being a joyful giver. It’s empty.
I daily feel these words of Augustine. Not only as it relates to God but also to my family:
I was astonished that although I now loved you…I did not persist in enjoyment of my God. Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the things of this world…as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it.
And so I pray…
Lord, captivate my heart. I want to enjoy Your roses. I want to enjoy Your sunsets. I want to enjoy the children that You have given me. I want to enjoy the wife that You have given to me. Not with some vague worldly love like a drunken guy with mustard stains on his wife-beater cheering for the Red Sox, but with a love that springs from your radiant love. Make my love beautiful. I know the gospel sustains me in darkness, open my eyes to the gospel provision of joy. Awaken my dullness.
When this article posts I will be in TN with my wife celebrating our anniversary. I realize the “irony” of posting this on my anniversary. But it actually shows the value of marriage. I doubt this would be a battle that I was fighting if I lived in my mom’s basement playing XBox 360 all day. This is a battle because of love. This is part of the reason God gave me my wife to enjoy. He uses her for my holiness (and vice versa). I am eternally grateful for her in my life. God is using her to root out sin and unbelief and replace it with real God-honoring joy.