Much of what I have read of the Puritans has been of real spiritual benefit to me (though I confess to sticking with those Puritan writers who put the cookies on the lower shelf). They often say profoundly helpful things in memorable ways. For example, Samuel Rutherford, the great Scottish preacher said, “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for God’s choicest wines.” That’s a good one. And so, when we are in a trouble, it is a good thing to remember: look for God’s blessings in the affliction.
But sometimes we can elevate these great quotes from the Puritans to the level of “super-law” in our minds. We get hit hard with an affliction, and try as we might, we can’t find the wine. All we are doing is fumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch. And so we begin to think that we are pretty pitiful Christians if we can’t do better than this. We conclude that we are being punished for our lack of faith if we are not laying hold of the vintage wine. And this can lead to introspection and self-condemnation which are the last things needed in the midst of a hard providence.
Yes, the Bible tells us we should rejoice always, that we should count it all joy when we meet various trials. And of course, this is right and true. But rejoicing doesn’t always involve balloons and confetti and popping the champagne. Rejoicing in the Lord in the midst of suffering means thanking God for all things, even when it is hard things. Rejoicing may mean singing a song when we don’t necessarily feel like it, reciting a psalm, counting our blessings, giving thanks, remembering God’s promises, waiting for God’s deliverance, or doing our duties as we wait for healing and help.
So as we read the Puritans, and other writers like them, we ought to keep from laying heavy burdens on our consciences that God did not mean for us to bear.In other words, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t find the wine bottles in the basement. Don’t assume that you are a lousy Christian if you are feeling weary, lonely, or sad. These feelings are not sinful in themselves. We are to steward these feelings by the grace of God, make the most of our afflictions, and turn a profit on them by faith. But one of the things that will hinder that process is imposing a false standard on ourselves and then grieving over our inability to attain to it.
8 thoughts on “Super-Law”
Thank you, Mrs. Wilson! This is one of the most timely and encouraging things I have read on the subject.
My husband and I have had the opportunity recently to share (on our blogs as well as other places) with people what joy amidst sorrow looks like; what rejoicing during grief looks like. And no, there is no confetti. But yes, there is Christ.
We have had five of our six children now precede us to Glory. It is grievous. We are in the cellar.
And I am thankful for this post of yours, and thankful for your ministry to my heart today. Thank you for bringing me a sip of fine wine.
Thank you, again. I love that Rutherford quote, and I’m pretty sure I heard it first from you.
What you say here reminds me of Hebrews 12. Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him—not, it seems, for the joy he was currently experiencing—while at the same time despising the shame. He was not merely making lemonade out of life’s lemons or sipping cabernet in the cellar of affliction. Christ, the perfect Man, experienced real suffering. Real suffering requires real endurance. Real endurance is the result of real hope. And real hope looks ahead to the Joy that God has promised.
This is something I’ve struggled with a lot. Dealing with miscarriages and infertility the last few years, there have been times that I’ve felt guilty for how much it hurt and how hard it was. I felt like if I really trusted and rested enough then it wouldn’t hurt. What I’ve had to learn is that it is possible to have complete hope and confidence in the goodness of God, while still dealing with pain from my current circumstances. I can grieve the loss of a child and an empty womb, while still knowing that He has a purpose in all of it.
This was such a wonderful and timely post… I recently lost my hearing in one ear. Very suddenly: one moment I could hear and the next I could not. And it will never return. I never realized before this, how extremely handicapping it is to only hear from one ear, but it is. You lose all sorts of things you would never think of: directionality, the ability to differentiate voices, even the ability to hear in a crowded place or pull sounds out of background noise. Not to whine or anything (I say as I finish up a lonng whine;))
I have had to give up my teaching responsibilities at church- at least for the time being.. I can’t enjoy many of my favorite activities. I admit that I have concerns about my future. And probably worst of all, I have had my own personal “Job’s comforter” telling me that I am in sin and this is God’s judgment on me. It hasn’t been a picnic, I don’t mind tellin’ ya.
For me the rejoicing has sometimes been just sitting in His presence, maybe with an open Bible in front of me, maybe with tears streaming down my face. Rejoicing not in the difficult situation, but rather in Him… that He is there with me. And that He sees the end from the beginning. I can rejoice because I trust Him.
Maybe I don’t look like I am rejoicing, but I am? yeah.
Excellent…I so need to be reminded of these things again and again. Thanks, Nancy
Beautifully said, Nancy.