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Some Thoughts on Consolation

November 20, 2006

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That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us… Hebrews 6:18

I once had a Peanuts sweatshirt featuring Schroeder at his toy piano, notes from Beethoven swirling mysteriously above the caption, “To those of us with real understanding, music is the only pure art form.” Other Peanuts characters festooned a line of similar sweatshirts with dance and other activities.

Since “pure art form” consists of three subjective concepts, I have no real understanding of what it signifies. But the sweatshirt was turquoise and huge and I liked wearing it when I was 13.

If life drives us to distraction, music and dance and other “art forms” can be nice distractions to have around. Other possibilities are wars, Porsche Boxsters, rock climbing, and the news. Some extremely expensive games have come out, and grown men in business suits animatedly discuss “phantom football” over pricey lunches. But distractions are limited; ultimately, they are shallow. They don’t penetrate the soul they purport to reach in and touch.

Sometimes we seek distraction simply to disengage our minds because we are fatigued. But sometimes we seek distraction when we really need consolation, and distractions are futile because they fail to console.

Consolation differs from distraction in the ways by which we attain it, although both originate outside of ourselves. I am referring here only to distractions that we seek, futilely, to bring about consolation. We can put ourselves in the way of passive forms of distraction, such as entertainment media. Shopping is a distraction if, instead of collecting useful data for promoting frugality and acquiring needed goods, we are glitz gazing or buying impulsively. In any case, it is to the distractions themselves that we look for relief from our distress. Our relief is transitory; it lasts as long as the distraction endures.

Consolation, on the other hand, we receive through nothing we do. We surrender our distress to God alone, groaning for a blessing we cannot provide for ourselves or attain any other way. Consolation can’t be switched on like a TV; you can’t buy tickets or equipment. Your dearest friend can’t even talk you into it. You are given to rely only on the goodness of God to provide it because he knows your need.

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (John 3:27)

Yes, this means that an unbeliever will be unable to find consolation. He will seek distraction from pain and distress all his unbelieving days.

We know that God speaks to us through his Word; however, verse hunting can be a distraction. Texts that are meaningful to me at times of distress may be less helpful to others. The point is, if we are regularly exercised in the Word, we know where to go. If we are under regular preaching, we have substance from which to draw. We are assured we will find what we seek of Christ.

There is nothing wrong with seeking support from other people, but such support should focus on finding consolation from God, not from people.

Consolation means receiving, and it also means asking. We are responsible for asking, but incapable of asking when we most need consolation. We are most susceptible to distractions when we are least able to ask for what we need to receive.

I am briefly pondering the distinctions between distraction and consolation here, because I think the former may often be wrongly pursued in place of the latter. I am pondering this now so that I might be useful to myself and others when the desperate need for consolation emerges. I am pondering this because I know that I am distractible, and I know that I am not easily consoled even when small stuff, real or imagined, issues forth.

But really, I have had to ponder this because, when I have not been easily consoled, it was perhaps because I was seeking consolation in distractions, rather than seeking to receive it from the only source in which it is to be found.

May the Consolation of Israel keep you. And may you receive his consolation to his glory.

3 comments:

Victorbravo said…
How true. The world demands distraction. Distraction confirms and encourages our inate narcissism. How tempting is the offer to become comfortably numb. It keeps us from knowing our condition.Consolation is comfort, but only for those who can groan in grace.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5.

9:22 AM  
TriggerAce said…
Precious words, Mrs. B. This hymn came to mind as I was reading your thoughts just now; it seems apropos:How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

5:56 AM  
Mrs. B said…
Directly on point, and a beautiful sharing, triggerace; thank you.
7:30 AM  
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