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Gods Great Delight

Chris Strevel
ach day an encyclopedia of
misery is written with the ink
of human suering, tears, and
blood. Children starve, endure
neglect, and are prostituted. Hus-
bands beat their wives. Young men
die in war. Hospital wards are full
of the diseased and dying. Moth-
ers pine away for children lost to
the world. Nursing homes smell of
death and disinfectant. A familys
lone breadwinner loses his job.
Hungry men, women, and children
scrounge dumps for any morsel of
refuse to satisfy their gnawing,
bloated stomachs. Crops fail. Cur-
rencies are debased. Homes burn,
collapse, or ood. Six thousand
years into mans existence, with
marvelous technology at his n-
gertips and the hubris to match,
humanitarian agencies galore, an
avalanche of pity-evoking media
exposure, and a wealth of pain-
ful and pleasant experience upon
which he might draw for warning,
direction, and comfort, he still
suers, sometimes horribly.
Our suering will not go away.
We cannot outspend it, feel it away,
or eradicate it through socialism.
Te guilt manipulators, of course,
constantly endeavor to do so, but
the billions and billions spent by
western nations to fund social pro-
grams, ght poverty and hunger in
the world, and redistribute wealth
under the guise of equalizing op-
portunity, are just a drop in the
bucket, which has a huge hole lead-
Covenant Presbyterian Church RPCUS
Buford, Ga.
13 Councel of Chalcedon Issue 1 2009
ing directly to the coers of the bu-
reaucrats, dictators, petty tyrants,
and corrupt systems, foreign and
domestic, that create a signicant
amount of the worlds tangible
misery. Te real problem of suf-
fering, moreover, is never touched.
Never. I am speaking of its impact
upon the soulthe hopelessness it
creates, the uncertainty, the un-
quenchable sadness, the sense of
alienation from life itself, even
the longing for death. Tis is the
real toll of human suering, and it
cannot be measured by charts and
graphs or cured by money and gov-
ernment programs.
Tere are other forms of suer-
ing beyond the obvious instances
related to physical deprivation and
abuse. Tere is the haunting sense
of guilt. We can ponticate about a
world without God, absolute moral
standards, heaven and hell, but try
telling this to ordinary men and
women. Deny God, however, and
life is hell without justice, mean-
ing, or relief. Tese realities are too
engraved upon the human person-
ality to be erased by philosophical
sleight of hand. Tey are not placed
there by books and preachers but
are written by an insuperable hand
upon the very fabric of the soul.
We can no more escape our con-
victions that there is a God, that we
owe our lives to him, and that judg-
ment hangs over our head for our
sins than we can escape our shad-
ow. Tey are persistent, doggedly
insistent that their claims be heard.
Tis is one reason there is so much
guilt associated with consumerism
on the one hand, we spend and
spend, acquire and acquire, but on
the other hand we decry consum-
erism and try to silence our guilt
with collectivist social policies. It is
odd, no, that the most vocal propo-
nents of global warming, expansive
socialism, feeding the hungry, and
conquering poverty are usually the
richest, most self-indulgent, and
arrogantly elitist. What else is this
but evidence of our divided souls,
or our unbelievable hypocrisy? We
want our cake while making others
feel guilty for having theirs. Such
self-deception, especially when
it becomes a way of life, sinks its
poison tentacles into the heart of
every man.
Councel of Chalcedon Issue 1 2009 14
We feel now that there is change
in the air, that the good times are
soon to become the good ol days of
memory, that suering of various
sorts is about to intensify. Many
are angry at politicians, at the
very businesses that once served
to satiate their covetousness, at
banks, from whom very recently
they eagerly accepted easy money,
at themselves. Whatever may actu-
ally occur in a society that begins
to lose prosperity and feel the pinch
of tyranny, the deeper problems are
the hopelessness it generates, the
sadness, the downcast soul that can
no longer look to its possessions or
prosperity for comfort, a deceptive
comfort, to be sure, for that com-
forts masks the real emptiness of
the human heart without God, but
nonetheless a temporary relief that
provides some sense of personal
well-being. When this is taken
away, when man is confronted with
the truth that his outward man is
perishing, that man at his best is
altogether vanity, that riches are
uncertain, and that the expecta-
tion of the wicked will perish, he is
precariously poised to sink into the
nothingness that was there all the
time. Unless.
In the midst of human suer-
ing, God is present. He is here all
the time, providentially directing,
patiently waiting, ecaciously
calling men and women to him-
self. Te world may be against us,
but Gods friendly face is always
turned to us in mercy, divine pity
and compassion joined with power,
if we look upon him through Je-
sus Christ. God is over and works
through economies, but he is not
bound by them. He is the author
of suering, but he always intends
good through it, again, if we will
look to his friendly face through Je-
sus Christ. His mercy is all around
us, ready to assist us, support us,
comfort us, and ground us, if we
will but seek him. Tere is no sin-
ner so far gone in his rebellion that
he cannot be reached by the hand
of mercy. Tere is no child so sick,
no pervert so depraved, no athe-
ist so hardened that he cannot be
comforted, transformed, and bro-
ken by the God of mercy. And he
delights in mercy. He rejoices in
the salvation of even one sinner.
Gods Great Delight
15 Councel of Chalcedon Issue 1 2009
He loves to comfort the downcast,
to strengthen the despairing, to re-
store the wanderer. His mercies are
fresh each day, are never exhausted,
always ease pain and create hope,
no matter the darkness of the val-
ley, the intensity of the pain, the
crushing weight of the burden. His
mercy does not erase them; rather,
in them he shows us the sustaining
power of his mercy and teaches us
to seek his eternal kingdom.
Tere are many in the world
who deny that biblical Christian-
ity oers any ultimate answer to
suering. Tey are blind guides of
the blind; do not listen to them.
Te only answer is mercy. Trough
suering, our Father reveals his
power, his grace, and his love. Suf-
fering is purposeful because it is
the occasion for mercy. He would
wean us from our pernicious and
ultimately dissatisfying love for
the world. He would shatter our
self-deception. He would teach us
to seek rst his kingdom and nd
joy in bearing our Saviors cross.
He would show us something of
the depths of our sinfulness that
we might seek his wealth in our
poverty, that he might clothe us in
our nakedness, support us in our
weakness, and, above all, free us
from the worlds most dangerous
delusion, that we have any other
good than the knowledge of Gods
mercy in Jesus Christ. Oddly, those
who mock the Bibles answer to
suering do not have a leg to stand
on, for in denying God, his sover-
eignty, providence, and power, they
lack the moral right to speak of suf-
fering. Suering only makes sense
in a world created and governed by
God. It is ultimately meaningless
upon any other foundation, any
other foundation than Gods great
occasion for mercy.
If you have tasted something
of Gods friendly side, of his mercy
in Jesus Christ, now is the time to
proclaim this hope to our hopeless
world. It is not a time for anger. Even
righteous anger, if not balanced by
mercy, can become an ugly, para-
lyzing disease in the heart. It can
turn you away from those whom
you ought to love and show God-
like pity. Te world is feeling Gods
justice. Point it to mercy, to Gods
friendly face in Jesus Christ. It is
perhaps sensing its own frailty. Di-
rect it to the only sustaining power.
It is suering. Its only hope is mercy.
Councel of Chalcedon Issue 1 2009 16
And you, believer, are the only one
who can tell hopeless men where to
nd light in the darkness, purpose
in the meaninglessness of consum-
er culture, comfort in the despair
produced by leviathan govern-
ments, collapsing economies, and
personal tragedy. In the mercy of
God promised, given, and received
through Jesus Christ. What an op-
portunity has been given to us! We
have prayed for God to work, and
he is. Perhaps we wrongly thought
in terms of guns and gold, revolu-
tions and elections. We should have
been thinking in terms of mercy,
judgment unto mercy, death unto
life, sin unto righteousness. Tis is
Gods greatest delight. He did not
send his Son into the world to con-
demn the world, but that the world
through him might be saved.
Commvmoun:Io :uv oo:u
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Jou CnIvIs BIu:u
JUNE zz;
Jov Mouvtunv:
Wnvv Roovus
CuuIs S:uvvvI
Do Cuovv
Jvvv BInt
BIII Po::vu
BIuvvIvIo CoIIvov
ooo CoIIvov Du.
BIuvvIvIo Vn, z(6o
Fou Mouv Ivo s :o RvoIs:vu
Svosouvo Bv:
Tuv Rvvoumvo Puvssv:vuIn
Cuuutu I :uv UI:vo S:n:vs
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