This morning, while thinking about yesterday’s sermon on not allowing our hearts to be troubled, I remembered a quote from a letter by Samuel Rutherford. It can be hard to keep our hearts from being troubled, especially when we feel an “absence of comfort, and absence of sense of [Christ’s] sweet presence.” Here is what he says to a church that seems to be feeling down in the dumps and is troubled by that “absence.”
“I think that absence is Christ’s trying of us, not simply our sin against him: therefore, [although] our obedience then be not sugared and sweetened with joy; (which is the sweet meat [children] would still be at) yet the less sense [of Christ’s presence], and the more willingness in obeying, the less formality in our obedience, [but] we think not so; for I believe many think obedience formal and lifeless, except the wind be fair in the West, and sails filled with joy and sense, till souls, like a ship fair before the wind, can spread no more sail: but I am not of their mind, who think so.”*
Although it might be hard to understand, he is essentially saying that if we willingly obey Christ, we should not think there’s something wrong with us when sometimes we don’t “sense” His presence, and it doesn’t make us feel super joyful. Sometimes this is simply a way that God tests us.
Christian hedonism says that if we aren’t enjoying it, we’re doing it wrong. But, to quote Rutherford, “I am not of their mind, who think so.” Sometimes the most encouraging thing you can hear when your obedience doesn’t seem to be generating lots of joy is that your willing obedience is still pleasing to Him, even if it’s not giving you the feelings you want.
* (Quote from Joshua redivivus, or Mr Rutherford’s letters, by Samuel Rutherford)