Friday, August 17, 2007

Tea and Sympathy

God has taught me more the last few months about what it means to live as a follower of Christ through a man born in Scotland living in the late 19th century then I ever imagined possible. In December I subscribed to a free daily email, thanks to the excellent recommendation from a friend, for his My Utmost for His Highest daily devotional (Follow the link to read or subscribe). I was floored from day one. He rivals C.S. Lewis in his ability to formulate extremely profound statements in a beautifully simple manner. Daily I am convicted, encouraged, and stretched through his devotionals.

After becoming enamored by this man I did a bit of research to see if he had any more literary works. I figured I would start at the beginning and get a brilliantly titled book published in 1917, Baffled to Fight Better: Job and the Problem of Suffering. In the midst of the horrendous bloodshed of WWI, it could not have been more applicable.

Chambers refers often to the depravity of the state of humans. He claims that if any man is honest with himself he can not deny that at the core of humanity, we are broken, something is awry. It is at this removal of the blinders that one faces reality, which consequently, is also when one faces God.

It is with this understanding the Chambers gives a word of warning against the simple sympathies, such as "look on the bright side", or "there's a silver lining in every cloud".

"The 'gospel of temperament' works very well if you are suffering only from
psychical neuralgia, so to speak, and all you need is a cup of tea; but if you
have a real deep complaint, the injunction to 'Cheer up!' is an insult."
When I read these words, the enigmatic words in one of my favorite Jars of Clay songs became decoded -"Don't trade our love for tea and sympathy". It's all about being honest with yourself and with others. We live in a broken world, fact. Don't settle for a lesser form of reality that tries to find the best in everything. That joy and peace that people are seeking through weak sympathies, in the midst of suffering, is made complete in ones knowledge and security in Christ, nothing less.
"What is the use of telling a woman who has lost her husband and sons in the war
to 'Cheer up and look on the bright side'? There is no bright side, it is
absolute blackness, and if God cannot come to her help, truly she is in a
pitiable condition."
I faced this blackness underneath the Burnside Bridge. I have written about Frank before. He's been through divorce, extreme mental illnesses, separation from his kids (his "baby bear"), alcohol addiction, living on the streets, and now, the loss of his mother. When he shared this with me, I was speechless. A fully grown man, in shambles, voice shaking, tears falling, and telling you he has no one left in the world. There is no silver lining in that cloud. All I could do was hug him and tell him that I loved him.

If you know the truth of Jesus, be careful in your conversations about creating a facade of false and empty hopes. It would be better to say nothing. If the opportunity arises, simply share how you have joy and peace in this broken world. And if you don't experience this joy and peace in your life, keep searching and dig deeper*!


*That is becoming a common theme in my posts as of late.

1 comment:

Melany said...

So you discovered Oswald Chambers! My Utmost for His Highest is a personal favorite, and has also been a blessing to several of my friends. I will have to search out some of his other works as well- I know our library has all of them.