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The Path to Misery

“Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

The path to misery is selfishness. We often think of selfishness as an outward thing–a selfish person treads on others, and will hurt others for personal gain. And for some that is undoubtedly true. But for an introvert like me, selfishness can be more of an internal preoccupation, a self-obsession that blocks my concern for others and chokes my ability to love my neighbor. I wonder how much of my time is spent thinking about two or three of my favorite worries, devoting mental energy to hypothetical line of reasoning that serves no end, that benefits no-one, including myself. For an introvert, selfishness can often take the form of an endless, self-concerned internal monologue.

Right now (and much of the time), that monologue concerns the future; the decisions I have to make, the circumstances that might occur, and what those mean for my future. This monologue will cause me to forget the basic fact that God is sovereign and the only real harm that can really befall me will come from my own sinning. And even that, Christ has paid for.

What the tempter affects, in me at least, during these sessions of self-concern, is impressions. I have every reason to be happy, and no reason right now to fear or doubt. But my flesh, and the kingdom of darkness, will destroy a completely beautiful thing simply by creating a worrisome feeling, which the mind then latches onto, deciding that it must pursue an endless internal line of questions, a vague and undirected attempt to resolve the worry by thinking about it. This sort of worry has no living root, it has no purpose; frankly, it is sent from hell to destroy faith and joy.

The tempter will make you feel as if something is awfully wrong, but he will not tell you what it is. Goodness is simple, it is not hard to see. Well, perhaps it is hard to see. But it is not a mystery how to be blessed, how to make things alright, how to have nothing to fear. Trust in Christ. God is present with us, and for those who trust in Christ, there is nothing to fear. The word of Christ is joy and life, it is clarity. Let us listen to him.

Why do I worry? I worry because I am selfish, because I want a plan that works out in the end, in a way that I can see, in a way that I can control. And I want to deal with things according to my own resources: my own strength, courage, and wisdom. I cannot simply trust God, behold the beauty and goodness that is before me, or even sometimes the ugliness and despair, and say to God: “you know all things, you are the one with the perfect plan, your will be done. Help me to love you and love my neighbor, and rejoice. Let me trust you.”

When life is considered in light of the Kingdom of God, the big decisions will not seem so big. The outcomes don’t really matter that much, unless we do not believe that God will turn any life lived in service to him into something beautiful in the end, into a root which may grow in his eternal kingdom, in the new heavens and the new earth.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. December 6, 2010 at 11:57 am

    This is quite beautiful. It’s also interesting in the context of the widespread corruption of the idea of Divine surrender, in the form of positive thinking and “The Secret”. The problem is, I think, that in a grossly materialistic society, the only way the notion of Divine Providence can be understood is in terms of fulfilling selfishness, rather than the result of utter and complete self-abnegation.

    I’ve never written to this site before – please let me know if there is some kind of protocol, format or anything else like that.

    – don

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