Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on the Importance of Calmness for Service

Frustration, worry, anxiety, fears are all part of human experience, and often part of Christian experience - or am I alone? And a troubled state of mind, in whatever guise, can often inhibit our ability to serve others, to pray, to know God. In my experience, worry and frustration all too often are self-inflicted and self-centred. There may indeed be times of genuine inner struggle and turmoil that do not spring from that selfishishness - compare the psalmist's cry of despair to God, Paul's 'fears within', the Lord Jesus: 'my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.' Yet more often than not inner turmoil springs from frustration and anxiety fueled by pride and unbelief. There is much more to be said, but I found the following quote from Jonathan Edwards stimulating. He is considering the specific issue of the Christian's response to insults and injuries received from others, but his comments surely have a wider application. They do not teach that the Christian should expect perpetual serenity and calmness of mind. But they do warn against that agitation of spirit which springs from our sinful attitudes and thoughts in reaction to the way others' treat us or, extending the application, to the circumstances we find ourselves in etc. This too calls for vigilant self-control.

That injuries be borne without losing the quietness and repose of our own minds and hearts. - They should not only be borne without a rough behaviour, but with a continuance of inward calmness and repose of spirit. When the injuries we suffer are allowed to disturb our calmness of mind, and put us into an excitement and tumult, then we cease to bear them in the true spirit of long-suffering. If the injury is permitted to discompose and disquiet us, and to break up our inward rest, we cannot enjoy ourselves, and are not in a state to engage properly in our various duties; and especially we are not in a state for religious duties - for prayer and meditation. And such a state of mind is the contrary of the spirit of long-suffering and meekly bearing of injuries that is spoken of in the text. Christians ought still to keep the calmness and serenity of their minds undisturbed, whatever injuries they may suffer. Their souls should be serene, and not like the unstable surface of the water, disturbed by every wind that blows.

Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits pp.73-74

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