For the past six months or so—thanks to my daughter’s influence and example—I have been journaling in my Bible. (They make Bibles for exactly this purpose, and this is the one that I use.) For me, who likes to write, this experience has been deeply fruitful. I’m currently journaling my way through the Proverbs. What follows is my reflection on Proverbs 15:15-17, mostly in the form of a prayer. (I am literally transcribing from my handwritten notes.)
See Psalm 37:4; Matthew 6:33. From Solomon’s perspective, there is a kind of cheerfulness of heart that is immune to external circumstances. These verses make a point very similar to Jesus and the rest of God’s Word: We find genuine happiness in God alone. I’ve experienced enough of this happiness to know it’s true. But I need more!
Lord, can I dare to ask you to give me more? I confess that too often my heart is NOT cheerful (v. 15). I confess that too often I find my treasure in so many other people, places, and things. I need you to melt my heart! Change my desires so that I desire you alone—and the things that belong to you. I’m not even asking you to “work with me,” synergistically, the way we Wesleyan-Arminians so often want you to work. I’m not asking that you would COOPERATE with my free will. I’m asking you—I’m pleading with you!—TAKE CONTROL! Give me grace that obliterates my stubborn, sinful heart. Override my free will. I won’t mind, I promise! Only give me a joy that finds complete satisfaction in you! O God, I want that so badly!
Teach me, God, that “a little with fear of the Lord” is greater than the greatest treasure. If you have to afflict me (I say this with fear and trembling) with a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), as you did with my brother Paul, please do so. Give me this severe mercy if that’s what I require to find my treasure in you!
In my pastoral prayer yesterday, I prayed for victims and survivors of this most recent, devastating hurricane, which has nearly wiped whole towns off the map (like Mexico Beach, FL). I said in my prayer that many of your children are enduring a “severe trial.” I chose those words with care: For some of your children—not all and likely not many, but for some—this “fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12) will be their greatest blessing. Why? Because, like me, they have found their treasure in something or someone other than you. And now, possessing very little, this experience will lead them to repentance—sweet repentance!
Like comedian Stephen Colbert, who told an interviewer in 2015 that coming to grips with the death of his father and two of his brothers at age 10 was the equivalent of “learning to love the bomb,” some of these victims and survivors will, by God’s grace, be able to say, “I love the thing I most wish had not happened”—because, in losing their treasure in houses, possessions, and even family or friends, they will find their true treasure in you. (Needless to say, your children who died in the hurricane are experiencing your grace and love in a way that those who are left behind are unable to experience: They have found their treasure in a way that we, on this side of eternity, can only dream! “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21).