Sunday, February 15, 2015

When God feels distant and you're not sure you have faith...

Gisbertus Voetius in Spiritual Desertion, first published 1646:

"[O]ne's faith is definitely not gone as a result of the . . . assaults of temptation when one's conscience fails to feel and taste the sweetness of God's grace and of justification—for which it nevertheless yearns and which it continually pursues with much sighing. On the contrary, faith is like a smoldering piece of charcoal covered with ashes . . . The case is that in this state of numbness faith itself is not so much diminished as concealed and obscured, as concerns its functions, when the black cloud of depression or spiritual abandonment interposes itself between the two. One's faith, in that condition, has retreated into some corner of the heart and stays there . . . Faith and assurance are then still found as it pertains to the root, the ground, the state, and the possession of it . . . but not as it pertains to the outflow and influence of the manifestation and assurance, the emotions, the consolation, the joy and serenity, as it was experienced earlier."
Emphasis mine.
Now this is one reason I love reading older works.
They tend to remind me that I'm not a special snowflake with unique spiritual struggles. Also, they contain precious pastoral truths that our age is often slower to recognize. The communion of saints is a beautiful thing.

Johannes Hoornbeeck, in the same work:

"Apart from the general necessity of worship, in the situation in which the soul now is [feelings of spiritual desertion], the person has a greater need for worship than ever in order to return to the earlier joy that God will again grant through a diligent practice of worship . . . And the worship that one practices in the midst of spiritual abandonment and dryness is rooted more deeply and is more disciplined than that which is experienced under the precious feeling of God's grace; it is proof that the person has come far in the denying of self and in the pure love of God and of worship—proof that what counts is God and not self."

 How painfully and beautifully counter-cultural is this?

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