The Mother-Love of God

When my grandfather was a grown man, he experienced a toothache so painful that he tried to climb into his mother’s lap. While that wouldn’t have made the pain go away, he knew that it would bring him another sort of comfort. It seems we never completely lose the desire to be embraced by a mother’s love.

My grandfather had grown too big for climbing into laps. Sometimes, we have the same problem seeking comfort from God. Our thoughts concern our problems – how to fix them or avoid them. Psalm 131 can teach us another way.

It bears King David’s name, and we know him as a man of action but not in this poem. This psalm appears in the middle of the Psalms of Ascent, the songs of a long pilgrimage toward Zion. In the midst of the journey, we may need to stop and rest as David did. We could imagine him alone in the wilderness, done with fighting and fleeing, seeking only the peace of God’s company.  To that end he writes of a return to dependence, a return to stillness, a return to childhood.

In distressing circumstances adults tend to cast about anxiously for a solution or look for someone else to blame. Psalm 131:1 teaches us to set aside these prideful thoughts, acknowledging that solutions are beyond us and that we are as fallen as the next sinner. A child is content to simply be held. A “weaned child,” as described in verse 2, might be three or four years old, still small but also independent. Such a child would no longer cry and look for milk from her mother’s breast, but she would be satisfied with the warmth of her arms and the protection of her presence as she sings her baby to sleep. That is the aspect of God which David wants us to experience, the encircling, restful and gentle mother-love of God.

We can only experience that stillness if we deliberately set aside the cares of the day and our attempts to fix them. We can only do that in a quiet space where nothing else intrudes. We can only do that when God alone is all we want, not the things He might give us. The Lord of the universe gave us birth and nurture and sustenance. He proved His incredible love for us once and for all on the cross. He has all the time in the world to sit and hold us in His arms. Let us not wait until pain finally drives us there. Climb up into His lap in humble dependence and enjoy His love today.


Questions:

  1. What present circumstance makes you most long for a mother’s loving comfort?
  2. Take five minutes right now to meditate on this psalm. Try to sit quietly in God’s lap, resting in His arms and His love. If you find yourself climbing down again, don’t be frustrated; just notice it, and go back to sit with Him a little longer.

This post was first published in 2013.

Entering Pain

I once had a very wise doctor who taught me an important lesson about pain. At the time, he was removing an inch-long metal screw from my hip under local anesthetic. He seemed to be using an ordinary, Home Depot Phillips head screwdriver which rather amused us both. But the novelty of the situation soon gave way to the piercing pain of metal turning against bone. When I began to fidget and moan, the doctor asked me to do him a special favor. He said that he was conducting a research project into the nature of pain and wanted me to carefully describe what I was feeling. I struggled to describe the location and varying pitch of the sensations, whether it throbbed or stung, felt cold or ached or surged. Sooner than expected he tied the last stitch, and I took my shiny souvenir home in a jar.

The funny thing was, he never did compile the results of his meticulous survey. The man had used a benevolent, psychological trick to get me to stop resisting the pain of minor surgery. But in the process I discovered a truth which has been important to me. Instead of panicking and running from the pain, he got me to look at it, even to move toward it. I don’t know that I felt any less agony, but I felt it differently. The pain was less like a monster attacking from the outside than it was a peculiar part of my own being which could be touched and explored. I found the same kind of meditation very useful in other situations, including the natural delivery of two children.

Pain, like other difficult circumstances in life, can be fled or it can be explored.  One can fight and flail against the inevitable, or one can accept and even find peace inside the dreaded cavern. In her beautiful book, The Scent of Water, Elizabeth Goudge describes depression as a dark cave. But she points out that many scholars believe the stable where Christ was born was a cave, and also the tomb where He was buried. If depression is a cave and pain is a cavern, they are inhabited by One who is well acquainted with the layout. 

Christ dwells wherever we do, at the bottom of the ocean, the end of the world or the darkest pit. He offers us His companionship and strength. When we stop running from all our pain — emotional, spiritual and physical — and explore it to the edges, we can find many truths inside it. It is Christ in you who paints the ceiling with glowing crystals. It is Christ’s arm which keeps your foot from slipping in the dark. It is the presence of Christ which turns cold desperation into peculiar fellowship. And it is Christ’s love which places daily treasures for you to mine. God can sculpt the stalagmites of your grief into monuments of His glory. It is a trick of the mind to stop fighting the pain; it is a truth of the heart to find God inside it.

Not only the comfortable, good and happy walk with Christ. In fact, they mostly ignore Him. The next time you feel the walls of pain closing in on your soul, try taking a good look around in there. You might be surprised at what you find. Or Who you find.


This is the third in a series of blogs about chronic pain of all kinds. Go back to the first one here.


Related Content:

On Seeking Help

CounselingDear Christian Counselor:

 

I’m always trying to reconcile what the Bible says about giving our cares to God and trusting in Him versus seeking professional help from secular counselors. My concern is, if we’re turning to fallible man for answers on anxiety and depression, we’re not trusting completely in God.  If He wanted that “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) removed from our side, He’d remove it.  But if prayers go unanswered for so long, when is it time to say “enough” and seek professional help?

 

– Jewels


Dear Jewels,

 

Would you say the same thing about medical care?  If God wanted to instantly heal a person’s diabetes, He could certainly do that.  But we observe that He often heals it through medicine.  Perhaps that is so we don’t grow proud or complacent; perhaps it connects us better to others in community; perhaps we need the ongoing process to stay dependent on the Lord.  Talking to a counselor represents less intervention than your average doctor visit.  However, you used the word “secular,” so I want to make sure you know that there are plenty of educated, licensed Christian counselors around, combining the best of both worlds.  In my view, Christian counseling is just discipleship on steroids.  Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Prov. 19:20)

 

One of the things a counselor might suggest is that you visit a psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly for medication.  You get to decide whether that’s something you want to do or not.  I have seen many cases where anxiety and depression can be alleviated without medication, carriage wheelsbut I have also known others where medication has been an amazing blessing.  Once our brains have been stewed in the chemicals of sadness and fear for a while, it can be like a cart which is stuck in the sand.  Just turning the wheels isn’t enough to get it out.  Sometimes medication gives you the jump-start you need to change direction. 

 

Anxiety and depression tend to be self-focused conditions.  Jewels are made to shine outward.  I would encourage you to seek help and comfort in your struggle so that you can *sparkle* for God’s Kingdom.

 

Please see our Resources page for some suggested reading material on anxiety and depression.  Here’s another article you might find helpful: Fear Not: Command or Comfort?

Enhanced by Zemanta