"It is no good telling the bereaved mother that Christ still loves and cares for her if she has only been taught to think of Christ in terms of how he works on her own feelings and in her own experiences. She needs to be able to see that God is much greater than her experience of him; she needs to know that, whatever her current feelings of anguish and despair, God is trustworthy and loving; and she needs to know that assurance is not necessarily about emotional highs but about knowing that God is faithful even though the whole world appears to be falling apart around her. Such will only be possible if the theological environment in which she lives and worships teaches her to understand Christ above all in terms of his historical work of redemption for the people of God; and that will only come about when the emphasis in preaching focuses not on ourselves but on the Christ of the Bible. Setting Christ above all in the context of biblical history rather than our own experience will promote a truly high understanding of Christ as Redeemer, and one that will ultimately be of more use than the Christ of Emotional Therapy...1"
She needs to be able to see that God is much greater than her experience of him...
This passage by Carl Trueman hits close to home. I was not a bereaved mother but a heartbroken wife wondering where God was when my husband walked out the door. I would never have owned it at the time, but God was pretty much the God of my experience. My degree of assurance was tied to my emotional state, even though I wasn't outwardly a very emotional person. When I read the Word, every passage was taken allegorically such that the Bible was mainly about God talking to me about me rather than revealing Himself. I also combed it looking for passages that I would take out of context for any shred of hope that my marriage would be saved.
But the kindest thing that God did in the midst of my suffering was to turn my gaze away from my circumstances to Himself. This breakthrough in my understanding (via doctrine) and the desire to learn more (theology) were the means that brought me out of despair. I began to see that God was trustworthy, not because He gave me a happy ending, but because He is who He says He is in His Word.
Through the following years and the week-by-week preaching of my pastor, I've learned and am still learning about a God who is far greater than when I was only using the narrow and fallible lens of my experience. He is Triune - one God in three persons. He is immutable, infinite, impassible, simple, faithful, righteous, and love, to name some of His attributes. He moved through history setting the stage for the exact moment when God the Son came down from heaven for us and for our salvation. He is still moving through time and ordering every event until the consummation of His kingdom. Yes there is fierce opposition, but Christ has won! His people are secure no matter what may befall them in this life, and we can look forward to the coming day when every tear will be wiped away and all things will be made right and new.
For those who believe that theology is dry and impractical. I respectfully disagree. Sound exegetical and expository preaching and solid books pulled back the curtain to reveal a God whose will is never thwarted, whose promises are rock solid, and who keeps His own to the very end. Even though my trust may falter at times, I wouldn't want to cast my all on anyone less.
1. Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Carl Trueman, Christian Focus Publications, 2011, pp. 122-123.
A rewrite of a post on my personal blog from June 12, 2012.