We’re back with Ray Ortlund, our guest on the Ask Pastor John podcast, as John Piper is on a writing leave, working on his next book project. Ray, as you know, our greatest problem is sin. We deserve God’s judgment, and Christ came to pay that penalty and set us free eternally. But there are many other benefits to this salvation we now enjoy in Christ. How does the gospel apply to the ever-returning anxieties, insecurities, and frettings we experience in the Christian life? In those times, where do we go to regain our joy in Christ?
Well, I would say, first of all, Tony, there is a kind of hidden blessing in looking back on my past and feeling wounded by my sin and folly. That humbles me. It keeps me leaning into the Lord, and solemnizes me and warns me about my own potential for sin. So I am grateful for that.
Cast Every Care
But on the other hand, there are, as you suggest, anxieties and frettings and so forth that are not of the Holy Spirit. And the Lord does not want us to bear those burdens. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is 1 Peter 5:7, “[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” And the original text suggests the idea that if it matters to you, it matters also to him. He does not despise us for the many things we find hard to bear. He doesn’t tell us, “Buck up.” He invites us to cast upon his broad shoulders, so that he bears it for us.
Now, Tony, when I think about how that actually happens for me — it doesn’t happen enough. I am not very good at trusting the Lord.
Refreshed by the Saints
But what gives me traction to get free at heart to trust in the Lord, and rejoice, and get my eyes off myself and my problems and so forth? Well, the best strategy for me to regain peace and confidence is to go to church. I worship with my church. I see the people in my church. They are oxygen to me. And just by being there, they help me to feel afresh that Jesus is enough.
And then, of course, they have problems too, and I become more aware of that. And that matters to me. So I start to think about them and care about them. And they matter, every single one of them; they are wonderful people.
So at a number of levels I have found, Tony, that my most effective strategy or remedy for batting through to confidence and joy is certainly not vegging out in front of TV. Instead, I go to my wonderful church and just enjoy the Lord with my friends.
So seriously, from 10:30 till noon every Sunday morning is my happiest and most sane moment in the whole week. I find in the wonderful presence of the Lord there, in that gospel culture, that I am lifted in my heart to believe the promises of God again, and get happy again, and I get fresh legs for the next challenge in life, even as I also have the privilege of imparting strength to others.