Light reading is not something for which you have much time when you are studying theology deeply and learning to translate Greek. Even so, I am immeasurably grateful that somewhere back among the many influences that godly men and women have had upon my life, the lesson was impressed upon me that a Christian who is weary and hard-pressed should take breaks to simply appreciate something beautiful. Charles Spurgeon had The Pilgrim’s Progress, which he claimed to have read over 100 times. Tim Keller has The Lord of the Rings. C.S. Lewis had Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. I returned to this lesson recently by reading some of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories. Chesterton mixes some of the most captivating imagery and wordplay with penetrating theology and moral common sense in these tales.
What gripped me this time in “The Blue Cross” was the way that Chesterton would paint the most brilliantly vivid and glorious scenes of beauty with his words, sometimes even in the midst of a sinister moment in the story. To Chesterton, it was not out of place to have wondrous moments of beauty even amidst moral tension and lurking evil. This is something we tend to forget as we meet trials and tribulations in this life. The world we live in is disfigured by sin and groaning under brokenness and sorrow (Rom 8:18-22). We groan along with the wounded creation (Rom 8:23-26). Yet this world is drenched with extraordinary beauty and majestic displays of God’s endless creativity in creating good things. We get breathtaking beauty right alongside the ugliness of sin.
All too often, I refuse to savor and enjoy these glimpses of the glory of the pure creation because I am fixated on the ugliness. I want to be free to enjoy the beauty without the corruption hovering right nearby. One of the most valuable lessons we get as Christians is that we must humble ourselves in order to receive good things. When I insist on either having goodness undiluted by the sorrows of this world, or else not enjoying it at all, I place demands on God. It is ludicrous to refuse to enjoy the good things God has given us simply because they are given in the midst of troubles and sorrows. That is precisely why we need them.
The Lord Jesus reminds us that we don’t get to choose when and how we are given good gifts. Rather, the most healthy and joyful thing we can do is to trust God to be good in giving them to us, and to receive them humbly when He does so. “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32-33).
Trevin Wax, referring to one of Chesterton’s greatest books, sums up Chesterton’s way of seeing the world in these words: “What strikes me most about Chesterton’s defense of fairytales is his ability to open your eyes to the sheer wonder of existence. The fairy tale resonates because existence itself is so magical. … The response to our enchanted existence is gratitude.” (Trevin Wax, “Reading Through Chesterton’s Orthodoxy: “The Ethics of Elfland” and “The Flag of the World””, August 28, 2013).
The ability to reorient our focus to be able to enjoy God’s generous gifts, even in the midst of many troubles, is itself a gift from God. Yet it is very often a gift that God brings to us through the help of faithful Christians who open our eyes and remind us to trust our Father and receive His goodness. Paul himself learned the secret of being content (Phil 4:11-13). He was not born with it. Neither are we. We need good teachers, and we need good writers to encourage us to see beauty and receive it, and we need to help others see it too. One of our greatest joys in this life is to find our joy in who God is and how He loves us, and then share that joy as far and wide as our words can carry.
Anthony Bushnell, 2nd Year MA Student
- Pray that we all would reorient our focus to be able to enjoy God’s gifts to his glory.
- Pray for the multiple missions trip our staff, faculty and students are on in the coming weeks.
- Pray for our team headed to our new extension site in Cameroon to teach the first course to the new MDiv cohort there.
- Pray that God would bring in the final amount needed to fund Serious Joy Scholarships.