the heart at unrest
The people of Toronto do not tarry. A well traveled American friend once remarked that Toronto is the only city where people run up escalators. In a strange way, this is part of the appeal of a large city -- people in motion, ideas in flux, enterprising vitality, purposeful progression, looming opportunities, constant possibility. The city does not stand in idleness. Rather, the city surges with movement and palpable energy. The belief is that minutes counted amount to time not squandered, but made profitable. The fear is that inactivity leads to boredom and deterioration. And, of course, the harder you run, the further you get.
One afternoon, this past January, I was staring at the sky. In a room scattered with people, I had sequestered myself near a window in a comfortable chair and found myself engaged in this most unlikely activity. There was nothing terribly unique about the view that day, but the clouds lightly coursing through limitless blue overhead had the effect of transporting me, briefly, from my own pressing thoughts. A moment's calm. But only a moment before I became entirely distracted by the fact that I couldn't remember the last time I had done such a thing. Only a moment before elusive stillness was shattered by my intrusive thoughts. I can't even stare at the sky.
There are times when my heart feels more frenetic than a city -- a noisy wasteland frenzied with anxious thoughts, weighed down by its own futile expectations. The heart at unrest -- every problem amplified, like a wave threatening to swell above the narrow confines of my capacities. The heart in turmoil -- every fear aggravated, like an overwhelming darkness closing in. And I fool myself when I believe I can escape the tumult of my heart by shifting my circumstances, by filling my days with busyness, by seeking what pacifies only for a fleeting moment.
My heart is quieted, not by leaving the city, not by staring at the sky, not by sheer will, but by remembering my true refuge and running to him.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling (Psalm 46:1-3).
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
This morning, my pastor reminded us of how important it is to rely on what is clearly revealed in God's Word, to cling to these precious truths and to make these our foundation for life. I am a person who must tarry in the truths of God's Word. How often has God met me there in his Word, speaking, as only he can, to my very heart with gentleness and power. How often has God disarmed my anxieties and fears with timely truths, reorienting my heart from its sinful preoccupations and self-centredness and instead toward Christ, the Saviour, who was crushed for my iniquities on the cross that I might have forgiveness, freedom, life, and relationship with God.
I am a person who must seek an eternal solace that transcends the chaos of circumstance and the fickleness of my heart in the living God. I have learned -- am learning still -- that, as a Christian, it is a part of God's tender and disciplining love to set me face to face with my inadequacies, weaknesses, fears, and sins, in order that my heart might know its true rest in Jesus Christ.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the highest heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again (Psalm 71:19-21).
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 131).