THE ONE REMEDY FOR ALL MALADIES


The great reason why life is troubled and restless lies not without, but within. It is not our changing circumstances, but our unregulated desires, that rob us of peace. We are feverish, not because of the external temperature, but because of the state of our own blood. The very emotion of desire disturbs us; wishes make us unquiet; and when a whole heart, full of varying, sometimes contradictory longings, is boiling within a man, how can he but tremble and quiver? One desire unfulfilled is enough to banish tranquility; but how can it survive a dozen dragging different ways? All eager longing tears the heart asunder. Unbridled and varying wishes, then, are the worst enemies of our peace.

And, still further, they destroy tranquility by putting us at the mercy of externals. Whatsoever we make necessary for our contentment, we make lord of our happiness. By our eager desires we give perishable things supreme power over us, and so intertwine our being with theirs, that the blow which destroys them lets out our life-blood. And, therefore, we are ever disturbed by apprehensions and shaken by fears. We tie ourselves to these outward possessions, as Alpine travelers to their guides, and so, when they slip on the icy slopes, their fall is our death.

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4.

He who desires fleeting joys is sure to be restless always, and to be disappointed at the last. For, even at the best, the heart which depends for peace on the continuance of things subjected to a thousand accidents, can only know quietness by forcibly closing its eyes against the inevitable; and, even at the best, such a course must end on the whole in failure. Disappointment is the law for all earthly desires; for appetite increases with indulgence, and as it increases, satisfaction decreases. The food remains the same, but its power to appease hunger diminishes. Possession brings indifference. The dose that lulls into delicious dreams today must be doubled tomorrow, if it is to do anything; and there is soon an end of that.

Each of your earthly joys fills but a part of your being, and all the other ravenous longings either come shrieking at the gate of the soul’s palace, like a mob yelling for bread, or are starved into silence; but either way there is disquiet. And then, if a man has fixed his happiness on anything lower than the stars, less stable than the heavens, less sufficient than God, there does come, sooner or later, a time when it passes from him, or he from it.

Do not venture the rich freightage of your happiness in crazy vessels. If you do, be sure that, somewhere or other, before your life is ended, the poor frail craft will strike on some black rock rising sheer from the depths, and will grind itself to chips there. If your life twines round any prop but God your strength, be sure that, some time or other, the stay to which its tendrils cling will be plucked up, and the poor vine will be lacerated, its clusters crushed, and its sap will bleed out of it.

If, then, our desires are, in their very exercise, a disturbance, and in their very fruition prophesy disappointment, and if that certain disappointment is irrevocable and crushing when it comes, what shall we do for rest? Dear brethren! there is but one answer – Delight thyself in the Lord.’ 

These eager desires, transfer to Him; on Him let the affections fix and fasten; make Him the end of your longings, the food of your spirits. This is the purest, highest form of religious emotion-when we can say, ‘Whom have I but Thee? Possessing Thee I desire none beside.’ And this glad longing for God is the cure for all the feverish unrest of desires unfulfilled, as well as for the fear of loss and sorrow. Quietness fills the soul which delights in the Lord, and its hunger is as blessed and as peaceful as its satisfaction.

Think how surely rest comes with delighting in God. For that soul must needs be calm which is freed from the distraction of various desires by the one master-attraction. Such a soul is still as the great river above the falls, when all the side currents and dimpling eddies and backwaters are effaced by the attraction that draws every drop in the one direction. Let the current of your being set towards God, then your life will be filled and calmed by one master-passion which unites and stills the soul.

And for another reason there will be peace: because in such a case desire and fruition go together. ‘He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’ Only do not vulgarize that great promise by making it out to mean that, if we will be good, He will give us the earthly blessings which we wish. Sometimes we shall get them, and sometimes not; but our text goes far deeper than that. God Himself is the heart’s desire of those who delight in Him; and the blessedness of longing fixed on Him is that it ever fulfills itself. They who want God have Him.

Your truest joy is in His fellowship and His grace. If, set free from earthly delights, our wills reach out towards God, as a plant growing in darkness to the light-then we shall wish for nothing contrary to Him, and the wishes which run parallel to His purposes, and embrace the LORD as their only good, cannot be vain. The sunshine flows into the opened eye, the breath of life into the expanding lung – so surely, so immediately the fullness of God fills the waiting, wishing soul. To delight in God is to possess our delight. Heart! Lift up thy gates: open and raise the narrow, low portals, and the King of Glory will stoop to enter.

Once more: desire after God will bring peace by putting all other wishes in their right place. The counsel in our text does not enjoin the extinction, but the subordination, of other needs and appetites – ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’ Let that be the dominant desire which controls and underlies all the rest. Seek for God in everything, and for everything in God. Only thus will you be able to bridle those cravings which otherwise tear the heart. The presence of the king awes the crowd into silence. When the full moon is in the nightly sky, it sweeps the heavens bare of flying cloud, and all the twinkling stars are lost in the peaceful, solitary splendor.

So, let delight in God rise in our souls, and lesser lights pale before it – do not cease to be, but add their feebleness, unnoticed, to its radiance. The more we have our affections set on God, the more shall we enjoy, because we subordinate, His gifts. The less, too, shall we dread their loss, the less be at the mercy of their fluctuations. The capitalist does not think so much of the year’s gains as does the needy adventurer, to whom they make the difference between bankruptcy and competence. If you have God for your ‘enduring substance,’ you can face all varieties of condition. The amulet that charms away disquiet lies here. 

Still thine eager desires, arm thyself against feverish hopes, and shivering fears, and certain disappointment, and cynical contempt of all things; make sure of fulfilled wishes and abiding joys. 

‘Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’

Excerpts from the book, “The Bible – Work: The Old Testament, Vol IV”, by J. Glentworth Butler, DD

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