So, to be honest politics have been driving me crazy. I have never seen our nation more divided and the political conversation more hostile. I believe that we have to dig deep into history to find a time when the discourse was more heated and irrational. I remember that times have been bad before. Prior to the Civil War Congressman Charles Sumner gave an impassioned speech against slavery on the floor of the Senate. For this Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat him on the head with a cane till he lost consciousness - in the middle of the Senate. So, yes. Things have been worse. But, this may be the direction we are headed. I find it terribly discouraging.
The other day one political blogger wrote after a major disappointment, "At moments like this, it is good to be a Calvinist." That thought was in my head as I read the Institutes on Thursday night. In the background, the political debate roiled on - as noisy and troubling as ever. Then, as I read these words I struck me. At discouraging moments like this, it really is good read Calvin.
In the Institutes of Christians Religion, book 3, chapter 7, section 9b, Calvin is discussing the way faith in God changes our behavior. If we are seeking God's blessing on our work, then surely we must conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to him. "Away with the thought that God would aid with his blessing what he curses with his mouth!" That is good stuff. Then Calvin goes on to talk about the way putting our trust in God benefits us when we face adversity.
"[The person who rests solely upon God], possesses a solace in which he may repose more peacefully than in the highest degree of wealth or power. Since this leads to his salvation, he considers that his affairs are ordained by the Lord. We see that David was so minded; while he follows God and gives himself over to his leading, he attests that he is like a child weaned from his mother's breast (Ps 131)." (3.7.9b)
So there it is. The peaceful repose of believing that our affairs are ordained by God. As I considered these words, I actually felt my heart rate slow a bit. I am a little more relaxed. Not quite peaceful repose yet, but perhaps it is a step in the right direction. The promise is not that all things will work out for our benefit, but that all things will work for the good of our salvation. God is at work, ordaining our affairs to work for the good of our salvation. If you are wondering what it means that God is continuing to work for the salvation of a Christian, consider that God is sanctifying you - making you more like Jesus. So, all things - both the good and the bad - can be effective for this purpose. That is good news.
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 (Matt)