If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting quietly, soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.
To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything it can to stay on task and focus on the scriptures. The man has physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.
Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the Spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities; activities of idleness that turn his eyes from things above and divert his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect tranquility.
Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Employment anxieties, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.
The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. However, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. As he reads, the eyes of the Lord look to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked eyes on his child and will not turn away.
At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man be set apart from the world and be sanctified in the truth; the word of God he is holding in his hands.
As he sits and reads, engaged in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that by being comforted by God in times of difficulty, he is taught to comfort others. This is something he longs to do.
The Spirit then reminds him, through the scriptures, he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is in his brokenness that the treasure begins to be revealed. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress, bowed the heavens, and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.
The man, still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. His joyful intimacy with his Savior reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and, once again, the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.