I would now like to get further into the attic revelations, if I may. I told you of the happy find regarding my Aunt Jeanette, as well as the dispiriting discovery of correspondences that betray a soul stuck in the same rut for decades. The Lord typically uses “means” to change us, and one of those means is acute horror of realizing that time has passed us by as we wallow in old sin:
“… gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not” (Hosea 7:9, ESV).
Such horror is effective for instilling a bracing fear of the Lord, if one responds as God intends:
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret. … For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! ... Therefore we are comforted” (2 Corinthians 7:10–13, ESV).
Here is a specific personal matter in which I have the apostle Paul’s newfound “earnestness” and “zeal” and “indignation” and “fear” and “longing” and “eagerness to clear [myself]”: As a result of my attic trip to the woodshed, I understand that it is no longer feasible to postpone joy for one more day. Waiting for circumstances to improve before having joy is a recipe for a wasted life. This is because circumstances are never 100 percent to our liking, and it is because this is not, as a matter of fact, the way the mind of man is fashioned. Joy must be chosen or it will never be had.
And for joy to be chosen requires that it be fought for. When Paul says “fight the good fight,” he is not writing vapid poetry. Nor is he speaking primarily about physical battle, or some apologetic tour de force against heresy; he is speaking of the demons within. He means to fight that daily fog of regret that envelops your mind and you are so used to that you think you must coexist with it. Evict the thing, shutter the doors and windows, pull down the drapes, and hang a “Keep Out” sign.
Are you constantly miserable because of some losses in your life, even losses you brought about by your own folly? “Come now, let us reason together …” (Isaiah 1:18, ESV). Ask yourself whether it is profitable to continue choosing regret and self-flagellation till they cart you away in a straightjacket. Is there a more laudable faith than the faith that, looking behind upon a wasteland of a life, disregards those “facts” for the overriding “fact” that God is well able to make up for the years that the locusts have eaten? As an example of choosing unquenchable optimism in God, see Abraham:
“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead … or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:19–21, ESV).
Is it not precisely because Samson chose to hope even after screwing up his life that he finds a place in the biblical “hall of faith”?
It is imperative to believe that we will still see God’s goodness in the land of the living. This is the very definition of faith. It is not an option but the way of righteous men of all time:
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” (Psalm 27:13, ESV)
Dem’s fighting words. Fighting-the-good-fight words. Fighting-against-the-chattering-of-the-devil words.
And if anybody thinks that it comes naturally and easily, he hasn’t done it.