Gilbert Limones is a pastor in Uvalde, Texas, who also works at a funeral home there. On the morning of May 24, a truck crashed into a concrete ditch behind Robb Elementary School and across from the funeral home. He and another funeral attendant went outside to investigate. The shooter then fired at them multiple times, missing them both. They got away and immediately called police.
Pastor Limones has spent most of his days since helping prepare for the young victims’ burials, consoling shattered families, and trying to help his congregation cope with their grief. “When tragedies happen, all the enemy needs is a willing vessel,” he told his church, which is located less than a mile from where the shooting occurred.
Recent days have made his point tragically clear. At least seventeen people were killed across the US last weekend in at least a dozen shootings. At least sixty-five more were wounded. A mass shooting at a Nigeria church killed at least fifty people, including children, and injured dozens more.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the bad news, you’re not alone. One therapist coined the phrase “headline stress disorder” to describe what so many of us are feeling. In times like these, it can be easy to lose hope for a better future.
But it is always too soon to give up on God.
“The modern quest for contentment”
Yesterday we discussed our quest for happiness and meaning. Let’s continue today with a fascinating book review in the Hedgehog Review that asks, “Why do good fortune and prosperity leave so many of us unhappy?” In it, St. Thomas University scholar Matt Dinan responds to “an excellent new book” by Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey titled, Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment.
According to Dinan, the authors trace our restlessness to Michel de Montaigne (1533–92), the French Renaissance humanist and prolific essayist. They call Montaigne’s view “immanent contentment,” defined as the pursuit of a life “honest, free, and real.” Montaigne wanted us to turn our gaze inward, to understand ourselves as immanent “selves” rather than as souls with transcendent longings. In his view, happiness comes from submersion in nature and self-awareness.
By contrast, the mathematical genius and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–62) observed, “Put the soul at rest, and it longs for activity; put the soul in motion and it longs for rest. In neither does it find contentment.” Human desires “radically outstrip” human possibilities; misery is certain to follow from “any honest estimate of the gap between what we are and what we want.”
It is obvious that contemporary culture has been persuaded by Montaigne rather than Pascal. Seeking “personal authenticity” is the path to flourishing, or so we’re told. From abortion (“my body, my choice”), to this month’s national celebration of LGBTQ ideology, to the growing acceptance of polygamy, to support for euthanasia, especially among the nonreligious, millions of Americans are seeking happiness through personal immanence.
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”
You and I can seek the best we can make of our lives, or we can seek God’s best for us. But we cannot do both.
Yesterday we explored the personal opportunity inherent in being “filled” and empowered by God’s Spirit every day. Today, let’s discuss some practical ways to experience the transforming power we need.
In one of the most famous verses in Scripture, God promises: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, my emphasis). To experience God’s healing for our “land,” first we must humble ourselves and admit how much we need what only he can do.
Scripture is replete with calls to humility:
- We are told to “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and assured that “the reward for humility and fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
- We are warned, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
- God’s word promises, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).
- In our self-reliant, self-promoting culture’s emphasis on “immanent contentment,” we should remember this maxim every day: “Humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).
As I was praying about today’s topic, this humble request by David became especially powerful for me: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). The Hebrew word lead could be translated as “continually conduct me.” Rock refers to a boulder or cliff. Higher than I means “exalted above me.”
In this prayer, Israel’s most beloved king admits that he is not where he needs to be and that he is powerless to get there. His King must continually guide him up the path to the height that is God’s best for him.
His prayer is preserved in Scripture not for his sake but for ours.
“Peace on my head, light in my heart”
God is calling us to forsake our fallen culture’s quest for “immanent contentment” by making David’s prayer our own. Will you answer your Father’s call today?
I love this hymn by Donough O’Daly (died 1244) as translated from the Gaelic by Eleanor H. Hull. Consider its humility:
How great the tale, that there should be,
In God’s Son’s heart, a place for me!
That on a sinner’s lips like mine
The cross of Jesus Christ should shine!
Christ Jesus, bend me to Thy will,
My feet to urge, my griefs to still;
That e’en my flesh and blood may be
A temple sanctified to Thee.
No rest, no calm my soul may win,
Because my body craves to sin;
Til thou, dear Lord, Thyself impart
Peace on my head, light in my heart.
Will you experience the peace and light of Jesus today?