My forthcoming book, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, is finished-at least my work is done. It comes out in May but I should have my first copies by April (oh the painful wait!). And while I'm excited about the fact that it's done, there's always a sense of angst knowing that I cannot add to, or subtract anything from, the book. I'll read something and think to myself, "I wish I could add that quote" or "I wish I would have said it more like this."
This happened to me last night.
As a writer, reading Paul Tripp is always frustrating because he always says what I want to say but he says it so much better! Essentially, Surprised by Grace is a book on the gospel (taken from the book of Jonah) and few people understand the gospel better than Paul Tripp (if you're not familiar with Paul, click here). He is a bona fide Christian realist. He refuses to underestimate either the seriousness of our remaining sin or the sweetness of God's restoring salvation.
These breathtaking lines from his recent book, A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble, were used by God to re-orient me in a profound way.
Based on Psalm 27:5-"He will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock"-he writes:
We all look for it. We all refuse to live without it. We all think we've found it, but it can only really be found in one place. What is it that I'm talking about? Well, here it is: all human beings are on a search somehow someway to find that solid rock on which to stand. That one thing that they can bank on. That one thing that will keep them upright when the storms of life are raging. That one thing that will remain firm for the duration. That one thing that will give them security when nothing else does.
No human being enjoys feeling that he is living in the sinking sand of unpredictability, disappointment, and danger with no rock to reach for and stand on…We long for our lives to make sense. We long to have meaning and purpose, and we long to have lasting stability.
The problem is that the longer we live, the more we know that there is little around us in this fallen world that's truly stable. I have a wonderful marriage to a lady who in many ways is my hero, but our marriage is still marred by our sin, and this reality still introduces pain and unpredictability into a relationship we have been working on for thirty-seven years! You may think your job is a source of stability, but a bit of a turn in the global economy could have you out on the street in a relatively short period of time. It may seem that your material possessions are permanent, but every physical thing that exists is in a state of decay, and even in its greatest longevity it doesn't have the ability to quiet your heart.
So here is the dilemma of your humanity: you are clearly not in control of the details or destiny of your life, yet as a rational, purposeful, emotional being, you cry for a deep and abiding sense of well-being. In your quest, what you are actually discovering is that you were hardwired to be connected to Another. You weren't hardwired to walk the pathway of life all by yourself. You weren't hardwired to be independently okay. You weren't hardwired to produce in yourself a system of experiences, relationships, and conclusions that would give you rest. You were designed to find your "solid rock" only in a dependent, loving, worshipful relationship with Another. In this way, every human being is on a quest for God; the problem is we don't know that, and in our quest for stability, we attempt to stand on an endless catalog of God-replacements that end up sinking with us.
In fact, our inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we'd never find on our own the One who is to be our rock; no, he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here: "He will lift me high upon a rock." It doesn't say, "I will find the rock and I will climb up on it."
Here is the hope for every weary traveler whose feet are tired of the slippery instability of mud of a fallen world. Your weariness is a signpost. It's meant to cause you to cry out for help. It's meant to cause you to quit looking for your stability horizontally and begin to cry out for it vertically. It's meant to put an end to your belief that situations, people, locations, possessions, positions, or answers will satisfy the longing of your heart. Your weariness is meant to drive you to God. He is the Rock for which you are longing. He is the one who alone is able to give to you the sense that all is well. And as you abandon your hope in the mirage rocks of this fallen world and begin to hunger for the true Rock, he will reach out and place you on solid ground.
There is a Rock to be found. There is an inner rest to be experienced that's deeper than conceptual understanding, human love, personal success, and the accumulation of possessions. There is a rock that will give you rest even when all of those things have been taken away. That rock is Christ, and you were hardwired to find what you are seeking in him. In his grace, he won't play hide-and-seek with you. In your weakness and weariness, cry out to him. He will find you, and he will be your Rock.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.