Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
- Wednesday, July 15, 2009
So as he said this to the disciples, he says it, of course, once and forever, to all others who at any time or in any age or in any place know this same condition of the troubled heart. Here in these three chapters, chapters 14, 15, and 16 of John’s Gospel, our Lord administers this final comfort and consolation to all who feel overwhelmed and bewildered by the problems of life and of existence.
I suppose that in many ways it can truthfully be said that the greatest need of men and women in this world is the need of what is called a quiet heart, a heart at leisure from itself.
Is that not, in the last analysis, the thing for which we are all looking? You can if you like call it peace; that means exactly the same thing, peace of mind and peace of heart, tranquillity. We are all restless; we are all disturbed. There is unhappiness in us, and it is produced by many different causes. One thing that causes all our hearts to be restless and disturbed, one thing that robs everybody of peace, is the thought of death. This is a great and certain fact; in the words of the woman of Tekoah, “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Samuel 14:14). That is a most disturbing, a most troubling thought. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that until we become Christians, we are all in lifelong “bondage . . . through fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). Shakespeare, who knew the human heart, gives these words to Hamlet: “The dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.”
“Conscience,” he adds, “doth make cowards of us all.” Yes, we do this and that, but thought of that “undiscovered country” upsets everything. That is the trouble and that is the cause of the restless, unquiet heart.
Then there are the problems that are incidental to life in this world, life and its almost inevitable ills that come sooner or later—illness, accident, disappointment, financial loss, trouble in business, the serious illness of a child or a loved one, the death of someone close to us. These are the things that come and test us all, and we cannot avoid them. We all want to make our plans for life and living. But when we think we have made our perfect plans, something suddenly happens, and our whole world begins to shake and to quake. Certain ills simply cannot be avoided, things that are bound to happen, the tragedies of life.
And all this is in addition to the particular problems of the current century. Every age of mankind has been subject to the things that I have mentioned, but on top of these things we have this uncertain world in which we are living, with all the possibility of wars and many other threats. The supreme problem is that of trying to face these things and to achieve a quiet heart. I think that any analysis of modern literature and of the conduct of the vast majority of people will indicate clearly that men and women are trying to achieve peace in some shape or form.
We need to determine what is really likely to give us this quiet heart. We must start by being realistic and by saying that it is not only the Christian gospel that offers us freedom from the troubled heart. There are many ways in which we are exhorted to try to find this peace. So I must start with the negative. I must deal with the false before I can come to the true because men and women who are holding on to false solutions and do not find satisfaction must come and listen to the gospel. The claim of the gospel is not only that it can give us a quiet heart, but also that nothing else can do it.
Of course, people do not like that sort of claim today; they say that it is “intolerant.” We are living in days when people are always saying, “We want a world conference of all the religions, so we can all get together and pick out the best in each.” But you cannot do that with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is exclusive, and its challenge is that Christ, and Christ alone, can truly give us peace.
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