Sunday, October 25, 2009

Christ Decides Our Doubt

Today during Communion we sung an old song by William Cowper called "Decide This Doubt for Me." (Cowper -- pronounced "cooper" -- had a life racked with depression.) The lyrics are about a man who feels lukewarm toward God, wishing to feel great emotion--whether contrition over his sin or joy over God's grace and abiding love--but feels nothing. So he feels confused, perplexed, in pain.

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear but seem to hear in vain;
Insensible as steel,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, 'tis only pain
To find I cannot feel,
To find I cannot feel.

. . .

Oh, make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me.
Decide this doubt for me.
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it if it be,
Oh, heal it if it be.

This week I have been studying the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar (Gospel of John, chapter 4). Jesus speaks of the living water he gives, a spring of water that overflows to satisfy our deepest needs and desires. I've read this story so many times it has become cliche. Of course Jesus provides this water, I thought to myself. But I began to feel disturbed inside over this yesterday morning. I knew so little of what Jesus was saying, as if I had never drunk these waters for myself, even though I know I have. But that's the problem--what does it mean for me to taste of his waters today, to drink the "good wine" he makes out of earthly water?

There I sat in my seat with a little plastic cup of wine in my hand and the Cowper hymn entering my ears from the atmosphere. Right as I put the cup to my lips and took in the wine, I heard the prayer: "Decide this doubt for me." And I knew right then that Jesus had indeed done so. Whether or not I had had any recent experience of or thirst for Christ's "living water" didn't matter. I could discount any emotions or feelings, or lack thereof, because in that cup I knew Christ had died for me. As surely as I drank that wine, so surely was my Savior with me, and the blood of his death was present and active for me to give me life by God's sure promise. But I don't mean this in any objective, I-memorized-the-Heidelberg-Catechism-Lord's-Day-28* sort of way. I knew it in my soul. I can't explain it or really put my finger on it, but I felt a deep peace in that moment: a peace that came from resting in the reality and surety of Christ's efficacious, atoning death and the presence of Christ with me and for me at that moment. In the words of the old rites, Communion truly remains a mysterious participation in Christ's blood and a fellowship with our Savior himself (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). I guess I had tasted his "good wine" after all!
*You can read it here.

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