“Unbelievers always think that the best thing in life is that you are autonomous; that you are yourself and that nobody bosses you around; that you are yourself, and that you make the law in your life. You set the law yourself – autonomous. that is the ideal of humanism. But the catechism precisely says, “My only comfort is that I am not autonomous, that I am not my own boss. I have someone else who is my boss. I belong with body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. I am a Christian in the deep original sense of the word. I am a Christian – that means I belong to Jesus Christ.” – Dr. Jelle Faber
Once a quarter we have a Congregational Meeting during our afternoon Sunday School hour. On these quarters, we have a special Sunday Morning service and an extra Lord’s Supper. We have extra readings of the scripture and extra hymn singing. I treasure these special Lord’s Day services.
This last one, Pastor Jarret preached on Question 1 in the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q: What is thy only comfort in life and death?
A: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
I’ve treasured this question in my heart for years, but most often looked at the “comfort in death” side of the answer. Christ is my comfort in death, and the death of other believers.
I love the show Firefly, but there is a line that has always haunted me: “Everyone dies alone.” Mal says this to Inara when their ship is failing and Mal refuses to leave. He makes sure his whole crew gets off, but he won’t leave Serenity. Inara tries to get him to come with her, telling him he’ll die alone if he doesn’t. His response, “Everyone dies alone.”
When I first heard that line, I thought it true. Cynical, cold, but true. In fact, there is some comfort found in hard truth: Everyone dies alone, no exceptions. Deal with it. Facing truth, the hardness of life can make it easier to deal with. It sets the proper expectation so you aren’t surprised when life hurts.
But, I still found the line haunting. It rolled around and around in my head. I found it disturbing. It’s disturbing. The quote I started with answered some of that for me. ‘Everyone dies alone’ is the end of autonomy. If you wish to have no authority in your life, if you truly want to be god to yourself, then you must face death alone. You can ignore that fact, or you can face it, but either way, you will die alone. And, that my dear readers, is a scary thought. At the end, no matter how you live, you will die alone. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all face darkness alone. For Mal, that is what he wants. He wants to be left alone, even if that means facing death alone. He’s comfortable in those woods cause he’s trusting in himself.
But, what about those of us who have seen ourselves for the dark monsters we really are? Death will bring all that I am out into the light? Do I want a bright light shown on every thought, every lust, every lie, every manipulation, every second of selfishness, every drop of pride, every disloyal second I’ve lived. Do I want my life laid bare for all to see? How terrible and terrifying, how shameful that thought. Hide me, may the rocks fall down and hide me, for I am filthy. I have not a speck of goodness in me. I’m driven by fear, pride, selfishness, and distrust. I am not good.
What is my only comfort?
Christ died and took my sin, my guilt, my shame. He took all that ugliness and gave me his goodness. He gave me purity. He washed me. He gave me righteousness. Then the Father adopted me. The Father poured out the love he has for the Son on me, accepting the monster as cleansed. Then, the Holy Spirit, oh faithful Spirit, dwells and works in me. Justification and sanctification. Not a drop of which I earned, but all of God.
And now… I won’t die alone. I will not face that darkness alone, for Christ is beside me. Christ holds me. I am loved. Not because of anything in me worthy of love, for I am fully unworthy of love. Oh reader, if you saw what God can see, you would disown me today. Your forgiveness I could never earn, your love I could never keep. But God. God knowns me better than I will ever be able to admit to knowing myself, and still holds me tightly within his grasp.
I will not die alone.
I will die a sinner, but now alone.
I will die a monster, but not uncovered.
On that judgement day, I will have something standing between me and God: Christ who died for me. And, oh doubt speaking within my heart, you lies of unbelief, guilt saying not me, Christ did the work. Christ is faithful. Christ is trustworthy.
All this is my comfort.
But, like I said, I’ve always thought about this great truth in light of death. But it says ‘life’ too. Life? Yes, what is my comfort in life? It is the same as in death! My comfort is Christ and his work, the love and adoption of the Father, the faithful work of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how this humbled me. I woke up in the middle of the night right after we got our new flooring filled with anxiety. There was so much to do. The house was a mess. Things were unhome like. How could I keep my husband de-stressed and me un-overwhelmed when things were so crazy? So much to do, how will I get it all done? I tossed and turned and thought silly thoughts.
I forgot my comfort. I forgot that God, who adopted me, died for me, forgave me, justified me, sanctifies me, and loves me is sovereignly working all these things out for my good. He is a Father taking care of his child, me. All these things that need to get done, that he has brought into my life are here because he loves me and wants me to grow.
I don’t know about you, but I can make a mountain out of a mole hill. I distrust myself if I’m not stressed out. I feel like the only way I can get stuff done is if I’m stressed about it.
And yet, God has said that I’m not to be anxious.
He has my hairs numbered, and I’m a shedder. But, not a single hair falls that he doesn’t know about and plan.
Reader, this means that money issues, health issues, marriage issues, past and future issues, blessings and struggles are all orchestrated by him for me well-being, and he loves me. Why, oh why am I not sleeping peacefully? I have a Father who can’t be stopped, tricked, or distracted from his care for me. I have a Father who won’t make a mistake, who never stops loving me, who will tend to me. I have a Father who is never abusive or negligent.
Oh reader, what is our only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
I don’t want to be autonomous. I won’t to belong to Christ. I don’t want to be anxious about taxes, meal prep, cleaning, organizing, managing money, or time. The best way for me to not be anxious isn’t for me to become a billionaire. It’s to trust Christ who died to save me, the Father who adopted me, and the Spirit who indwells me.
Truth is the best help against the madness that is midnight anxiety. Truth is the best help against the darkness of death.
This is truth: Christ, our faithful Savior.
“…the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.” – 2LBCF 2.3