The Enlightenment

In Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism he reminds the Christian that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to “enlighten me with His gifts,” and this enlightenment so often occurs when we are hearing the Spirit-filled words of Holy Scripture. Have you ever had that experience? Perhaps you’ve read the passage a hundred times before but suddenly you get it.  It happened to me in church this week. The words hit my ears and penetrated my soul. The sanctuary filled with a bright light while angels sang and harps strummed to a great crescendo. Well, ok, maybe that part was just going on in my head. But the “aha!” moment was so profound that I almost felt like interrupting the service just to ask everyone if they had truly grasped the magnitude of the holy words we had just sung.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

For a few seconds I wrestled with the “from those who walk uprightly” part. Does this passage really apply to me? I know how deep sin dwells within me. I cannot stand uprightly before God and face Him like I am. But wait–because I have put on Christ in my baptism, doesn’t our Heavenly Father see Christ when He looks at me? Do not the words of absolution I just received remind me that I am forgiven and righteous before God? And do not the righteous walk “uprightly”? YES! This is meant for me!

And then the key words of the passage were finally able to seep into the still empty crevices of my heart, like a soothing ointment that provides instant relief from pain. No good thing does He withhold. It finally occurred to me: God’s not holding out on me.

I hear the cry of a newborn infant in a store and I think, “Oh, what a blessed sound! How good it would be to hear that sound in my own home.” But it wouldn’t be good. Not now. Because if it would be truly good for me then I would already have it.

I hear of young single women who have just discovered that they are pregnant and I think, “Wouldn’t our family be best for this child? Doesn’t the girl realize how much better of a life this baby would have with two parents instead of one?” But over and over God has clearly indicated that it would not be good for those children to be ours. And God wants the highest good for us and for these children.

No good thing does He withhold. This means that right now, in this time and this place, I have all good things from my Lord and Savior. Whatever I feel that I lack is, according to Him, not a good thing for me. He is withholding only those things that are harmful to my body or my soul . He is, as the Psalm also says, my sun, lighting my path to my heavenly home through the promises of His Holy Word so that I do not stumble along the way. He is my shield, protecting me from all things which might lead me to trust in something other than His grace and mercy alone. He is also protecting me from myself and the ramifications of my sinful and selfish desires by covering me with His blood.

He’s not holding out on me. This realization is so freeing, so comforting. Even though we know better we can sometimes still be caught pondering whether our past sins have caused our current heartache. We feel like we’re being punished in some way, like a child whose parent has put his favorite toy up on the shelf because he did not pick up his room when told to do so. But God is not holding out on us. The baby we so desire is not waiting out there somewhere until we can get our acts together, figure out what sin we haven’t confessed, or guess at what God wants us to do next. He is giving all good things to us now–this moment, this day, this week. Alleluia! Let those angels keep on singing! I wish you could hear them, too.