The Institutes and Loneliness

This Christmas has been somewhat lonely, moreso than usual, I think. Maybe it’s just because all things gospel-community seemed to stop for the holiday season. Maybe it’s because I’m all the more anxious to see Christ’s return after focusing on Advent so much. Maybe I just want to get married and start the next phase of my insanity-filled sanctifying life. Who knows?

On the bright side, my parents were very gracious and gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. My brother, undoubtedly consorting with my parents to keep this knowledge from me (I mean, I asked for it, but I thought it was way too expensive for me to actually get as a gift), was kind enough to give me John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. Never mind that he only spent four dollars, I’d wanted to get these books for a long time, but didn’t want to spend so much for the printed versions. Needless to say, when I saw he gave me this, I nearly tackled him and broke a chair when I went to hug him in gratitude. I can be a bit of an extremist at times…

In reading the Prefatory Address Calvin wrote to King Francis, I found something not only worth sharing, but that applies to my situation of loneliness aptly.

For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by Him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him?1

Here, Calvin says that there is nothing that goes better with faith than the emptying of ourselves. Admitting that we have no merit before God, are void of anything good, and that we are slaves to sin. All of this for the purpose of Christ’s glory shining all the brighter by becoming our merit and good for us (2. Cor. 5:21) and by freeing us from the enslavement to and death in sin (Eph. 2:1-10).

As Tullian Tchividjian writes about in his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Christ became our everything so we can be free to confess our own nothingness. Christ was strong, so we are free to be weak. Christ was perfect, so we are free to admit failure and repent. Christ paid the penalty for sin and absorbed the wrath of God (Rom. 3:28) due us for our sin, so we are free to consider ourselves slaves to Christ.

What does this have to do with loneliness? Everything. Because even when I find myself wanting my own family to shepherd, He has made me part of His own family that He shepherds, the Church. Because if Jesus truly is my Everything, then He also fills the void where I feel I lack community, or possibly intimacy. Because even though this life is filled with voids in certain places, we are promised an eternity on the New Earth with our Savior, with our King, where He shines throughout all darkness simply by His radiant glory. And a time when every moment of loneliness will be overwhelmed with the presence of God.

Until that day, may we confess our nothingness well, and trust Him to be our Everything, especially when we don’t see it.

1Calvin, John (2008-04-03). Institutes of the Christian Religion (Kindle Locations 289-292). Signalman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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