Opening a new jar of face cream can surely be described as one of those moments of grand delusion. This is the very unguent, this cool silky balm that will banish the sand-ripples that threaten the smooth tranquillity of the visage and turn back the hands of that pesky biological clock. The mirror must be distorted, the light much too harsh, the sleepless night to blame. Yet here before us is the flesh and blood document of history made, a life lived. For better or for worse the passage of time records its open secrets for all to see, and stress leaves its mark.
A present-day serenity-killer is the conveyor belt of activities that constantly surges onwards with us on board. Whatever has happened to the time balance proposed over 100 years ago for the working man, of eight hours work, eight hours for personal instruction, eight hours repose?
In a reflection on the effects of stress, Charles Swindoll noted the damage that constant busyness does to relationships.
“Busyness substitutes shallow frenzy for deep friendship. It feeds the ego but starves the inner man. It fills a calendar but fractures a family. It cultivates a programme that ploughs under priorities.”
So how do we cope with this problem? Recently, a friend and I were having a coffee at Scotsdales, ranging in conversation over a variety of topics, then settling into reminiscence on people we had known.
“There was a lady who came sometimes to the G.P surgery where I worked,” Althea recalled. “She had this lovely serene face. When I mentioned her to the G.P, he agreed and said that he knew she had a firm, Christian faith.” As we unpacked the memory, it emerged that I also knew this lady. She and her husband had often hosted my uncle on visits as guest speaker. A delicious meal was always generously provided and greatly enjoyed. In our separate ways, we had all noted the gentle grace of spirit in the hostess. Her serenity was not attributed to some outer application, nor was she naïve or laissez-faire in attitude, but wise with experience in the real world, she was grounded in trust in her faithful God.
Sometimes with recollection, we realize that we have been in the company of people who would never describe themselves as saintly, yet who have endured the storms of life still able to hoist a sail of hope and head towards a horizon bright with blessings.
When wild waves threaten the barque, they turn their minds heavenward for guidance and press onwards with quiet confidence. They scan the sea of life for God who turns the shadows of night into morning.
In Psalm 139, King David nestles in the hand of God. Despite the turmoil of conflict, intrigue, betrayal and self-confessed transgression, David’s trust in the living God of his fathers remained secure. Time and again he found that the pathway ahead had been illuminated by divine wisdom and counsel.
“Even the darkness will not be dark to You. The night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” v.12
David suffered much, but he always knew how to seek the warm sanctuary of God’s healing, strengthening love.
These experiences of trial and triumph gave David the moral right and authenticity to offer the words of assurance recorded and preserved for our contemplation in the Psalms.
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.” Psalm 121.
This is where we may put down the anchor.