"Are the consolations of God too small for you…?" - (Job 15:11)
"When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul." - (Ps 94:19)
We all seek consolation, whether it be when we are bored, depressed, anxious, disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad, confused, grief-stricken or in pain of any kind. From our point of view the best consolation of all, of course, is one that completely removes the pain we are in. But failing that, we long for something that at least will help us to endure it or forget it for awhile. And where do we seek that consolation? Some of these are relatively harmless or even healthy, such as when we turn to our friends, our family, take a vacation, take up a hobby or seek good counsel and loving encouragement. God wants us to enjoy His good gifts and these do help us through the tough times of life. But there are other sources to which we turn that are counter-productive, even destructive.
One of these sources is mood-altering substances. Even here, there are some substances which, if taken under wise and responsible medical supervision, are helpful, even at times necessary to gain and maintain a tolerable state of mind. For these medically-indicated substances or therapies we should be very grateful and, as for every form of wisdom that God grants to us, return our thanks to Him as the ultimate source. (Isaiah 28:23-29) Nevertheless, it does appear that even these good things are being abused to an alarming degree in our nation. The incidents of death by overdose of prescription drugs have just surpassed the number of those by illegal drugs! That doesn't mean that all those who died of overdoses by prescription drugs obtained those drugs by a doctor's order. Some are stolen, others traded on the street - but there are some unscrupulous or negligent medical providers who aid and abet this epidemic.
If we then consider the subject of illegal drugs it is astonishing to think that whole nations to the south of us are being overridden by vicious gangs, cartels and even "revolutionary" insurgents all feeding off the demand for those drugs in our nation! Of course, those countries that export illegal drugs to us also suffer from lots of other problems that make the lure of drug money from the US very strong indeed. Nevertheless, our contribution to the existence of these very destructive criminal enterprises is a major one as we seek our comfort and consolations in mood-altering chemicals. But of course, there is a legal mood-altering chemical that more people abuse than all the illegal ones: alcohol. It is arguable that this drug causes damage to more human lives than all the narcotics, amphetamines, barbiturates and hallucinogens combined. Yes, it is true that there are many people who imbibe in a truly moderate manner but all too often people who consider their intake moderate are actually indulging in a way destructive to their health, their relationships and spiritual well-being. That's the thing about alcohol - one of its effects is to lower our inhibitions and limit our judgment, making us vulnerable to self-delusion. For that reason alone, I happily recommend abstinence!
I could occupy much more space going through all the other sources of solace or consolation that we are pursuing to the destruction of our bodies, our families, our communities and above all, our immortal souls. I could include many things that you might think were harmless pastimes or forms of entertainment and relaxation. Here again, they might be such if they were indulged in moderation but the instances are so many in which they are pursued with abandon that a warning concerning them is also in order. In fact, no source of consolation lower than God Himself is wholly safe and truly satisfying.
And what are the "consolations of God"? Are they few and negligible? One would think so by how few of His professed followers seek them or show evidence they have partaken of them. The God who revealed Himself to the Prophets and the Apostles and whose messages through them comprise our Bible, is called therein, "the God of all comfort": "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) Here, the Apostle Paul says that God's comforts, or consolations, are as abundant as his afflictions. How many of us can say that! And they were given in such abundance to him that he was able to give the surplus to others who were suffering like afflictions.
Just read through the Bible and notice how many times and ways it says that God stands ready to provide us with peace, joy, contentment, satisfaction, even pleasures evermore! The consolation that we are loved by God, cared for, provided for, protected, surrounded and indwelt by Him are some of those consolations just for starters! Of course, faith is required. We must believe His promises, believe His declarations else His consolations will remain out of our reach. Christians, we need to step out in faith to explore the vast treasuries of God's comforts and consolations to our souls. When we do so, the ultimately unsatisfying and often destructive substitutes we have sought for God's consolations will cease their allure. Not only will we be greatly encouraged, but we will be abundantly equipped to encourage others to seek this wonderful Being in whom is found infinite joy and from whose Being flow every good and perfect gift!
So let us turn to the God whose consolations delighted the soul of the Psalmist when anxiety threatened to overwhelm him and whose comforts were abundantly provided to the Apostle Paul in his many afflictions. Sing joyfully to Him and of Him, meditate upon Him in the lonely watches of the night, run to Him in times of discouragement and disappointment, pour out your soul's complaints before Him while remembering His many mercies to you despite your many sins, pour over the pages of God's love letter to you, treasuring every promise and believing in them without hesitation - in short, be happy in God!