Heaviness and Heaven

Now and then we forget that our forefathers in various ways referred to this life as a veil of tears. I suppose they forgot to take the positive thinking seminar when it was in town. Or perhaps they were observant and therefore honest men and women who saw and sympathized with the sorrows around them.

Recently I’ve been accosted to the point of numbness with reports of struggle and sorrow, of death and alienation, of marital struggle and parental pain. There is a heaviness about into which I’d like a saint from old to speak.

Most of those who call themselves Calvinist have never read a thing by John Calvin. That’s a shame. When they do, they discover not a man who is polemically committed to a ‘floral’ theological system, though committed he is. They rather find a man who is passionate about helping others grasp a big picture of God so that their weak knees might be strengthened and their hope lifted up.

He is a great friend to have nearby. You really should come to know him.

May these words bring encouragement to you, and may they, perhaps, as well, encourage you to read Calvin on your own. The numerical references refer to the book/chapter/section of The Institutes of the Christian Religion in which they are found.


‘For whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil. It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put his own children to a definite test.’ [3.8.1]


“…the Lord instructs his followers in the vanity of the present life by continual proof of its miseries. Therefore, that they may not promise themselves a deep and secure peace in it, he permits them often to be troubled and plagued either with wars or tumults, or robberies, or other injuries. That they may not pant with too great eagerness after fleeting and transient riches, or repose in those which they possess, he sometimes by exile, sometimes by barrenness of the earth, sometimes by fire, sometimes by other means, reduces them to poverty, or at least confines them to a moderate station. That they may not too complacently take delight in the goods of marriage, he either causes them to be troubled by the depravity of their wives or humbles them by evil offspring, or afflicts them with bereavement. But if, in all these matters, he is more indulgent toward them, yet, that they may not either be puffed up with vainglory or exult in self-assurance, he sets before their eyes, through diseases, and perils, how unstable and fleeting are all the goods that are subject to mortality.

”Then only do we rightly advance by the discipline of the cross, when we learn that this life, judged in itself, is troubled, turbulent, unhappy in countless ways, and in no respect clearly happy; that all those things which are judged to be its goods are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and vitiated by many intermingled evils. From this, at the same time, we conclude that in this life we are to seek and hope for nothing but struggle; when we think of our crown, we are to raise our eyes to heaven. For this we must believe: that the mind is never seriously aroused to desire and ponder the life to come unless it be previously imbued with contempt for the present life.“ [3.9.1]


”…that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection. Let us then, take hold of a sounder view, and even though the blind and stupid desire of the flesh resists, let us not hesitate to await the Lord’s coming, not only with longing, but also with groaning and sighs, as the happiest thing of all. He will come to us as Redeemer, and rescuing us from this boundless abyss of all evils and miseries, he will lead us into that blessed inheritance of his life and glory.“ [3.9.5]

Calvin of Geneva, of course, had learned much from Saul of Tarsus:

”For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.“ (Titus 2:11-14)

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2 thoughts on “Heaviness and Heaven

  1. MagistraCarminae

    Thank you, Randy. I (Chris)read these quotes with tears to Dave this morning, until I could not read them, and Dave had to finish. This drives me to my knees at the thought of my own poverty in the things of God. Thank you for these reminders.Chris and Dave, in CO for the weekend

  2. Randy Greenwald

    Humbling, no doubt.But, Chris, don’t grieve over your poverty. Give thanks to God for the richness bequeathed to us by the saints who have walked before us.These quotes encourage me to not forget the wisdom, care, and providence of God, and the longing we should have to see him.I trust Dave did not take too much delight in the comments about the ‘depravity of their wives’… 🙂

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