In 1776 the British pastor Augustus Toplady penned a familiar hymn called “Rock of Ages,” a beautiful statement of his assurance of faith.
This assurance, this confidence gives him a sense of peace, a sense of rest.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
The world is full of trouble. Dangers lurk everywhere, as we saw especially in the year 2020. We didn’t know how bad the pandemic would become; we couldn’t believe the destruction we saw in the streets of many cities. We wondered whose business would fail next, who would lose their jobs.
We worried, we fretted. We lived day to day, week to week, in a sort of daze. What could possibly happen next? Can it get much worse? Is this the new normal?
As much as we’d like, we can’t see the answers to such questions. But there is a comfort in the midst of the heavy, haunting weight of anxiety and unrest.
Think of worries as twofold: the temporal—what is happening in the present time or the immediate future, and eternal—where this is all heading at the end of days.
To some measure, we are able to affect our temporal worries, soothe them, perhaps change them, or try to manage them. But those eternal worries—who can know? This is the question that every generation has tried to answer. Whole religions have been invented trying to answer them. How can we know for sure?
History from all over the world tells of people who claimed to have the answers to all that troubles us. They begged wise men to impart some truth, something they could hang onto. Imposters every day invent new schemes to gain followers, enriching themselves and plunging poor souls into debt and depths of despair.
The prosperity gospel, for example, promises your best life now, but it ignores the truth that regardless of how much we pray against it, hard times do come. It ignores the truth that Jesus promised: “In this life you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The promises from man-made religions might make you feel okay for awhile, but eventually the nagging worry creeps back in.
That’s because the answers are only skin-deep, and they leave you feeling dissatisfied. Ultimately all the pretense cannot bear up under the weight of uncertainty, and you are back where you started.
But one God, the true God of Heaven, Creator of the universe, offers the only answers that hold up under scrutiny, answers that soothe the soul and offer a deep sense of peace and rest. Promises that are not empty, because Jesus has guaranteed them with His own life, which He laid down. And then, to seal the promise, He came back from the dead.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Peace, comfort, and rest come from this assurance: the God of the universe is my shelter. Knowing that the almighty, all-powerful God cares for individual souls like mine. Knowing that there’s nothing I can do—not the labor of my hands, but simply trust.
Trust in God’s grace, given to those of us who recognize how sinful we are. Realize there is nothing we can do to save ourselves from the deadly consequences of those sins, and repent: ask for and receive the cleansing power poured out for us at the cross by Jesus Christ.
In this I have confidence, comfort, and contentment, and I know God will never leave me nor forsake me.
My worries, my doubts, my fears can plunge me into despair if I don’t stop and remind myself: What do I know to be true?
Emotions can cause me to doubt, cause me to run, and when they try to take over, I have learned to ask myself that question.
What do I know to be true?
The answer is the Rock I cling to, the Rock in whose cleft I can hide my face, my shelter in the storm. The answer is that God is the one true source of peace and rest, even when the heaviest burdens weigh me down.
What do I know to be true? What about when things are at their worse and I can’t stand on my own? I must remember—and Christian, you must also remember—that you have been saved by the grace of God, and not the work of your hands. This is what you retell yourself when everything around you seems to be crumbling.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let me hide myself in Thee. I cannot save myself. Wash me, Savior, or I die.