Home > Brian's Blogs > Comfort in Uncertain Times

Comfort in Uncertain Times

Our lives are often shrouded in uncertainty.  We simply don’t know what the future holds.  Will I have a job next month?  Will my cancer treatment be successful?  Will my kids be okay when they leave for college?  Is there anything that we can be certain of?

These are questions that have always and will always plague humanity.  Think about the situation in Europe 500 years ago.  Death was always on people’s minds.  Whether through war or plague, people experienced the reality of death on a daily basis.  There was just no certainty that a person and his loved ones would even be alive the next day.

This uncertainty was popularized in some of the theology of the day.  One of the most popular catechisms was The Mirror of a Christian Man.  This catechism was first printed in 1470 and many times thereafter.  The most famous line from this catechism sounds a note of tremendous uncertainty:

“There are 3 things I know to be true that make my heart heavy: I will have to die, I do not know when, (most of all) I do not know where I’ll go.”

Not only does the catechism reaffirm our fear of death, but it adds to it the concern of not knowing what will happen after death.  And all of this in a Christian catechism!

It is against this backdrop that God spoke loudly through the Reformation.  This is most dramatically illustrated in the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563:

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Read those words slowly, carefully, and regularly.  Our only comfort – our only certainty – is that we are not our own but belong to our Savior Jesus Christ.  Christ has paid for our sins.  Christ has set us free.  Christ watches over us.  And the Holy Spirit assures us of all these truths.

So whatever situation you find yourselves in today, there is probably a hint of uncertainty.  That is unavoidable.  We don’t have answers to all of our questions.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t have comfort and confidence in the midst of our uncertainty.  Our comfort and confidence is that we are not our own and that we belong to Jesus Christ.    Of that we can be certain.

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  1. mikewittmer
    August 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I am sorry to say that I don’t know this catechism. I googled it and didn’t get much help. Do you know if it’s possible to get a copy of it?

    And thanks for the good reminder from the Heidelberg–that is the best question and answer from the best catechism ever written.

  2. Brian McLaughlin
    August 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Dr. Bierma from Calvin provided me with this quote. I’ve not read the catechism in it’s entirety, but have seen in quoted in a few places. It was written by Dietrich Kolde in 1470. You can find a summary in A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts and Introductions by Denis Janz and also Three Reformation Catechisms: Catholic, Anabaptist, and Lutheran by Janz.

  3. mikewittmer
    August 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Thanks, Brian!

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