As Philip Rieff once commented, in past times people did not go to church to be made happy; they went to have their misery explained to them. If the Book of Common Prayer is a guide, that is understandable: Life in the sixteenth century was miserable, and it ended in death. People wanted the tools to face reality, not distractions to make them feel good about themselves. Our lives may be, on average, more comfortable than those of our ancestors, but that is a temporary state of affairs and our end is just the same as theirs. So, grim as it sounds, it is the task of the church to fight not so much against physical plagues, which come and go, but rather against that which Leszek Kolakowski dubbed the age of analgesics.
Carl Trueman, “Death Delayed,” First Things March 31, 2020.
Yes yes. A thousand times yes.
“My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ….Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, also assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”Heidelberg 1. That never gets old, it will sustain the true believer in the worst of times, it is the best news, truly good news to comfort the soul no matter what the circumstances of this life present.
Erasmus Roterodamus has a very interesting conversation on this theme, named “The Epicurean” (1533).