January 28, 2008 Ration

Psalm 16:4a

“The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply…”

Where we look to "art" to be our god, our foundation, our source, our identity, the “one” we serve, rather than seeing and enjoying art as a pleasurable means of the Lord by which He serves us various graces, our sorrows will only increase in spite of the common grace enjoyment we do take in the arts.

Do not confuse art for God, artist.

Sorrows are often mended by a balm of truth that is delivered and applied through an artistic expression or articulation of that truth. Be careful not to deduce then that it was "art" who healed your sorrow. The truth of God healed your sorrow. God designed artistic expression to have the penetrating properties that can enter into a man and deliver the necessary truth in a way that is actually pleasurable to receive. Artistic expression, as an instrument of delivery or conveyance, is a very gentle Surgeon’s tool. The instrument itself is even pleasing to hold and behold as it works to apply the balm of truth to the various sorrows of the soul.

But when we look at all that we call “art” as being the truth or other refreshing balm that it is working to serve the beholder, we begin down the path of calling out to art as the one to whom we run for our healing. But art has no life with which it can heal. A work of art is the work of a man’s hands. Like the man that Isaiah writes about (Isaiah 44) who takes a piece of wood and carves an idol out of it, bows to it and says, "deliver me", and then takes the leftover wood and makes a fire with which to warm himself, we are fools as well where we set up the work of our hands for our hearts to plead to for the easing of our sorrows.

There is no artistic expression without an author that has expressed it, carved it. So as we trace out this reality, we will find where our affections truly terminate: on God, on man, or on the work of a man’s hands. David says that those who run after another god will only find that their sorrows multiply.

The issue is, as always, having the wrong end in sight in what is enjoyable. And where we have the wrong end in our sights, we will miss the Game every time. Let not your heart be deceived, artist. A work of art is not a god who can provide a balm for your sorrows. God is the balm for your sorrows. And as His balm has soothed other’s wounds in the past, they find that they must express their joy and relief somehow, or point to in some way the path that leads to the balm that has healed them, so they draw up an artistic cartograph by which others can find the balm, assuming that the viewer has eyes to correctly navigate through the map.

Art is not the balm for your sorrows. God is the Balm. God has designed artistic expression as one of the many ways by which He administers His healing truths. But where we accept His truth, and credit the delivery vehicle as being the source of the truth, we either willfully or ignorantly run after a god other than God Himself. Our sorrows will only multiply when we make this error. Our sorrows may temporarily shift out of focus, but they never do leave. They in fact fester under the truth-suppressant of idolatry. How many artists do you see, who seem to "have it all", suddenly, violently declare that their sorrows are overwhelming?

Don’t make this error, artist. Instead, find the healing for your sorrows that God does have for you when His prescription is a gentle, pleasurable dose of truth encapsulated in a work of art. God is a very good physician who loves to give His patients good balms in pleasing capsules. In your pleasures in art, run after God alone who is the Source of all the balms which heal the sorrows of a man’s soul. And thank God when His prescription of truth is set in a dose of a work of art. Enjoy your God in your enjoyment of His various medicines.

Jason Harms


© 2008 The Gaius Project