Of compunction of heart

Earlier this year I was really enjoying Thomas `a Kempis' book, The Imitation of Christ. I was using it as a devotional guide and reading one short section a day but for whatever reason I had gotten away from the book. I picked it up again last night and read an amazing section called 'Of Compunction of Heart.' Here is a sampling:
Compunction opens to the sight of the soul many good things which frivolity of heart and idle mirth soon drive away. It is a marvel how any man can be merry in this life if he considers well how far he is in exile out of his own country, and in how great peril his soul stands daily. But because of frivolity of heart and carelessness, we do not feel and we will not feel the sorrow of our own soul, and oftentimes we laugh when we ought rather to mourn, for there is no perfect liberty or true joy except in the fear of God, and in a good conscience.
I guess we need to start with a few definitions before we can completely grasp what Thomas is saying -

compunction: anxiety arising from awareness of guilt
frivolity: of little weight or importance; lacking in seriousness
mirth: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter
liberty: the quality or state of being free

Compunction opens to the sight of the soul many good things which frivolity of heart and idle mirth soon drive away.

There is great benefit to be found in slowing down enough to ponder the sinful state of our souls and to acknowledge how wretched we truly are. Many people avoid this looking into their darker parts, but we must realize that only when we acknowledge and accept these parts does the light of Jesus shine bright in our hearts. The reason this is such a difficult task is because we are so consumed with temporal pleasures and concerns. We medicate our hearts with simple things that make us happy rather than working through the depths to find true happiness. Unless we ruthlessly pursue compunction we with continue to live deceived, thinking we are happy when really we are just distracted.

It is a marvel how any man can be merry in this life if he considers well how far he is in exile out of his own country, and in how great peril his soul stands daily.

Thomas is here referencing the Christian's citizenship in a heavenly Kingdom which transcends his citizenship in this temporary earthly one. Without Jesus and his lighting up of our souls we would be in deep trouble, separated from the God who gives lasting life. When we are consumed with frivolous things we forget that without God's saving work would we be exiled from His kingdom eternally and that we would stand in condemnation before His holiness. Reflecting on these facts should, at least occasionally, cause a person to reconsider what is making them happy.

But because of frivolity of heart and carelessness, we do not feel and we will not feel the sorrow of our own soul, and oftentimes we laugh when we ought rather to mourn,

This is explained in my previous statements above.

for there is no perfect liberty or true joy except in the fear of God, and in a good conscience.

The place in which one finds true freedom and joy is in the place of desperate humility and dependence and thankfulness to God. Only when we live with our souls prostrated before the cross of Christ and when we walk in happy and faithful obedience to God will we experience the freedom and joy of Cod.
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