Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sunday: The Van Gogh That Breaks My Heart

By Tony Reinke @ Desiring God

VINCENT VAN GOGH aspired to become a Calvinist pastor, like his dad. He pursued ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church until he hit a roadblock by failing his academic training, and then experienced what personal failure often breeds: disillusionment. He became disenchanted with pastoral ministry and then left the church for good in 1880 at the age of 27. From that point on van Gogh redirected all his ambitions to art. 

Of all van Gogh’s famous works, I’m most struck by a painting he feverishly finished in one day: “Still Life with Bible” (1885). The symbolic painting features two books. The large book in the background is the Bible of van Gogh’s pastor-father. The Bible is opened to Isaiah 53. The yellow book in the foreground is a French novel by naturalist Émile Zola. The book is titled La Joie de Vivre, or in English, The Joy of Life (1884). So why did van Gogh put these two books together? Getting into his mind is no easy task, but here are a few possibilities.


This is indeed a sad story, but who knows but God whether Van Gogh totally recanted his seeming faith. Perhaps alcohol was involved. I often wonder if in such cases, their confession of faith was real in the first place, or done because of family or group/social pressure. One thing's for sure, I pray that I will finish my life stronger and stronger in my faith in Christ rather than lukewarm and disillusioned. Being in God's Word daily certainly helps.

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