There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. -- Job 3:17
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Nowhere To Go But Up
This is a verse I quote quite often, especially when the issues of life become a more of a load than we think we can bear, and there seems to be no hint of a better day dawning. We are going to have days like that. It may take less to depress me than it does for those with a sunnier disposition, but most of us have wished, in one form or another, that we could just get it over with.
Job, of course, is speaking at the culmination of a series of events that robbed him of all his material wealth, his family, and his health. Everything that we normally think is essential to happiness and hope had been taken from him. It is hard to imagine how a person in that situation could keep from lamenting the apparent travesty of existence. In verse 23, he asks, Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
The light Job speaks of is, first and plainly, the light of our initial existence, coming out of the darkness of the womb in birth. He wishes that he could have been stillborn that he might have moved from the darkness of the womb to the darkness of the tomb, with no intervening trouble, weariness, loss, or grief.
Second, it is the light of human consciousness. While animals, we know, may feel some form of grief and sadness, they do not experience it in the same way as a human. Our suffering extends beyond the present, into both the past, as regret, and the future, as hopelessness. Despair swallows hope like a black hole swallows light. When we come to the point that there is no reason to go on, we naturally wonder why we still live. It makes no sense. A human life devoid of meaning and purpose cannot long be endured. Many will find a false purpose, even if it is merely to satisfy an artificial craving or addiction.
The third kind of light is revelation. Why is a man who is hemmed in, unable to change himself or his circumstances given the light of the knowledge of God, the reality of God’s presence and of His goodness? This is the most unbearable of all. It is this struggle with the goodness of God that occupies the central point in all of Job’s speeches and those of his friends. There ought not be these kinds of calamities, this kind of pain and torment – if God is who He has told us He is.
There is never a tidy answer. Our suffering, we are told, serves a higher purpose. Our lives are eternal, and we do go where the wicked cease from troubling. We weary ones do get to rest. No matter how unfair, unjust, hopeless, and excruciating our physical lives may turn out to be, this is not the end, and we cannot see the end.
The grief may not fade away, but we find that we have One who comforts us. We find hope in, if nothing else, His presence. We find a purpose in doing His will – even if that is merely to get up one more time, to put one foot in front of the other and stick it out to the end. They give out medals, the Medal of Honor to those who throw themselves on a hand grenade to save their comrades. They ought to. It is a sacrifice worthy of recognition and honor. It is the mark of the brave and the noble.
No one is going to give you a medal because you had no reason to go on, but kept going. Yet, that is courage, too. Faith looks out over the abyss, sees nothing but darkness and emptiness, and takes one more step.