One of the hardest things for me is watching my family or friends suffer. It produces this gut-wrenching fire that consumes all in its path in an attempt to save the object of affection.
But there are other hard things as well. Loneliness is hard, but it is less passionate and more empty. Instead of fiery desperation, being alone is like the memory of flames reduced to coal and ashes. Cold. Dull.
Failure is hard too. Its difficulty comes from the fact that it is a combination of the two hard things I just mentioned. The end of a relationship, the end of a job, the loss of a vision–they all produce intense loneliness as the viewer gets to watch the suffering of the people he has failed.
When I think about the pain of watching your world burn, one of the first people that comes to mind is Job. In a test of faithfulness, God stripped him of everything he had–not only his possessions but also his servants and children. I wonder what he felt when his servants told him about the building collapse that took the lives of every one of his sons and daughters…I wonder what he felt in that moment of shock…his whole world had just been snatched in that one breath of wind. Later, as he was in terrible pain from the boils that were sent to him, Job also had to endure not only his own suffering, but also the suffering of his wife and his friends. It is no wonder that his dialogue for the next 20+ chapters reveals some of the darkest shadows and deepest despairs that have ever been recorded in human history. And example is found in chapter 17, verse 1, when he says, “My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me.”
When I think about loneliness, the second hard thing, I tend to think of David. Time and time again he was driven from his home by the wrath of Saul. His relationship with his best friend was cut short by the people that were hunting him, and he was forced to leave everything he loved because God had chosen him. No wonder lonely people are often directed to find refuge in the Psalms-David’s writings. The man knew what it was like to feel utterly alone. Psalm 42:9 epitomizes his pain–“I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?'” Indeed, the deepest loneliness comes not only when friends or family betray you, but when it feels like God has abandoned you as well…
Finally, thoughts about failure bring to mind one of Christ’s apostles, Peter. Even though he walked, talked, ate, drank, sat, and traveled with Jesus for years, he couldn’t seem to get his act together. In fact, instead of being marked only by extraordinary feats (like saying that Jesus was the Messiah and walking on water with Him), Peter’s life is also marked by extraordinary failure. Remember when he said he would never leave Christ, and then cut off the servant’s ear to prove how committed he was? And what happened after that….denial after denial…massive failure. If anyone in history knew what it was like to fail–not only in the eyes of men but in the eyes of God Himself–it was Peter. To show you how hard this failure was, let’s take a look at his response in Matthew 26:75: “And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.“ (emphasis mine)
I wanted to share these examples of people that experienced the three kinds of hard–watching others suffer, loneliness, and failure–because I think that they relate so much to you and me. The depth of their despair, the height of their doubt, and the intensity of their pain all show that humans share a common ground in both the past and the present. However, the most beautiful part of those examples is that God has included not only a chronicle of their sufferings in His Word, but also an example of their redemption. And if he can redeem Job from the pain of watching his family die, if he can free David from loneliness and save Peter from failure, what could he do with the hardest things in your life and mine?
The answer to that question…to be continued in Part 2. 🙂
For right now, I am tired, and ready to go camp out in my brothers’ room like I do every year on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow holds the promise of salvation and of life reborn. Are you ready? Regardless of whether you signed all the cards, wrapped all the gifts, strung all the lights, baked all the pies, or attended all the services, are you ready?
I am 🙂
Goodnight to all of you, wherever you are. And above all, Merry Christmas. ❤