“…the more hopeless is the situation the more hopeful must be the man.” – Heretics by G.K. Chesterton
I can’t just be speaking for myself saying that 2020 has been a hard year. I lost my day job in March and it never came back. I lost other better job opportunities to chance. I had to deal with tumult of the election cycle and COVID like everyone else. I’ve had more than my own share of moments of depression and despair this year. That doesn’t make me unique though. I certainly held out better then some people that have lost their careers, businesses, loved ones and hope. Given how high “deaths of despair” have spiked in 2020, it’s fair to say a lot of people are in pain.
A friend recently pointed out my connection to Job recently while I was venting about some issues and I honestly turned down the comparison. I’m not Job. My entire life isn’t falling apart in THAT kind of way. I haven’t even experienced a close family death in the last year unlike many other people I know.
Still, The Book of Job is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. It most directly addresses the issue of pain and suffering in the fallen world of any part of the Bible and acknowledges deeply just how easy it is to curse God when the floor falls out from below us in life. Job lost his family, his home, his health, his wealth and his friends all told him he would be right to curse God. In spite of this, he praised God for as long as he was able to.
“Then Job got up, tore his robe, and shaved his head; then he fell to the ground and worshiped.
He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Despite all this, Job did not sin, nor did he blame God.”Job 1:20-22 NASB
I can’t say I’ve been as honorable. Job’s strength is remarkable not just because of how deeply he was wounded but by how deeply he honored God’s will. He literally praised the God that allowed him to be stricken and tortured.
In my own lessor struggles, I’ve had too many nights of late staring at the ceiling asking God what purpose my suffering and patience is serving? Why have I been placed in this body, in this time, in this moment? Why has my career been slow to start? Why is it unclear how I can use my talents and my love for people to build up others through my faith?
In essence, I’ve compared myself deeply to the man I wish I was and found myself lacking. Much of this isn’t my fault necessarily. It’s not my fault that the economy has fallen apart over the last nine months. I cannot control who does and doesn’t want to give me a job. Certainly I’ve made career mistakes and wasted a lot of my time working on pointless projects and hobbies but that isn’t entirely my fault either. Still, I could do better in my decision making and using my time more responsibly.
Even so, I find myself asking the same basic questions of life over and over again. As Thanksgiving and Christmas have begun approaching, I’ve been left to reflect on God’s will more deeply. I don’t know what God is doing in my life and what he’s asking of me.
Just this past week, I lost a job opportunity working for a Christian Book publisher that I’d prayed for and begged God for an opportunity to have for five years and I all but totally broke down in despair at the realization that God was slamming another door on my face. I genuinely don’t understand why God would allow me to see the goal within arms reach only to snatch it away so quickly.
I don’t know how these challenges of dealing with unemployment, disappointment, rejection and anxiety for my future are supposed to be building me up towards. That said, it’s not my place to know the answer. I’m too small. I cannot possibly know where the wind is blowing. When Job asks the whirlwind why God would allow him to suffer, God answers:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?”Job 38:2 and Job 38:4, NLT
My own friends who I have consulted in the midst of my trials have advised me of similar things. Give these choices to God. When it comes to questions of life, love, career and prosperity, we are all in God’s hands even in the midst of our darkest moments.
This Thanksgiving, I think there’s a measure of Job’s wisdom that we all need to take into account as we enter the final month of 2020. Things have been crazy, traumatic and emotionally painful. Even the least harmed of us have still suffered and found themselves asking what we did to deserve this fate.
In those darkest moments, it can be useful to reframe such questions. God shows Job the entire creation of the Earth and all of it’s greatest creatures and places the size of his problems in perspective. Even now as the United States and much of the world is going into a second lockdown, such advice can be helpful.
There is no shortage of despair, which means there is no reason we ought to add to it. As much as we can, we ought to move about as though life is normal. We need to do what we can do to count or blessings and let the despair go even for a second. Maybe that just means meditating and shutting out the outside world for a bit. Maybe we need to get off social media and realize just how calm the world outside our doors really is. Maybe it means going out for coffee with a friend to talk or doing something kind for someone you know who needs a shoulder right now.
The core message of the Bible is that humans are doomed to a life of intense suffering but that we have hope. That hope may not be in other people or for our own vindication but for our salvation and redemption. That hope exists even at our lowest points when all seems lost and there is no hope. In truth, our lowest points exist for this reason. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we realize we are in error. It is out of the depths of that terror and pain that we are finally able to look up in gratitude for the things we do have and realize what it is we need in life.
Suffering is only useful to us when it directs us in the direction of the good. When we allow our hearts to indulge in bitterness, we waste the opportunity to make the world a little bit less awful. If hitting rock bottom serves any purpose, it’s to force us to turn our stiff necks towards Heaven against our will.
Trust me when I say that I need this advice as much as any of you at the moment.
Gratitude in the midst of pain can be one of the hardest things to offer. In the end though, we are more blessed and prosperous than any human beings in history. If only we can shrink down the churning chaos of the present and remind ourselves that we’re okay at this moment, we can be thankful for the rooves over our heads, the food on our tables and the friends who love us no matter how bitterly we whine and scream into the void.
I will leave you with some choice Bible quotes for this moment. Wherever you are spiritually, know that I appreciate your readership and I am happy to help any of you if you’re having a hard time as well. If you need someone to talk to right now, you can contact me at @AntiSocialCriti on Twitter or email me at CulturalRevue@Gmail.com. I’m all ears! God Bless! Happy Thanksgiving!
Psalm 46:10 – He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalm 50:15 – Call to me in times of trouble. I will save you, and you will honor me.
Psalm 100:4-5 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Colossians 2:7 – Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
2 Corinthians 1:5-6 – For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
1 Peter 4:13 – Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
Luke 15:18-24 – I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Genesis 28:15 – What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.