“Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7 NIV
Trouble sometimes takes a while to brew, we can almost feel it gradually rising, like the opposite of a flower coming into bloom. We steel ourselves perhaps, and try to prepare and protect ourselves. But there are other times when it comes upon us very suddenly, like a thief in the night, with no warning. We are hit whilst we are vulnerable, unprepared and shocked.
Bereavements, losses, betrayals, these can all be either long awaited, or horribly sudden. I am struck that these ways resemble the two biblical views of time: Kairos and chronos. Chronos is the seasonal, temporal, cyclical way of time, and Kairos is the sudden happening, the miracle “chance” meeting or opportunity. The flip side is that misfortune seems to work the same way, either building to a horrible nadir instead of a climax, or wrecking our lives in moments.
And whilst this is one of the incredibly positive and helpful comments made by another one of Job’s “friends”, Eliphaz, (seriously, you don’t want these guys anywhere near you when you are suffering), trouble is indeed pretty inevitable in this life. Chronos trouble we can kid ourselves about. We can believe we are getting prepared for a loved one to die, or a house to get repossessed, a business to fail or a child’s marriage to disintegrate, but in reality, when that wall crumbles, so shall we. Grief comes in so many shapes and sizes and I don’t care what the self-help guides and flow charts tell you, none of it is predictable. The only sure thing is, it’s going to hurt, and then some. And the Kairos pain, that feels like one of Wile E. Coyote’s anvils falling out of the sky? Yep, that’s going to hurt too. And both the trouble and the pain are pretty much inescapable.
So what do we do? Can we wall ourselves up against life, against the world? Well, we can try, but we’ll most likely end up trapped by our own fear and crippled by our own defence system. Really the best thing to do is to pray, and to live. Frankly, during some parts of life, getting through a day and still being able to breathe in and out at the end of it is a heroic and major achievement. But won’t God help us? Yes of course, and his companionship and his total understanding of suffering, grief and broken-heartedness will be invaluable. But whilst some problems can be avoided by asking for the Lord’s protection and grace, most of the time he will go through the trouble and the pain with us, not guide us around it. Because trouble and pain are crucial to the meaning of life we were talking about yesterday. If they weren’t, we’d be in heaven already. We learn to live with the cracks in our hearts and the holes in our memories and the pains in our bodies, and the loss in our souls. These are the deep dark places where hope springs eternal, and where grace creates a garden of beauty against a background of pain. This is where truth lives and angels abound.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
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