“I am intellectually empty and vacant.” Those are the words one minister spoke to his congregation last Sunday. Not as a man without hope, but as one honestly acknowledging that he had come to the end of himself. There was nothing that the intellectual, rational part of his being could do with the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut.
We are all a little desperate today.
The following, somewhat paraphrased, quote from the movie Love Comes Softly, keeps running through my mind:
“When we’re hurting, we spend an awful lot of time looking for answers, when what we really need is comfort.”
I believe we need that truth now more than ever.
Now, as the shock wears off and the anger surfaces. Now, while we search for someone to punish. Now, when we are grasping for reason. Clinging to frayed hopes for humanity. Now, as we race to protect our children and ourselves. As we try to control the uncontrollable, rationalize the irrational and console the inconsolable.
Now – when we are searching, desperately searching for answers, we must remember where to look.
I have wrestled with pain before – pain that the world can do nothing to ease. I have searched for answers. I have railed against God. Pounded on His chest and screamed, “WHY?!!!”
Then God asked me: “What answer would satisfy you?”
So, I imagined the God of the universe standing before me and saying, “Nichole, you have suffered because ______.” But every word I used to fill in the blank fell short of my expectations. No answer sufficed. Every time – every time – my response was, “Well, you’re God. Surely you could have done it another way.”
Some pain is too deep, some things too extraordinary to understand.
20 children shot dead and hundreds more traumatized, scarred for life. Surely there was another way!
When Job lost everything he had – family, health, business, friends, position in society – he cried out to the Lord for an answer. The Lord answered out of the storm. But probably not in the way Job expected:
“Brace yourself like a man;
I [God] will question you [Job],
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”
Can you just imagine His booming voice, like the rushing wind or crackling thunder? Continuing like that for several more chapters, (Job 38-41) God’s answer hardly seems like an answer at all. It rather seems like…a rebuke.
But what answer would have satisfied Job? Would he have actually found comfort in knowing that God allowed Satan to sift him like wheat?
God is so good. He knew what Job needed better than Job himself.
Instead of speaking to Job’s intellect, God reveals Himself to Job’s heart. And Job responds:
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know….
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
God didn’t give Job an answer. God WAS the answer.
Finally, Job surrenders. He stops his frantic search. He lays down his quiver of accusations. Throws himself on the ground and vomits up the bile of his bitter, grieving heart. He has seen the Lord and at last, he rests. At last, he finds comfort.
Grief, sorrow, pain. Harbor these waters of affliction and your wells will turn bitter and run dry. But let them flow, let your tears rain down, seek comfort in the arms of your Father, and there you will find the waters of life. (Oddly enough my blog last month was about grieving. You can read it here if you would like to explore this topic further.)
To my grieving fellow Connecticutians and Americans, what arrows are in your quiver? Strung on your bow? Acts of retribution? Making someone pay? Judgment? Or acts of morality? Giving financially to victims? Social activism? Or acts of self-protection? Fear? Isolation? Not all of these things are bad, but do them – even the “good” ones – without receiving comfort and you will be like Job, like I once was, perhaps even like the perpetrators you despise – weary, bitter, empty and isolated.
Can you admit, like the minister did, that you are intellectually vacant? Can you fall at the feet of the One and Only Answer you will ever need? Can you let Him be enough? Because He Is. He Was. He Will Always Be, the only Answer that satisfies. The One in whom all questions fade away.
This is one of my favorite songs and as music often does, it says more in 3 minutes than I could in a thousand years.