“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).
The Book of Job is believed to be the first written in the Bible. One would think that such a book would be full of promises and good things. Instead the key theme is “trouble.” Some twenty (20) times “trouble” occurs, of the 235 times in all of Scripture. Perhaps it is a theme of life? Yes it is a thread meandering through our lives. It is hard and gets harder as we grow older. Now you might say to stop all the discouragement. I wish I could “say it ain’t true.” Moreover, hardship also occurs 80 some times. Now this is getting discouraging, but remember that “peace” occurs 430 times and “joy” about 200. Now let’s not miss “love” and its synonyms written in some 500 places in the Bible. But for the purposes of this essay I want to follow the thread of trouble. This is not a negative view of life it just is life. Oh, yes there are bright sunrises and mountaintops too, but fewer of them and more of “the valley of the shadow of death.” I will return to the valley concept, particularly shadows. But for now be encouraged that rivers flow and flowers grow in valleys.
So, life gets harder as you get older. This is what I hear in my daily informal survey with patients in an acute care hospital. Is this the “ain’t it awful” attitude of life or reality of age speaking? Yes, I hear both, but mostly those speaking in faith. They say, so what, make lemonade out of it. They say something even far more important about the valleys. God is in them with us, comforting and protecting us with His rod and staff as Psalm 23 tells us. This best-known psalm, written by an aged King David tells us much of what we need to know about life. It is part of the “Wisdom” literature of the Bible where the word “wisdom” occurs 220 times. Yes, the Good Shepherd does go with us and supplies for all of our needs. He fights for us and anoints us and so our cups overflow. Wow, this is an absolutely great half time or fourth quarter cheer. And it is also of great comfort at the end saying, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of the days of your life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12). There it is, Job found the promises of God, as he grew wiser in his troubled life as he aged. He came to understand that, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15). God did cause and allow pain, but He also redeemed and never left or forsook Job.
I once served as Chaplain in a continuing care community of some 700 residents over 80 years of age. They struggled and/or soared with aging depending upon their reference point. Those who majored on the circumstances found sadness and grumbling their lot. Those who trusted in the Lord and not their own understanding, as Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, were full of hope as He guided them through the rapids, valleys and losses of life. “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14).
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Once at a memorial service for a centenarian woman I heard this verse of how she made the most of her days praising God in her life of trials. She numbered her days aright or in wisdom, trusting in God’s promises to never leave or forsake her. Moreover, as the wisdom writer says, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding” (Proverbs 3:13).
Are you undergoing trials and troubles? Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Troubles and shadows seem synonyms, but shadows for the Christian are not a problem. Shadows can’t hurt you. Those trusting in the Lord have eternal life promised even in and through the shadows of life. This Christmas time let us turn from the darkness to the magnificent and saving light of Christ and say, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15) in times of trouble.