By The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray, the bishop of Mississippi
After an admonition from Eliphaz the Temonite for him to admit his guilt and submit to divine punishment, Job cries out in the emptiness of the universe where God cannot be found (23:3, 8-9). This deep desire to defend himself against the accusers is all the more tragic because the source of his hope has vanished.
There is both the agony of an inaccessible God and the fear of divine encounter (23:16-17). In the beginning of Chapter 24, Job’s lament expands beyond himself as he sees what he imagines as God’s sovereign indifference over so much more than his own life.
Psalm 3 begins with a lament not unlike that of Job’s (3:1-2), but, unlike Job, the psalmist is assured of God’s vindication.
Paul wrestles with the questions of gifts given for ministry and how they should be used. While he is aware that his own training, his post-conversion life experiences of suffering witness and a powerful mystical moment of revelation (2 Cor. 12:1-6) give him authority to preach and teach, he is also aware that it is out of his own weakness that God might be more fully known (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
I suppose that sense of being ultimately alone is common to many. It is the source of the deepest human despair. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot wrestles with that same existential reality as the two main characters wait in vain for the arrival of God(?). And if God is present, God sure seems asleep at the switch.
My state and diocese have known failure and brokenness (poverty, bigotry, natural disasters) far more often than we have known success and power. Yet, it is from this tragic history that extraordinary literature, music and religious faith have come. We know something about God’s grace being made perfect in our weakness.
1. When have you felt most alone? Where was God known within that loneliness?
2. Where are those moments in your life when your gifts and strength have failed you, and it was through your weakness and vulnerability that Christ entered?
Precious Savior, may the loneliness and failures of our lives be an acceptable sacrifice offered to you, and may your power be made perfect in our weakness.
The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray is the bishop of Mississippi