Monday, July 1, 2019

A Human Ambivalence

I just want to die, and I don't understand why God won't just let me do that. This world, this life, has become too much for me in all its brokenness, and I've got nothing left in me to try to fight back. I am overwhelmed, discouraged, defeated, and the only way out of this whole thing is death.

Although, I suppose, comfort might work, too. 

Yes, our journey through the Bible has brought us squarely into the story of Job, and it's a story that is so humanly familiar to most of us that we can't help but be drawn in by Job's raw honesty and bold speech. In this case, it's his very human ambivalence that we relate to.

Ambivalence is the state of being torn between two alternatives. In this case, death and comfort. And it's interesting that even for Job, a man of great faith, and for us, a people of faith, death often seems to be our first inclination. And not in the way you might think.

In good times and in times of peace, it seems only natural. We who believe in eternal life and heavenly glory can't wait to die and get there, to this place where we have perfect peace and wholeness and wellness, where we get to live forever in intimate fellowship with God and Jesus, in a mansion prepared just for us. For a people who believe, who wouldn't want this? It's as Paul says - I'm ready to die and embrace glory, but it's for the sake of the work remaining here that I live.

But that's not the posture that Job has, and it's not often the posture that we have. Job doesn't have a promise of Heaven; He doesn't have a Jesus who has atoned for his sins. He's atoned for his own sins as best he can, but the current struggle he finds himself in seems to indicate that maybe he hasn't done as well as he thinks he has, no matter how insistent he is about it. But for Job, death is just the end.

That's what we often want out of it, too.

We just want the pain to stop. We just want the brokenness to end. We've run out of shoes to drop, and yet we know that something else is still coming, and it seems like the only way we're ever going to get any peace, the only way we're ever going to get any rest, is to just stop. For everything to just stop. And the only way we know to do that for sure is to die. It's weird, right? In our deepest despair, we talk like a people for whom death is the end. Like a people who want death, just so it can be the end. 

Yet there remains something in us that isn't quite satisfied by that idea, either. So like Job, we pull ourselves back and as a second thought, if God would just be God-like for a second and end our pain for us, if He would heal and restore us, if He would put the brokenness back together and make the bleeding stop, well, then, we'd just as soon go on living, if it's all the same. 

We want to live. Yes, living is good, we decide. It's good for us to be alive, for being alive is far better than being in the eternal blackness of death (again, having forgotten that death is life for those who believe). But we remain torn, for we know that from here, living looks like pain and brokenness and unpredictability. Death, though it is nothingness, is something secure; it is certain. 

We are torn, perpetually, between the certain and the incertain, forgetting all along what is sure. 

See, Job never stopped believing in God, but he forgot for a bit just what it is that he so truly believes. A man of great faith and confident assurance, Job looked at his problem for awhile as though he had to figure out how to solve it. Either he could give up and die or he could ask God to solve it for him. And this led him to his ambivalence - "What should I do?" 

It leads us to ours.

Because the truth is that there really is no ambivalence in true and constant faith. If you know for certain who God is, love Him, and trust Him - and if you remember this even in times of trouble - there's not a moment of time where you stop to wonder if you really want God to be God right now or if you don't; you desperately cling to Him. You crave Him. You long for Him. Ambivalence only comes when you think you have to be your own god, you have to solve your own problems. When you're looking for a way out that doesn't depend upon God, but might somehow use Him if it seems fortuitous to do so. 

It's all so complicated, isn't it? Yet, it's simple. 

Eh, I'd rather just die. I haven't the energy to figure all of this out, to know what I should do or how I should do it, whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong. I'm worn out, weary, exhausted, and death...death right now looks pretty good. 

But then again, all things being what they are, maybe I would rather live....

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