Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 23, 2011
Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me,
never satisfied with my flesh?
O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock for ever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
- Job 19:21-27
How better to understand suffering, brokenness, and loss — whether our own, or of others? Our culture offers an short-term optimism which prefers the quick fix, the rapid response, the immediate intervention. But what happens when there is no quick fix available –when we are broken beyond our knowledge or competence or resources? Those unable to achieve the quick fix are often driven into shadow places to suffer in invisibility and silence. Scripture challenges the easy optimism of the quick fix. Job’s quite public struggles present deeper truths, however unpopular: that suffering is real, that our friends can often confuse their security with divine favor, and that the way God walks with us in the midst of struggle and suffering is sometimes best known through silence, yearning, desire, … and hope. In the midst of a desolate place, with no quick fix available, where struggle and suffering and loss were beyond control, Job’s faithful yearning led him from a casual, cultural optimism to a deeper place of hope.
These weeks of Lent have called us to practices many of us had laid aside in our too busy lives. We have paused long enough to hear the call to prayer, the call to service, the call to wait on the Lord. Now this Great Vigil allows us to keep watch in the quiet hours seeking ways to move past a faltering optimism, toward a sustaining hope. Watch. Wait. Hope. “I know my Redeemer lives!… I myself will see him with my own eyes! How my heart yearns within me!”
O God, show us how your truth extends beyond our certitudes, how your mercy meets our brokenness, how your power breaks the power of death. Your truth is our hope. Teach us your truth.
Ken Sawyer teaches church history at McCormick Theological Seminary.