I am not referring to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song Other Side. Nope, I am talking about dying.
I’ve had nausea and stomach issues for over a week, I have weird postnasal drip which chokes me when I’m in the wheelchair or at the computer. It makes difficult the writing of the blogs and the emails. It also makes it hard to breathe.
In addition, I’m surrounded by so much sadness. My brother in law’s mother died, my friend John, too. Others are sick and suffering. And the world is divided into two major factions at war with each other. I’m overwhelmed. My Facebook feed is full of completely opposite opinions. The news is lying to me and biased. The Catholic hierarchy are mostly in disarray. Seriously, it’s easier to find the good ones than list all the bad ones. There is chaos, and people are choosing immediate gratification. We are at the collapse of the Roman Empire again, worldwide. I have said it many times, history matters!
I’ll be straight with you, Reader-land, my spiritual life is backsliding and I feel it. Combined with the new developments with my ALS, I’m starting to get tired. You know what I did over my Christmas break? I wrote letters to my kids for after I die, and prepared instructions for Mel so she can get on top of the passwords and who to call for my retirement checks and life insurance, etc. It’s not a fun job, and less fun for Mel. (Can I ask a favor from Elena and Lauren, can you help Mel with it? She’s going to need help and your support.) I spent my Christmas thinking about death. How delightfully macabre.
But in my morbid thoughts, I had a bit of Scripture pop into my head, and I whined it out, “How long, O Lord?” How long do I have to endure? I am weary, and I look for release. When my dad brings me Holy Communion, one of the prayers is for people who have grown bitter from suffering. That’s me.
Oh, but God gave me an answer really fast. On Facebook, someone asked why suffering was a blessing and without thinking I typed in a response which was the answer to my question. My second favorite podcast, the Lanky Guys, have talked about this many times. This podcast breaks down scripture and gives the context of the writings, which I can’t recommend enough. If you don’t know the context, you won’t understand ninety percent of the Bible.
Anyway, what came into my head was the end of the book of Job, when even Job is wondering about God. Scott Powell brings it up often enough for his voice to echo in my head. Beginning in chapter 38, and boy howdy. Emphasis mine.
1 Then the Lord[a] answered Job out of the storm and said:
2 Who is this who darkens counsel
with words of ignorance?
3 Gird up your loins[b] now, like a man;
I will question you, and you tell me the answers!
4 Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its size? Surely you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it?
6 Into what were its pedestals sunk,
and who laid its cornerstone,
7 While the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God[c] shouted for joy?
God goes on like this, and doesn’t answer Job’s question. He instead says, Who are you to question me? If you made everything, then tell me. But you are not Me, and My ways are far beyond your understanding! Now sit down and listen! A very serious smackdown and I don’t think modern man is hearing this enough. You are suffering? Who are you to question God’s plan? You want to reshape the Catholic Church? Who are you to question what God has founded? Seriously, the last few chapters of Job should be mandatory reading for when we get our god complexes and think we know better. Chapter 40 is even more so!
1 The Lord then answered Job and said:
2 Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected?
Let him who would instruct God give answer!
It’s also a stunning rebuke to me, who am complaining about my suffering. The Book of Job, Reader-land, it is a gem!
You’d think that would be enough to make me shut up, right? But my “how long?” kept lingering in the air. You know what it’s from? Isaiah chapter 6, one of my favorites. Isaiah has volunteered and is commissioned to give dire prophecies to Israel, which they won’t listen to. Then he asks,
11 “How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied:
[h] Until the cities are desolate,
Houses, without people,
and the land is a desolate waste.
12 Until the Lord sends the people far away,
and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.
13 If there remain a tenth part in it,
then this in turn shall be laid waste;
As with a terebinth or an oak
whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.[i]
Holy offspring is the trunk.
Ok, this one hit even harder. Because I consider this to be a description of what I will go through before I die, and I am not prepared for it. It could also be what modern society is going to go through, and I don’t think we are prepared! Isaiah chapter 6, Reader-land, what a gem!
So these upbeat topics have been on my mind. I still haven’t finished my letters or instructions, and I don’t have a good idea of how I am doing. But at least I have an answer that God put in the Bible for me, and that is an encouraging thought.
I hope you all had wonderful holidays and that you receive God’s blessing this year! I’m praying for Reader-land!